Johnny C.Y. Lam                                   

Varanasi and Rishikesh


The Indian holy cities of Varanasi and Rishikesh both hold their own significance in traditional Hindu mythology as well as modern-day Hinduism. The Beatles first brought the attention of Rishikesh to the West when they took a transcendental meditation retreat back in 1964. Rishikesh is a destination for pilgrims,  yogis,  meditators,  religious devotees and adventure seekers, often arriving with one common goal, to soak up the powerful vibe of Mother Ganga and surrounding Himalayas. Located about 850 km south-east of Rishikesh, is the ancient city of Varanasi. As Mark Twain famously quoted, “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Hindus believe that dying here and getting cremated along the banks of the holy Ganges river allows one to break the cycle of rebirth and attain salvation, making it a major centre for pilgrimage. As flames slowly devoured the remains the departed sending smoke up in the sky, I found myself sitting rather peacefully at the ghat, watching and thinking how one day, we must all face our own mortality.