Today was another early morning. We left the hotel around 7 am to leave for Hairdwar.
Hairdwar is the same distance away from Delhi as Agra, only it is in the opposite direction. Hairdwar is one of the holiest cities in India and has no alcohol or meat within it. It is at the foot hills of the Himalayas and is the spot where the Ganges flows from the mountains into the plains. Because of this, it is an important pilgrimage spot for all Hindus. Taking a dip into the Ganges is said to wash away all sins.
The Ganges at this point is colder and, more importantly, cleaner than elsewhere on the "plains" in India. By the time the Ganges reaches Varanasi, it is so polluted that the water is a murky brown.
We made up our minds that we were going to Hairdwar and we were going to take a dip in the Ganges.
We did not take Hawkins with us at all because this was a religious thing and we wanted to focus on that.
The ride down was quiet. But, much like our drive to Agra, it did allow us to see much of the countryside and just how people lived. Unlike the road to Agra the scenery was quite green; reminding me a tad of the Vietnam that you see in the movies.
There seemed to be more temples along the route, and there were definitely some large impressive ones. One had a large conch shell atop it, another a large lotus and the largest faintly resembled a larger Taj Mahal.
We passed some overturned trucks, large waddling elephants, lumpy camels, tractors galore, large over worked ox, beaten cows and the occasional horse drawn cart.
We eventually made our way to Hairdwar. We know we have arrived because out of no where mountains just pop up out of the fog. After some confusion on the parking our driver found a spot and off we went.
The throng of vendors attempting to sell us something.. anything! A woman walked up beside us and opened a basket, shoving it at us.
Fear welled up in my husband's eyes as he grabbed my hand and pulled me away, fast!
"She had a snake! A real friggin' cobra!" he shouted.
"Yes." I calmly replied. "Wasn't it cute?!"
Later I explained how they often abused the animal by removing it's fangs.
We made a mad dash across the road and then headed past more merchants, more beggars and rickshaw drivers trying to get us to "take a ride" with them. Eventually we made it to the pedestrian bridge and started to take a look at the river.
We finally made it onto the ghat. To get into this part of the Ganges, they have steps that lead down into the water. A chain link "fence" made of two rows of real chains go along the side of the water. Every few feet a chain goes from the "fence" to the ghat itself.
We watched the other people to see what they were wearing to go in. The men seem to be stripping down to their underwear and the women down to their petticoat and cholis (underskirt and blouse). My Husband was wearing a kurta pajama (a long tunic and draw string pants) and I was wearing a sari, choli (blouse) & petticoat (skirt that goes under the sari).
My Husband stripped to his underwear and went in; attracting a small crowd. He came back up and toweled off. I unwrapped my sari and handed it to my Husband.
I took off my sandals and step onto the first step of the ghat. I stepped into the water; it was a tad chilly but not as cold as I thought it would be. However, the current was much stronger than I thought it would be! I sat down in a dance position and then held onto the chain connected to the ghat before dunking my head under.
The water rushed over me. It was the most invigorating feeling.
I said a quick prayer and then came up out of the water. I carefully walked back up the steps and watched as my Husband fumbled to get the towel around my waist. I rung out my petticoat as best as I could and then wrapped my sari back around me.
A holy man wanders up to us and place yellow kumkum powder on Duke's forehead and then some red kumkum powder on my forehead. Duke gives him our last remaining rupee and then we head off the ghat and back to the car.
Nothing bothers us from this point. It is as if the weight of my entire life has been washed away and all that remains is pure joy.
I highly recommend bathing in the Ganges, it was a remarkable thing!
We pondered staying longer as there are lifts, temples and other things to see, but we did what we came to do so we headed back to Delhi.