Two Places for Correct Transition to a Better World: Jerusalem and Varanasi

The cemetery at the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel.

The cemetery at the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel.

Have you ever asked yourself where would you like to spend the last days of your life just before you leave this world?

If not, don’t read on. You are too young, and your whole life is ahead of you. Just live!

If yes….

Jerusalem

If you are true believer, you know for sure what to do, how, when, and where to do it. Let’s take Jews for example. Every religious Jew knows that Jerusalem is the one preferred sacred place on this planet to live and be buried. This legendary city is surrounded by hills (which Jews call mountains), and one of them, the Mount of Olives, has a cemetery as old as time. Jews have buried their relatives there for several thousand years. Specialists have identified more than 150,000 burials in the first layer. Only God knows how many Jews lie in other ones.

What’s so special about this hill? It’s mentioned in the Old Testament and the New Testament many times, and connected with Yahweh, David, Solomon, Zechariah, Absalom, and later with Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Maybe you remember the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus talked with his disciples, underwent the agony in the garden, was arrested the night before his crucifixion, and ascended after his resurrection? The garden is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

Every religious Jew believes that when the Messiah comes, those who lie in the ground at the Mount of Olives will be resurrected first (the Biblical verse Zechariah 14:4). And they are prepared to pay for such a privilege. Today, the cost of a plot at the Mount of Olives can reach USD 25,000. An expensive place.

The cemetery at the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel.

The cemetery at the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel.

Varanasi

Everything is much simpler in Hinduism. They also have a sacred place, the city of Varanasi on the river Ganges, India. If you have money, you can be burned in one of numerous palaces erected along the river, and your ashes will be put in the sacred water of Ganges. If you are poor, you can be burned much more cheaply right on one of stony steps (ghats) of the Manikarnika Ghat or the Harishchandra Ghat, leading down to the river, and your ashes will go into the Ganges.

Varanasi, India.

Hindus believe that if you are cremated in Varanasi, your soul attains moksha (liberation), breaks the cycle of rebirth and will enjoy eternal peace.

Varanasi is probably the oldest city of the world. Its sacred history started in 800 BCE which was confirmed by archaeological excavations. This is the birthplace of many religions including Buddhism. Buddha founded Buddhism here around 528 BCE.

Mark Twain wrote in 1897 about Benares (one of the names of Varanasi), “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

There are about 23,000 temples in Varanasi. This is one of the unique places in the world which must be visited, even if you are not about to end your earthly journey.

But be prepared. A trip to Varanasi will be exotic, to say the least. If it’s your first visit to India, choose another city to get used to traditions, demeanor of the locals, and their cuisine. And don’t ever use a train. My friends took a train from Delhi to Varanasi and were struck by the capability of Indians to travel sitting five people in one place. Use Delhi to Varanasi flights instead, and keep your reserve of amazement for the banks of the Ganges. Chances are, it will be the most exotic embankment you have ever seen.

Varanasi, India.

Varanasi, India.

More about Israel:

Fabulous Caesarea
Via Dolorosa: My Way of the Cross
Talking With the Walls of Jerusalem

24 Responses to “Two Places for Correct Transition to a Better World: Jerusalem and Varanasi”

  1. Andrew Petcher Says:

    I wish my ashes to be scattered on a Greek Island. If this is too much trouble my garden will do nicely!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rama Arya Says:

    Hello Victor, lovely post, but there are a few errors in the Varanasi section. 🙂

    1) Varanasi was founded in 1800 BC and not 800 BC according to archaeological evidence.

    2) There are ONLY two cremation ghats in Varanasi. The rest are praying and bathing ghats. Bodies cannot be cremated on any of these other ones. The two cremation ghats are Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghats. Both, the rich and poor are cremated here. There is no difference in burial rites or sites between the rich and poor. The only place for moksha are these two.

    3) Buddha did not find his religion in Varanasi. He gave his first sermon and established the first sangha in Sarnath which was a deer park in antiquity. Sarnath was quite separate in role and identity from the rituals and traditions of Varanasi back then, as it is even now.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. wordsfromanneli Says:

    This is a very different kind of post – a different approach to traveling background. I like to know bit about the history of a place and your posts provide that in a readable and entertaining way. If you find that some of the historical information about the Ganges and Varanasi was in error, there’s no reason you couldn’t adjust the dates according to what you found out, but even so it doesn’t change the gist of the write-up or the fabulous photos.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. thehungrytravellers.blog Says:

    We haven’t been to Jerusalem yet but our trip to Varanasi was amazing. And as you say, it’s not for the feint hearted but what an interesting place it is. We enjoyed every minute we stayed there, wasn’t ready to leave, it’s such an education, would definitely recommend a visit, we certainly would go again one day. We went by the overnight train from Agra, throughly enjoyed the experience, people were friendly and even offered us food within 10 minutes of boarding. Varanasi and India are fantastic

    Liked by 2 people

  5. lulu Says:

    I’ve not been to Jerusalem, but in Varanasi I experienced one of the most emotional experiences of my life. As for where I wish to exit, it’s probably in the waters that I so love in Maine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Victor Tribunsky Says:

      Apparently, you are happy there.
      But I would recommend you think about the voyage to Israel. I think this is a special place for every Christian and enthusiast of the history.
      Thank you, Lulu.

      Like

  6. thewonderer86 Says:

    Varanasi is an amazing place. Emotional and thought provoking. Train journeys are a joy in India – although I admit, sometimes challenging, but we always managed to get a seat. I loved sitting in an open doorway, until some official with a rifle made me move! Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. MassageFeels Says:

    Victor, these photos are stunning! Thank you for sharing, visuals and history. I read your post twice to let more of the history layers sink in. Love the learning and the beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Green Global Trek Says:

    What an interesting combination of worlds apart… Jerusalem and Varanasi and yet, yes of course, the holiest of holy places. The last photograph is particularly beautiful. Wonderful light.

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

  9. spankynet1 Says:

    I think my original comment from a few weeks ago might be lost in Spam-world. This topic is something that seems to comes up the older we get and the longer we travel. I think Frank and I agree that it would be a place that we feel we will always go back to and has some special meaning to us. I think a trip to India might be in our cards but not as solo travelers but with a guide. I’ve always been curious about Jerusalem but it might take a little convincing to get Frank to go. Great post Victor.

    Like


I will appreciate your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: