Lassi in Varanasi
Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India and considered the most holy of the 7 sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism. So our two days there were filled with checking out temples and praying with the locals, right? Nope. We took advantage of the ability to relax on our last stop before trekking in the frozen Nepali mountains.
Getting lost in the never-ending alleyways, we explored the city along with two Israeli’s, Itomel and Daphna. Making our way down towards the holy Ganges River, we saw smoke rising up in the distance. As we walked closer, 6 large funeral pyres grabbed our attention. Apparently there is a temple in Varanasi that has continually housed a sacred fire for the past couple thousand years. About 7 hours after the death of a loved one, the deceased is wrapped in vibrant colored fabric and carried through the streets, followed by loved ones, to the river. They are then placed in one of the open funeral pyres, which is lit using the sacred fire, and cremated in the open air.
After observing this ritual, we wandered through the alleys some more, grabbing a bite to eat and searching for the infamous Blue Lassi, an establishment known for serving bhang lassi. Asking for directions to the establishment, a nice shop owner invited us into his shop instead to try some homemade special lassi. Bhang lassi is like a normal flavored lassi, except that it contains bhang, a liquid derivate of cannabis. When asked if we would like the normal, strong, or super strong, we opted for the strongest concoction that 250 rupees would buy us, which was between strong and super strong. Nursing the super sweet lassi as we talked about the good ol’ US of A with the owner, we wondered how this sometimes-legal drink would affect us.
Walking back to our guesthouse, we took our good old time and got lost more than once. This could have been due to the lassi, the darkness, or the labyrinth of alleyways along our route. In reality, it was a combination of all three. Eventually making our way to the river to get a sense of direction, we made it home and fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
The next day, we decided to check out some of the local silk factories that Varanasi is famous for. We saw how silk sheets, tapestries, and other garments are made, even indulging in blankets made from a wool/silk blend that feel better than sex. After another full day of exploring, we hopped a night train to the border to catch our bus to Kathmandu and take the trip to new heights.