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Life and death: everything is as one



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This morning I left Patna with a sense of relief and excitement for the coming days. Navigation was vey positive thanks to a good current that allowed me to travel a total of about 30km. But the good news ends there.

The bad new is that the river today was the dirtiest I have encountered since I first set off. As well as my craft, travelling with the current I saw many animal carcasses, a human corpse and the half-carbonised remains of other bodies.

I had long prepared myself for this eventuality but I still got caught unprepared. Hindus practise cremation on the banks of the holy river and when the body of the deceased is completely incinerated they throw the remains in the river. However, there are some categories of people who are not cremated and among these are: children who are under seven, pregnant women and people who have died due to a snake bite. These categories of people have a much slower journey to the afterlife, as slow as the current of the Ganges.

I realise that part of the feeling of uneasiness I am feeling at this time is due to the culture in which I was raised, which creates a clear separation between life and death. Here, however, everything is as one, without separation between life and death, between man and the animals. A few days ago, passing through a burning ghat – the place where cremation takes place on the river – one of these ceremonies was going on and a few metres away, a chid was fishing. Everything is as one.

 - 10 Rivers 1 Ocean
Alex Bellini - barber shop - 10 Rivers 1 Ocean
Alex Bellini - Gange - 10 Rivers 1 Ocean
photo credit: Mauro Talamonti