Chanting at Tulsi Ghat

– After meditating in the morning at Sri Ma’s temple, we were so inspired. We brought our instruments to a balcony area at the Tulsi Ghat and sang for about an hour and a half in the morning sun. A surprising coincidence happened! A crew from a cable TV station who posts local news interviewed us and put us on the news that evening! We had to laugh! Chanting the mantras opens unexpected doors! (This photo is taken by Jolanda Piek).

Later in the morning, walking along the Ganges, I discovered this boat being decorated with fresh flowers for a celebration, orange marigolds. Their color and scent is in temples, and in flower offerings for the Ganges. They are used in many ways; for example, to sprinkle holy water onto altars and on the heads of people at the pujas (ceremonies).

Monks sitting in the shade, talking and looking out at the Ganges. I saw them just after I had been admiring the flower boat. Just looking at them now is a reminder to slow down and take a quiet moment.

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Visit to Sri Anandamayi’s Ghat

This is Sri Sri Anandamayi Ma’s’s Ghat where she stayed while in Varanasi. This view is from the boat on the Ganges looking towards Varanasi. The open balcony on the upper left (with arches) is where we sat to hear the chanting and see the sunrise.

We got up early to go to hear the young girls chant at 7 am. They are students at Sri Ma’s Ashram and shrine. The shrine is enclosed on the balcony. The girls sit on the balcony floor to face the shrine and sing for about 30 minutes. They are approximately 7 – 12 years old. There were about 18 of them. This is the view from the balcony.

When Sri Ma rose in the early morning to pray, this is the view she would see from her bedroom. We were very fortunate to be allowed to enter and to sit in silent meditation in her bedroom. We could feel her presence. Her eyes, in the photograph placed on her bed, were very much alive. We did not take photos in that sacred space. In the next post, I will include photos of her. There is a beautiful and informative website about her:

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Continuing the Pilgrimage (Varanasi)

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was our constant reference once we purchased it from the author, who is in the next photo. It covers every aspect of Indian culture. Here is a quote: “ In the words of the geographer, Rana P. B. Singh, ‘…Pilgrimage is a journey across space, a journey into sacred time and through oneself, crossing the landscape of the soul; i.e. it is soul mapping. …The more a pilgrim’s consciousness is awakened, the more she/he transcends her/his own historicity.’ ” (p.224) Singh’s book is “Towards the Pilgrimage Archetype… “ both books are published by Indica Books, Varanasi.

Here is the author of “India From Within”,
Alvaro Enterria. His bookstore is a quiet oasis in Varanasi. He is also the publisher of Indica books. Purnima Zweers, our guide, is in this photo along with Adagre, one of our group “pilgrims”. Purnima is also a published author by Indica books. I highly recommend her book as well: “Spiritual Education”, published in 2002. You can find these books at

This is the street just across from the bookstore. Like everything else in India, it represents a chaotic extreme from the bookstore environment, which could be described as a peaceful “temple” of knowledge. Yet in this photo there is a beauty of the faces and fabrics and buildings in the distance. I like the row of bags hung up across the street.

This is an amazing shop where the sculptures are made on site. It is right across from our hotel, Temple on the Ganges.

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The image that I made is called Bird in Hand and is an original Encaustic, (wax medium). It is 8 x 10’.

As I write this entry, I am in New York recovering from flying home from Delhi, Thursday, March 22. In the chronology of the trip, my last entry (about Varanasi) represents about one week of our month’s stay in India!!

I plan to continue the story of our journey from home in NYC. It was not possible to keep current with my travel schedule and the blog posts because:

1. We were really busy enjoying ourselves and seeing so many new sights and then having to rest before the next day’s new experiences!!

2. Internet access was not as available as I had been informed that it would be! I got online there about once, sometimes twice a week. Thanks to Jillian Sweeney, who helped me with the posting from New York, or I would have not been able to do any posts from India.

I chose this image to depict the flight of imagination and literal exit from the India of Krishna’s blue hand into the unknown of who we would be when we arrived home!  We are still determining that as we recover from jetlag. I will write more when the story of the trip is completed. The next post will be about our transition from the city of Varanasi to Hardiwar.

