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Varanasi and the Ganges from a Balcony

Published on October 22, 2006, by in Ganges River, India, Varanasi.

The wide balconies of the Scindhia are the very definition of what American southerners call “a catbird seat,” the perfect spot where one sits just high enough to be un-noticed from below and just enough to the side that you can see faces, not merely the tops of heads. Life on the path and plaza and nearby temples and schools flows as steadily as the river itself. 

Directly below to the left, stairs lead down from the heights and continue right on into the river. Next to them is a patch of land that is literally covered in cow dung. When I say literally, I mean literally.  

There is an unstructured dung pile that is constantly added to by collecting the dropping of some huge beasts that wander the plaza and nimbly clunk up and down the broad steps. Next to the pile there are rows and rows and rows of carefully shaped and hand-decorated cow-patties, laid out to dry. When dry enough to be sold as fuel, they are as hard as a rock and will burn like a lump of charcoal.  

A double decked rowboat – something I have never known to exist – passes up river, powered by one man. A dozen or so men on the upper deck, unshaded from the blistering sun, are happily chanting and and clapping to  a complex best.

On the far shore, a bleak flood plain streaches without shade or mercy for miles in each direction. The group you see in the photo remained there, uncovered to the fire of the day, from late morning until  shortly before sundown. 

Click on a photo to enlarge.

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