The God got sick :)

Yesterday it was an important day for the God Jagannath’s temple. Many people all over India go to the Jagannath temple and make the God bathe with water. This happens for the whole day and in the evening time it is said that the God gets sick because of this all-day-long bathing. Usually people offer sweets in the temples but after the God gets sick, people offer parwal (a vegetable) and basil soup, and then this soup is distributed amongst people as blessing. After this offering, temples are closed for the next fifteen days.

Parwal and basil soup is an Ayurvedic medicine and is prescribed to people suffering with cold and cough. So the idea is that the God will also feel better after taking this Ayurvedic medicine. The temple gate is kept closed for the fifteen days. The priest opens the gate once everyday to offer basil and parwal soup. It is said that the God will be okay after fifteen days and then people take the statue out of the temple on a chariot and bring it to the Lord Jagganath’s Sasural temple near Rathyatra. This is done to give some good time to the God after the sickness of the fifteen days:)

In Benares, the God is brought to his Sasural temple but in Puri, people bring the statue to Lord Jagganath’s aunt’s temple. The statue is kept for the next two days in these temples and then a huge fair is organized. In Benares, the statue is brought on a chariot and is kept for three days on the main road near Rathyatra Crossing and after three days of fair, the statue is brought back again to the temple. These are the only three days in a year when the God Jagganath’s temple is out of any statue. This festival is called Rathyatra.

The Benares fair is not big, but not small either but the Puri festival is literally huge. Over ten million people had atteneded the Puri fair last year.

Kite festival in Varanasi

A boy busy with his kite

A boy busy with his kite

It was kite festival on the 14th and 15th which I like a lot. I used to fly kites for at least four-five months a year but stopped doing it about six-seven years ago. Now I fly kites only on this festival. This festival is called Khichadi. Khichadi is a dish also and everybody cooks Khichadi for this festival. It has a religious importance to donate something on this festival day and everybody makes some donation. I have been donating my blood on this day for the past ten years but I could not do it this year.

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Kites everywhere

I went to the hospital but they did not take my blood because I was suffering from cold and cough. I will go after a week again and make the blood donation. I flew few kites but not as much as I was expecting. I had bought about fifty kites but I few only five. My friends flew other ones. This festival more kind of family festival. People come on the roof, they have loud music, Khichdi and kites for the whole day. The number of kite flyers have decreased a lot now. The whole sky used to be stuffed with the kites but now its not like that.

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Sky full of kites

A lot of parents do not want their kids to fly kites because they relate kite flying with bad-kids. They love taking their kids to McDonalds and get them all the garbage food with Coca-Cola but kite flying is not good for them. I think it is okay. It is thousand times better than sitting in front of a TV and watching all the politics. There is a bad thing also about this festival that few kids fall off the roof. Sometimes they die also. I think every year almost 15-20 kids get injured and maybe one or two die. But its fun to fly kites.

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This guy had a big music system on roof

The other danger thing about kite flying is new and done by Chinese. Now we have Chinese strings which has a lot of iron in it. Its obvious to get a little cut on fingers while flying kites but if there is Chinese string then one can get tetanus if not takes any injection. The other dangerous thing about Chinese strings is that it can give you a electrical shock if your strings touch any electrical wire. And off course all of our electricity wires are open in Varanasi. Indian string has only glass powder and is more safe than Chinese one but a lot of people prefer Chinese one because it is stronger than Indian one, its sad.

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Kites & Kites & Kites...

I ask my foreign friends about their kites in their country and it sounds like their kite flying is boring. Once I asked about kites to Adam, my friend in Chicago, and he was proud to say that he can turn the kites to different sides, even spin them around. He said that they he has some stuff from which he can add more than one string to kite if he wants to spin them around or turn them towards different sides. I laughed when I heard this because we also do the same thing but with only one string. I showed him our kites he was wondering how is it possible to spin a kite around with only one string.

I asked him if they cut others’ kites or not and he said “NO”. I think it will be no fun if you can not cut other kites down. He watched our kites and was shocked to see us spinning kites around with one string and cutting other kites down. You have to have some techniques to cut other kites down. We have an international kite festival this year in Gujarat where a lot of people from different countries will come to participate. But no need to say that either India, China or Pakistan wins the competition.

