RED SUNRISE ON THE HOLY GANGES – singing, cymbals and wringing of loincloths, 1976

[Up before the dawn, “zomby-like”, to see the sunrise over the Ganges – but worth every cold yawning minute.  The sights and sounds on the river bank – from the slapping of jeans being washed against rocks to a young yogi standing on his head – were a wonderful mix of the spiritual and prosaic.  As someone who associated getting up in the morning with school rising bells or a mad nautical father who woke us in the holidays with a bosun’s whistle and raucous shouting, I had no idea that early mornings could be this exciting or fun.  I’ve saluted the sunrise ever since – if not every day!]

MONDAY 13TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One

Up at 5 – Jan’s alarm got us up – really dark.  20 to 6 we were in bus after zomby-like confusion and off to River Ganges. Saw dawn over the river – fantastic pink sky reflected perfectly in wide river with blanket of light violet mist dividing sky and water.  Fishing boats sihouetted at water’s edge.

Young lads exercising on first storey of open building.  Piled into 2 rowing boats (creaking madly we moved off!)  Passed boys beating washing vigorously in the shallow water – lots of jeans and probably Swagman t-shirts!

Still darkish and we kept being enveloped by waves of mist.  Lots of semi rundown buildings all along left bank; Maharajahs’ palaces, Hindu temples, Buddhist prayer house with great noise of chanting and cymbals coming from it.

Series of steps down to the river, many big colourless umbrellas on the steps with people sitting underneath.  Quite a few people bathing at water’s edge and washing and wringing their loincloths.  Priests singing, holy men with long black unkempt hair and orange cloths about them; man on veranda in white, clapping and singing while young fella beside him stood on his head.

Then a brilliant red ball of fire rose above the bank of cloud to the right as we passed a funeral pyre – one of the places “the untouchables” burn dead bodies 24 hours a day.

Boys on a punt collecting firewood off another boat.  On way back saw more clearly as the sun rose and changed to yellow then a brilliant white. 

Lots of noise and oriental music.  Monkeys swinging about roof and ledges of a big house; little boy trying to pull baby donkey away from Mum – who wasn’t having it and kept pulling it back!  All sorts of animals down by water. 

Women bathing – one deathly skinny, praying by the river.”


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