Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wash Away Your Sins

On our day off, five of us from the ashram went rafting down the Ganges River. After paying the feisty Indian and eating a big pancake breakfast, we piled into a truck full of moldy life jackets and helmets built for small heads. The three back seats being taken, Juliana, our German friend, and I daintily climbed and sat atop the deflated raft in the back of the truck. Before take off, three Indians sat on top of our friends in the truck and four more hopped in the back with us. And so we were off, moving parallel to the Ganga, zooming up the dusty mountain.

After some time on the road, we climbed down to the river bank carrying our gear. The Indians ran for the water and threw themselves in it. I waded in up to my knees while the trip leaders pumped up the rafts.

The love people around here have for this river is remarkable. "Bathe in the Ganga and you will wash away your sins," they tell us. This water, which we have heard is filthy, they believe is the purest in the world. It is often called "The Holy River". Every night at sunset in a temple in town a huge ceremony is held to worship and thank the Ganga. For Rs. 5 at a public ghat (bathing place) you can buy a small bowl made of banana leaves, filled with flowers, incense sometimes, and a small candle to offer as a sacrifice to her, the river. I have done this a couple times. She is quite a sight when black with night and adorned with glowing gifts following her downstream.

So on the Ganga we went! We passed under busy bridges, paddled hard through tumbling rapids, and then when the river moved more smoothly, our leader told us to get out of the raft. We floated with the Ganga - in the Ganga! All the while Indians were waving from shore, tall grass was swaying with the beat of an unheard rhythm, roots went running down to lick the wet rocks, mountains were moving behind one another, trees marching atop them. Experiencing the scenery in this way was magnificent. At some points I did not know that I was not the river herself.


Anonymous said...

Yates - this was a really fantastic post. It made me happy to think of you making sacrifices to her.

This, especially the last line, reminded me of a part from The Red Tent. I didn't want to take up your comments section with it so I tumbl'd it. Here's the link:


bob said...

Hey Steph! Remember the conversations we used to have in our improvised language as I walked you to school when you were a little kid? Gbmnx fysnka flrwnmpj ... A@d#x^&*? ... Qtuahrmnn. That's the way I feel like talking to you now (and will when you get home). Some things are beyond language. The fascinating journeys you and Pete describe are two sides of the same coin. Internal wanderings down nasal passages and external flights down the Ganga. The world is pretty wonderful. Your oneness with the river and Pete's tratak are descriptions of two doors entering the same room. Bjjdys cxponuplkmi oyueaih!!

bob said...

It just occured to me as I typed in the word verification for the message I just posted that maybe I have always had the random skills of these crazy computers and the internet... This time the word verification is: "iufxwst" which is a little known observation I remember you telling me once.

Love, Dad

Steph said...

Hasty : Thanks for sharing that. Really lovely.

Dad : Hajiiajkr juttnumbaij... kalhj^k&* ujy)( kloikfjk$$%ugi okiw i^^2beuhk#huk.

Love always,

donna said...

I'm trying to imagine the lake at Port Dover covered with floating offerings like the Ganges... a lovely picture.