Protecting Hindu temples in Varanasi

A temple barricaded by bamboos

There is a Muslim’s festival tomorrow called Muharram . Right before a night of this festival Muslims do a parade in the night starting from different mosques in the city where most of the male Muslims run on the road and beat their chest. By beating their chest they show their sadness. They say that right before one night of this festival, one of their Gods had died. I always watch this parade and enjoy it as I have very much respect for their feelings, festival, culture and religion. All the parades have a horse which is completely decorated by flowers. People take these flowers as blessings. I also take one flower every year.

This year I noticed something very strange. Yesterday I saw some municipality workers covering all the Hindu temples on road by bamboos in my neighborhood. I did not understand why they were doing it. I asked them and they said that since it was the parade that night they wanted to make all the temples secured. I did not understand why Hindu temples are not secured on the parade night and they said that Muslims can harm Hindu temples. I had heard about it but never thought that it was true. I have seen their parade and to be honest they really look like in violent mood.

There are always a lot of Police, Rapid Action Force and other security guards for their parade. I have heard that they used to kill people while the parade. I don’t know if it is true or not but after watching the barriers around Hindu temple, it makes me think like maybe the things I had heard about this festival was true. Varanasi is famous for its Ganga-Jamuni culture. Ganga represents Hindus and Jamuna represents Muslims in this expression. It is said that Hindus and Muslims are very friendly in Varanasi but is it the kind of friendship we have? I am sure that Ganga-Jamuni culture doesn’t exist anymore. We had big tension after Babri mosque was destroyed in Ayodhya and that tension is still there, maybe it is hided but it is still there.

Poor Durga

Another temple barricaded by bamboos at Assi crossing

It is not an big issue for me to see the God in prison, after all Krishna was also born in prison, but it doesn’t look good to make an effort to save the temples. How is it possible that the government or the people are afraid that the temples will be destroyed? It is India where more than eighty percent of the population is Hindu and we have to make an effort to save our culture? Its not something that needs to be taken care of. It is only the impact of Indian government making Muslims feel powerful than Hindus in India only for the vote bank. Now Muslims feel so powerful and think that they can do anything, even destroy temples.

Last year on the 6th of December, the anniversary of demolish of Babri mosque, all the Muslims had closed their shops in Varanasi to protest. They did sitting in front of city office demanding Indian government to built the mosque again. Even though they also know that there was a temple before mosque but still they want to get the mosque back. A group of Muslims protested in front of Indian parliament in Delhi putting the same demand- built the mosque. This case is pending in supreme court of India for the last fifteen years and I don’t think that it will be ever solved because Indian government doesn’t want to hurt Muslims. I think they must built either the temple or the mosque as soon as possible. But please do not keep this case in Supreme court anymore.

People often get violent against each other. I remember once about seven-eight years ago when Muslims had murdered a Hindu guy. They were protesting against something and had blocked the road. A Hindu guy was coming back to home from work and Muslims stopped him and murdered him on the main road. This guy was newly married. His wife was so unlucky because she will have to live as a widow maybe for her whole life. I don’t know what to say about these things but it is very painful to see people fighting for religion. And I am sure that these kinds of issue could never ever be solved.

Poor Shiva

3rd temple barricaded by bamboos near Assi crossing

People say that the tension between Hindus and Muslims is because of religion, but I don’t believe it. I think our government is completely responsible it. Our government educates people for not doing any kind of discrimination between boys and girls but the same government is doing discrimination between Hindus and Muslims which is a big issue for every India whether they are Hindus or Muslims. Muslims are given subsidy when they make a pilgrimage to Makka but why not Hindus are given help of a single rupee when they make any pilgrimage? Why Muslims are considered as a minority group and given special facilities in few states when Hindus are not considered as a minority in Jammu and Kashmir?

This kind of discrimination always creates tension in any kind of society. I believe that it is always good to talk about similarity because if we talk about similarity between two people then it makes them feel like there is something common between them and it brings them closer but our government always talks about differences and promote people who can talk about differences. There is a Indian guy named Mr. Zakir Nayak. I think he is dangerous than a terrorist. I believe that human tongue could be more dangerous than a nuclear bomb if it is used properly and Mr. Nayak knows how to use the tongue.

He has amazing knowledge of all the religions and he organizes religious lectures and talks about differences between Islam and other religions. I have heard his conferences on TV and I see how he invites religious leaders of different religion and talks them about the differences. Most of the listeners in the conference, maybe more than 99%, are usually Muslims and they all like to hear him and clap after he proves that Islam is greater than other religions. I see him as Laden of India. There is only one difference between Laden and Mr. Nayak which is Laden works by guns and he works by tongue. He still organizes conferences and making people violent which will blast like a nuclear bomb someday.