Categories: Encaustic art, India | 1 Comment

Varanasi Walk Early Morning

This photo is taken from the boat of the burning Ghats. It is hard to see from a distance, but photos are not allowed of this area where bodies are cremated. It is a sacred ritual that occurs for every Indian except very holy men and women.

We left the boat just beyond this area and walked to one of the small brown towers where we looked down on a funeral procession. (You can see these in the center of the photo.) The body was wrapped in cloths and flower garlands, carried on a wood and cloth litter by male family members. Following them were other men each carrying a large log for the fire. Following them were the women dressed in their colorful saris. The scene brought to mind scenes from Lord of the Rings. Very ancient images: men splitting wood, large stacks of different sizes of wood, smokey fires, dogs, cows, monkeys.

This man was chanting from the large book. I am guessing that he is a devotee of Shiva as you can see from the picture behind him as well as his hair. The term Sadu describes a man who has devoted his life to God and renounced attachments to most aspects of material/worldly life.

As we walked away from the river and ghat area into Varanasi’s streets, another sadu was sitting on this raised platform.

I got lucky with this photo. He turned to look at me just as I was ready to snap the photo! He tried to sell us a flute.

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Dawn Boat on the Ganges

We got up at 5am to walk about 5 minutes from our hotel to the water’s edge. This is the view that we saw as we walked towards a similar boat that would take us out on the river for sunrise and music.

These musicians played the tabla (drums) and the Santoor (like an American hammered dulcimer) for about an hour as we were rowed along the Ganges. It was magical.

As the boat pulled away from the shore, these women were making offerings to the Ganges. You can see the little flower boats with candles in the water. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Ganges itself is considered to be a Goddess, Ganga. Every aspect of daily life is infused with offerings to God. I will write more about this in later posts.

There are a lot of buildings painted pink in India. Some examples are in a previous post. This combination of pink towers and the reflections in the water are a delight to the eyes! The men wearing the orange clothes in the boat are monks who renounce many aspects of worldly life. More about that in the next post!

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More Sarnath Temples

This gate (to the white temple beyond) was next to the Japanese Temple. The sign was in Hindi, so I have no idea what belief system it represented.

There are several sacred sites for Tibetan Buddhism in Sarnath. This huge Stupa represents the connection between heaven and earth, to name just one of its symbolic meanings.

This is at the entrance to a big Tibetan Buddhist Temple nearby, but separate from the Stupa. This is about 12’ high and very detailed. Besides being very beautiful, it is a teaching tool for the all those who enter and especially for the little monks who reside there.

A ritual at the Tibetan Temple. It was pitch dark so I couldn’t seem to get a sharp photo.

This Buddha is about 10’ high. All around on the walls are enormous and beautiful mural sized paintings. This temple is in perfect condition compared to many of the Hindu temples that we saw. The devotional feeling in each temple seems to be unrelated to its state of repair.

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Temples at Sarnath

We took an excursion from the south part of Varanasi to Sarnath, a town about 8 kilometers north. Because of the traffic, it took us about an hour. We visited several temples of different faiths. This one is Japanese. We attended a ritual of chanting and drumming on huge 10’ drums which were deafeningly loud! It occurred to me that the purpose of this is maybe to make it impossible to have any thoughts during the ritual! At least this is the effect it had on me!!

This is a young tree growing in the garden of the Japanese temple.

The Buddha sits under the tree.

This beautiful dog was very friendly and among all of the dogs we saw (many are wild and uncared for), seemed a gentle and friendly gardian of the sacred energy of the temple and garden.

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Silk loom & shop videos

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Silk Loom & Shop, Varanasi

We visited a silk factory and shop where a weaver was making an elaborate fabric design on a large loom. These are the silk threads he used. **There is a short video of him weaving but I am not sure (as I write this) if we can post it.

Inside the shop, these are the (vast) shelves of fabrics.

When buyers come to the shop, the salesman sits on a covered platform like a stage and displays the fabric to seated customers in front of the stage. These shops also measure you and sew any kind of garment you wish for a very low fee. Ned had 2 pairs of pants and two Kurtas made for him once he selected the fabric. The garments were delivered to the hotel the next day!

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