FREE BIRD T.V.: Episode 7 (On the Banks of the Ganges)

Considered India’s holiest Hindu site, the Ganges River provides water for over 420 million people. They cook, bathe, pray, and wash away their sins with it, thousands wading into its slow-moving current from the ghats of Varanasi each dawn. (Never mind the 200 million litres of sewage dumped there every day.)

The Ganga, as it’s known in Hindi, is sacred. So sacred that Hindus believe the scattering of their cremated ashes into the river will grant them moksha – liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. The daily cremation count at the Varanasi burning ghats hovers around 300, with an endless cloud of smoke rising above the woodstacks.

We took two boat rides on the Ganges–one in the early morning and one after dark. Despite spotting the floating carcasses of a cow, a pig, and two dogs, we were captivated watching the men, women, pilgrims, children, and sadhus relish in the daily rituals practiced on these banks for thousands of years.

Seeing Varanasi

Bodies burning on beds of fire lit at the edge of the Ganga, people bathing drinking praying washing, beating dirt from their clothes on wet stones, drying the clothes on sun-hot stairs, and women with newly-shaved heads and naked arms and anxious eyes shouting into the golden doors of shrines guarded by unsmiling uniformed men holding long guns in the heat and cows, cows in every sliver-thin alley, swallowing plastic bags and banana peels, and a man with fingerless stumps on the ends of two arms leaning on the wall, next to a silk seller sipping chai in a pillow-floored shop unravelling scarves, and is that a dead monkey sprawled sideways on the street? (String of holy flowers strung around its neck?)  Packs of men carry bodies cloaked in orange cloth (always orange) on wooden stretchers, bodies of their mother or brother or sister or son, lifting them high above the rickshaws and cigarettes, the spicy fried potato stalls and honking motorcycles, the tourists and goats and barefoot fly-swarmed kids, above the constant throb to the river where bells are ringing on the ghats, and pilgrims are singing and candles glow like rubies on the water and a hundred rowboats are moored and the Brahmin priests are spinning circles of fire, the massage men and the boys selling stamps, and the holy bearded man with red holy powder is smiling, rubbing dye into your damp forehead, incense smoke blooming up into the night heat as silver bowls shake along a staircase, their tin skins begging for rupees to fall for the old and the hungry and the waiting.

*Click on an image to view gallery in full-size

India’s Khajuraho: Where the Temple Kink Lives On

That’s right, kink. And temple. In the same title. Perhaps the photos will help to explain…

At first: Just another incredible Indian temple complex. But then you look a little closer…

And whoa! What in the holy name of Hinduism???

Temple after temple, pose after pose…

The sexy kama sutra-esque statues appeared.

Intricate, sky-high carvings to surprise and inspire.

So, what’s the deal with these ancient, evocative, sandstone sculptures? 

Joe gives the lowdown–and more photos– in his awesome blog post Holy Erotica.  Check it out here.  Warning: Get ready for an elephant voyeur and a glimpse of man-on-horse intimacy…


Palms in the Sky

FREE BIRD T.V.: EPISODE 6 ( Joe + the Indian Barber)

Hello from Phnom Penh!  

In my last post, I mentioned that back in Kolkata, Joe got a haircut from a market barber, which included a spontaneous head “massage.

Here’s the clip!

Note that the night before, Joe had accidentally slammed into the door leading to the balcony off the room we were staying in, making his head a little sensitive to the barber’s less-than-gentle touch.  As you’ll see, he took it like a champion.

Updates from Cambodia to come!

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