Indian government seems okay to put the God in prison but they don’t like putting the terrorists like Zakir Nayak and a lot of other religious leaders, who make people fight for religion, in jail. I am not sad to see the temples in barriers but I am not happy either. It should not be done. It makes me feel like our government is afraid of Muslims and Muslims feel like they can do anything, even hurt others feelings and culture. I can bet that this problem will never ever be solved until there is any kind of discrimination between Hindus and Muslims and I am sure about one thing that this discrimination is not going to end soon. I used to see the god in prison only once in a year, on Krishna’s birthday when people and temples organize play of Krishna’s birthday but now I will see it twice a year. No problem. But I am not happy.

Bakrid

Animal waste on road

Animal waste on road

I have been watching something everyday which nobody would ever liketo see. Its blood and meat everywhere in my city. There is a Muslim festival called Bakrid. Each and every Muslim family is supposed to slaughter on male goat. Sometimes they buy one for each member of the family. They slaughter the animal and throw all the waste on road. It takes at least four-five days for municipality to clean this up. There is a Discovery TV show called dirty jobs. I have watched that show sometimes but honestly the job they show is nothing in comparison with our municipality workers.

What part of body is this?

What part of body is this?

For these four-five days all the animal waste stays on road. People stop going to Muslim neighborhoods during these four-five days. I had seen it once about ten years ago and could not dare to go again towards Muslim neighborhoods during this festival. But this year I went specially to see it again with Nadia, a researcher from Singapore. First of all we decided to walk but right after crossing one neighborhood we decided to take a rickshaw because it was overwhelming to walk. There was goat skin, meat and other wastes all over the road. I wondered how other people were standing near all these wastes and talking to each other. It was just like daily routine for them.

It was also on the road

It was also on the road

We took a rickshaw and passed by all the major Muslim neighborhoods in Varanasi. I saw the same thing everywhere- meat, goat skin, and blood. I saw one guy riding a camel as well. They entered in a Muslim neighborhood with this camel. I asked few locals about it and they all said that they were going to slaughter this camel as well. Wealthy people slaughter camels to show their wealth. Number of camels slaughtered is a news every year. I read in newspaper that ten camels were slaughtered only in Varanasi.

Municipality workers cleaning the waste

Municipality workers cleaning the waste

I don’t know what to say about this festival or whom to claim for this but definitely it is everybody responsibility to keep the sanitation. I think they must not throw animal waste on road. It spreads diseases and it looks so disgusting. I don’t think there could be anything worst than finding yourself in between all kind of meat. Nadia is also a Muslim but she had never seen or expected anything like that. She says that its completely hidden in Singapore. People never see any slaughtering even it is done in their name.

A begger storing food

A begger storing food

Nadia says that in Singapore they just pay the money to mosques and get a slaughtering done in their name. This idea is thousand time better than what we have. She started feeling sick after watching those tons of meat. I could not eat the day I watched it but it was still an experience for me and Nadia. There is very famous humor that selling meat is prohibited in Varanasi but the reality is something what I have talked about. Meat is everywhere:- in the shops, in the kitchens and sometimes on the road as well.

Effect of inflation on celebration of Diwali

Inflation is killing India nowadays. Everything is at least twice as expensive as the usual price. It was Diwali yesterday but it didn’t fell like the Diwali five or six years ago. Usually people like to buy lots of crackers, buy new clothes, bring something new to their homes but this year everything was so… I think most of the people just stayed at home, cooked food, decorated their home and that’s all. Very few people fired crackers. I believe that it is good for the atmosphere if there are fewer crackers, but there was still something missing.

A lot of people didn’t buy crackers because it was too expensive this year. Usually all the chemicals that are used to make crackers come from China where they are cheap. But this year the Chinese used all the chemicals for the Olympics and delayed supplying them to India. So Indian factories had to buy the chemicals in India which was expensive for them. This whole thing affected pricing of crackers a lot and made it at least two times more expensive.

One of the biggest reason behind people not firing many crackers is that everything is so expensive in India nowadays. People have a hard time, so they prefer to arrange their living needs first. I bought tomatoes and it cost me Rs. 50 per kilo. It was never ever expensive like this before. Uncle Udo says that tomato costs Rs. 70-80 per kilo in Germany. So there is not much difference in the price but there is a huge difference in the income of the people.

