Benares and Sarnath

Heading off to the airport within an hour, so this post will have to be brief. I am headed to Jaipur for the Fulbright Research Conference of scholars across South and Central Asia. We will all be presenting our research, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what everyone else has been doing. The slides from my presentation will be posted to the blog next week.

Last week, Brandon and I traveled to Benares to visit Ben, a Fulbright scholar who is conducting his research on the Kabir Panth religious sect. Shayak, a scholar conducting research on air pollution in Kanpur, visited as well. Ben has spent a lot of time in Benares, and knows its history as well as its nooks and crannies. We visited the Kabir math, walked along Benares’ famous ghats, witnessed a cremation along the River Ganga, and attended an arthi.

Out on the eastern end of Uttar Pradesh, Benares is a beautiful city, one of the oldest continually habited in the world. It is a conservative and traditional city, both majestic and mired in cow feces. A boat ride along the Ganga during the early morning hours is worth the visit alone. Benares is the city of Shiva, considered among the holiest of cities in all of India. Many Hindu pilgrims live out their final days there in the belief that dying in Benares releases one’s soul from the eternal cycle of life and death. Because of its religious significance, Benares is the constituency that Prime Minister Narendra Modi contested and won during the 2014 elections.

On the final day of our visit, we went to nearby Sarnath. One of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites, Sarnath is where the Buddha preached his first sermon upon attaining enlightenment. The site brings pilgrims from around the world to its many temples and statues for the Buddha.

On to Jaipur, then Jodhpur, before coming back to Delhi this weekend. Happy Leap Day.

Ghats 1

The ghats

Ghats 14

Ganga 4

Ghats 11

Ganga 2

Ghats 3

Ghats 5

Ghats 2

Ghats 7

Ghats 4

Group

Ghats 13

Ghats 12

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Sarnath

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