Sometimes I wish I could write as eloquently and precisely as C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, or E.M. Bounds and the like, because then I wouldn’t have to use as many words as I’m going to in order to describe my last week. I would make a terrible author because typically I get overwhelmed when I think about having to transfer emotions or thoughts to written words, so normally I don’t even bother. But since it’s been over a month since my last post, combined with the fact that this will probably be my last post from India, I thought I’d give it a try. Bear with me.
My friend and I had the chance to hop on a plane and travel to India’s holy city. What Mecca is to a Muslim, this city is to a Hindu. Time or space doesn’t permit me to tell you about the history behind this city and the gods connected to it, but one thing worth mentioning is that it’s dedicated to the god Shiva, the Destroyer. Summary of Shiva: he’s violent, and likes chopping off peoples’ heads. Ironic, because he is also known to be a spiritual seeker. And he still resides in the city that is considered to be Heaven on earth for a Hindu. I will never understand.
The focal point in this city is the Ganges River. This river is believed to have sin-cleansing powers. People from all over India (and the world) come to wash themselves clean of sins from this life and from all their previous lives. They also believe that if they are cremated by the river and have their ashes spread in the water, they will escape the cycle of reincarnation and go straight to Heaven. After hearing that, try to imagine what this water is like. Never in my life have I seen anything so filthy. The whole city reeks of death, and the river is thick with ashes, body parts, waste, and pollution. Yet still people come, thousands upon thousands, to wash themselves clean.
Our friend took us on a boat tour along the banks, and the sadness I felt as we drifted silently was indescribable. The shoreline is covered by massive stone stairs (called ghats) that lead directly into the water, and they were covered by people. But the most disturbing sight by far was the burning ghat, where the dead are burned right by the river and their ashes strewn into the water below. We got out of the boat and stood directly above the site; from twenty feet I saw a couple bodies burning and other bodies being prepared for cremation. Ten feet away from the flames, men waist-deep in ash-filled water were scavenging for anything valuable the family might have left behind. Words can’t describe the feeling we all had as we witnessed this scene, but the only thing running through my head was the old, simple hymn, ‘What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.’
A tour of a famous Hindu temple afterwards was not much more than a blur, but I’m thankful I got a chance to see these pillars of Hinduism. It helps me understand the culture a little bit better, and there’s something to be said for getting to know the country you live in. But most of all, it made me so thankful for Truth.
Everything about that city – from the people, to the architecture – struck me as ancient. It was like living in a backdrop of Bible times. It was an amazing experience, but I was glad to be heading back to Delhi. Never thought I’d think of Delhi as luxurious, but it was so nice to be back. Plus, the weather had cooled down drastically by the time we arrived at our borough. It’s finally Fall weather here! And by Fall, I mean 80 degrees, but after 5 consecutive months of 100+ temps, it feels so cold! Loving it.
So this is very likely my last post from India! I have just over 2 weeks left. I’m starting the phase of Lasts and Goodbyes, and not looking forward to it. I have come to love this place. Been through the wringer here (physically and spiritually), but man I love it. Locals tell me this always happens to foreigners. Somehow, India settles into your heart and never leaves. The phrase they always hear is “there’s something about this place…” It’s true.
But after 6 months away, I’m ready to be home. See you soon :)