India

Varanasi

Varanasi

Varanasi is not for the faint-hearted. The infamous Varanasian touts scour the ghats with preternatural persistence in attempting to sell their wares or services. A maze of thread-thin alleyways studded with hundreds of Hindu temples pad the area between the ghats and the rest of Varanasi, a bustling, noisy, typically Indian city with cows vying with the tuk-tuks, rickshaws, and automobiles for space on the dusty streets. When they find their ways to the ghats, visitors must be prepared to witness the display of burning bodies on public pyres. Those who try escape by hiring a boat to take them down the Ganges, will be confronted by carcasses and corpses floating among the debris. Those who make it as far as the opposite bank will encounter members of the notorious clan of Aghori Sandhus who drag corpses from the river to engage in ritual cannibalism and other ghastly rituals. Indeed, Varanasi is full-on—India level 10. As Lonely Planet succinctly states: “Varanasi takes no prisoners"...

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Holi in Hampi

Holi in Hampi

I'm quite late posting this! (Holi was March 24th.) I've been off the grid for the last few weeks soaking up the sun in Kerala and Karnataka, coastal states comprising about half of India's western seaboard.  I owe you guys blogs from my travels in the backwaters of Alleppey (known as the Venice of India) and from Fort Kochi, a nexus of Indian spice trade colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, and home to India’s most ancient Jewish community established after the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE. I also spent two weeks camping on a secluded beach in Gokarna investigating free will and determinism with an English chap who goes by "Frites"...

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Mamallapuram

In the early CEs Mamallapuram (aka Mahabalipuram) was a bustling seaport. Today the town teams with European tourists sojourning to see the town's World-heritage listed temples, which gives the town outright touristy vibe; as my guidebook puts it, “Restaurants serve pasta, pizza and pancakes, shops sell hand sanitizer and things from Tibet, and you known you have landed, once again, in the great Kingdom of Backpackistan”...

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Tamil Nadu, The Early Days

Tamil Nadu is a state on Indian’s south eastern tip sharing a maritime border with Shri Lanka. Littered with temples and Dravidian ruins, this ethnically and culturally distinct region, composed mostly of Tamil speaking Hindus (around 80 percent), is known for its vibrant culture that continues to manifest the venerable architecture, music, art, and dance traditions of the Tamil People’s Dravidian ancestors...

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