Benaras Ganga Diaries

August 29, 2016

An unplanned visit to the Ganga came my way.

For spiritual reasons.

For filial piety reasons.

For ceremonies that complete the cycle of life & death.

Measured in the number of hours – the Benaras experience was less than 3 digits.

Measured in the number of experiences and new thoughts that came to me, the experience was infinite.

***

I was born a Hindu and was raised in the Hindu atmosphere. And being too much of a questioner, I have no faith. I am more familiar than most practicing Hindus with the stories and the books. But I have no faith.

However, recently I went through an upside-down evolutionary experience.

During the course of conducting research for a recent talk on the cruise ship Queen Victoria, I learnt about many aspects (let no one tell you that they know ALL about Hinduism – it is simply not possible to read all – leave alone understand all of the books) and arrived at some conclusions.

The major conclusion was that Hinduism was a body of intellectual works treating subjects

– of life and death

– of how to conduct one’s life

– of the cosmos – including macrocosms & microcosms

– of math and science – physics, biology, botany, astronomy, genealogy ….

It appeared to me that to categorise these treatises as a religion would be to restrict the applicability of such a great set of works as religion necessarily demands an allegiance that is both singular and exclusive.

So while one can be a Buddhist and a Christian AND study physics without any conflict – one cannot do that if Physics were to be labeled a religion rather than a science.

Since I cannot change the fact that Hinduism is perceived by the world as a religion rather than a way of life or a scientific exposition – let me just focus on my personal experience.

All I can say is that I have found my way to Hinduism not through ‘faith’ that allows no questions but through ‘logic’ that survives on questions alone.
***

Benaras is a city where Hindu rituals and ceremonies and sanskrit shlokas as a part of daily life and not confined to some special camps or institutions. Being there gave me a sense of ‘plugging in’ to an ancestry with which I was only peripherally familiar

As I understand it, shlokas are all mediums of transmitting deep knowledge that is contained within. And indulging at the level of the medium – through joint recitals – accompanied by rituals –  is a community bonding exercise. On the other hand, engaging in the thought & knowledge contained within the shlokas is an individual exercise.

And while the former is socially enjoyable, the latter is intellectually fulfilling. On this trip I could enjoy only the former but the setting gave me a glimpse of the latter – and someday I will return with the agenda of exploring the intellectual aspect.

***

Here I present some moments of ‘plugging in’ and other extreme experiences.

The Holy River Ganga

Kashi Nu Maran – The Flood of 2016

A Hybrid is Born – Sari weaving

One More Hybrid is born – Sari weaving

Kashi Nu Maran – Death in Kashi

Palace on the Ganga – Art in Architecture

A Journey for the Bucket List

The City of Benaras

The Burning Ghats of Benaras

Some Amazing Songs of Ganga

jm

Sept 2016

 

 

 

 

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