Varanasi, India

Namaste and greetings from India,

We have arrived safely in India and are currently in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating back over 3,000 years. Mark Twain during his travels through India, famously wrote, “Benaras [Varanasi] is older than history, older than tradition, older than even legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” The city is a dazzling maze of tiny stone alleyways and concrete buildings that open up onto massive steps leading into the Ganges River.

Millions of Hindus make a pilgrimage to Varanasi every year to bathe in the Ganges, believing that it washes away sins and bad karma accumulated over many lifetimes. And those that are fortunate enough to die and be cremated in this sacred land are believed to attain moksha; transcending the endless cycle of death and rebirth, and merging their soul with the Eternal.  Also scattered among the sacred ceremonies and rituals are unremitting touts and world-class scam artists. It creates a bizarre juxtaposition between the divine and irritatingly mundane.

Our entry into India was a descent into the chaotic and vibrant streets of Kolkata. Indian ambassador taxis carried us from the airport, zooming past rickshaws, bicycles, cows, dogs and pedestrians. If traffic laws exist, they were indiscernible to our Western eyes! Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, is known for its literature, philosophers and political movements. It was formerly the British Colonial capital of India, but due to growing uprising and protests, in the early 20th century the British relocated to New Delhi. We spent a day in Kolkata taking in the sights and delicious cuisine, and then hopped on night trains to Varanasi.

Tomorrow we will be heading to Sarnath to work with Dr. Jain on his education projected targeted towards low-caste children.

Hope all is well back home and we will be in touch soon,

Charlie and the IVS group

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