I know that foreigners spend more money than us on agriculture, so it must be expensive there. But why it is so expensive here? I asked a lot of people how did their Diwali went and most of them said that it was not good because of inflation. I don’t know how long will it be like this, but if it stays the same way for a long time then a lot of middle class people will become poor again for sure.

Diwali 2008

It was Diwali yesterday and I enjoyed it a lot. I had invited a few couchsurfers to celebrate Diwali with me. I invited two US students and two British travelers. They came to my home around 6 o’clock and were just sharing their travel experiences of India. Later uncle Udo also joined us. My mother did puja first and then we decorated the whole house with candles. Usually I don’t buy or fire crackers, but this year I had lots of crackers because a few of my friends had bought some.

We went on the roof and fired crackers. It was first time in the last fifteen years that I fired crackers. I don’t like this because it damages the atmosphere. The smoke could be easily felt in the atmosphere during Diwali which I don’t like. I better like to decorate my home with candles, have good food, invite people over dinner etc… A lot of people in Varanasi gamble during Diwali night. I had also gambled last year at Bunti’s family place for the first time in my life. They had invited me this year also but I could not go.

Diwali is a very important festival for Aghoris. They do some special puja at the funeral place in the night between 12 and 1. I really wanted to see it but I again I missed it this year because the guy who was supposed to come with me didn’t call me. I was just waiting for him, and finally it was over 1 o’ clock so I couldn’t go. After firing crackers we had dinner. We had lots of good food, sweets, it was so nice last night. I really enjoyed it.

I had heard a lot about threats for foreign girls in Varanasi after it gets dark, but I never thought it was true. I have seen all the guide books telling that foreign girls should not wander alone in Beanres after it is dark. I always thought that it was wrong information provided by guide books. Abbie and Emily, the US students, were worried about going alone to their guest house. They wanted me to come with them. I went with them and I realized that guide books were true.

People were just commenting on these foreign girls. Somebody brought crackers and wanted them to fire them. Somebody was saying that they were so beautiful, somebody wanted to harrash them… It was overwhelming. I never knew that these things happen in Varanasi also. Maybe it happens in the downtown area only, because I have never ever heard of such a thing happening around Assi neighborhood. They were stopped by five-six people. Finally they reached their guest house and I came back home.

Past terrorism disrupts today’s festival

It was last day of Durga Puja yesterday and I went to see the Durga pandals (tents) with my friends. I have been going to see the pandals for the last 10 years. We usually leave home at 9 o’clock and wander to different pandals at different places, which takes almost the whole night. We come back to home around morning time. Traffic is restricted because of the huge number of people who come to see the pandals. I think half of Benares comes to see this festival. We always go on our bikes, so we had to stop our bikes at different places and wander on foot.

I was hoping for the same kind of attendance this year also, but I was surprised to see that only ten percent of what I was hoping for had come. I had never ever seen this few people during Durga Puja. We could easily drive our bikes on the road, which was kind of strange for me. All of my friends were prepared to walk but the roads were empty, so we did not have to walk. I am sure that people did not come because of all the recent bomb blasts in different cities and our local news papers also wrote a lot about terrorists in Varanasi.

We all were sad to see that finally terrorists won, and we lost the game. I remember the day after the bomb blast in Sankat Mochan temple, where more than a hundred people died. It was first time in Benares’s history when a bomb blast happened, but everything was normal again the very next day. The temple had the same number of people, and everybody said that they would fight against terrorism if police and the government helped them. But after watching the number of people during Durga Puja, it seemed like now people don’t have that passion to fight against terrorism.

It reminds me about the scam when Jaipur police arrested a mullah (Muslim teacher at Madarsa) in Benares 2 months ago for being a suspect in the Jaipur bomb blast, and police had to release him later because all the Muslims came on the road and started protesting. Government also ordered police to release him because they were afraid of their vote bank. Even though he is one of the suspects, he is still out of jail and doing whatever he wants.

Afzal guru, the guy behind the terrorist attack on Indian parliament, was also sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of India but the Central Government of Congress put this decision on hold by petitioning our President, who is a Congress candidate. In the same way a lot of terrorists are still enjoying their lives in jails. We hear that they have very good lives because of the special orders by our politicians, and our police are also bribed by them.

Sometimes I think that maybe people like Afzal Guru and the mullah who was arrested and later released because of the Muslim’s pressure are involved in bomb blasts. All the political parties want to make Muslims happy because Muslims are a very good vote bank for them. I don’t know when things will change but it seems like it is not going to change soon.