Religion and the River

8 February 2007

After enduring another traumatic 5am wake up call this morning, we met our new guide and the coach took us down to the River Ganges where we had a boat ride at dawn.

On the Ganges

Unfortunately the weather was overcast and foggy which meant we couldn’t see the sunrise. However, we were able to get a feel of the Hindu lifestyle along the Ganges. The Hindus believe that they have four mothers, their biological mother, Mother Earth, Mother Cow and Mother Ganges. To honour their Mother Ganges they light candles surrounded by flowers and place them into the river. Many Hindus come down to the banks of the Ganges to bathe and wash their clothes. As well as using the Ganges for their everyday chores, the river also has spiritual meaning to them. Every Hindu wishes for their ashes to be scattered into the Ganges. During our ride we passed the crematorium, where a funeral pyre was burning and a woman was about to be cremated. We also saw the Holy Men of the city who live in tents on the riverbank. These men give up all their worldly possessions in order to live a simple and spiritual life.

Liz placing a candle into the Ganges

After our trip down the river we visited a Hindu temple which was beautifully decorated.

Hindu Temple

Later in the day, we visited Sarnath, which is the place where the Buddha preached his first sermon and which is therefore known as the birth place of Buddhism. We first visited a museum full of ancient Buddha stone statues, and then went on to the excavation site at Sarnath where they have uncovered the ruins of the ancient Buddhist monastery. We then went on to a Buddhist temple. In the garden there was a tree symbolising where Buddha was supposed to have sat while delivering his first sermon to his five disciples.


We have been given the afternoon to catch up on some much needed sleep and will be going out for dinner tonight in what will be our last night in Varanasi.

We would all like to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to visit the website and leave us a message. It is really motivating to read your messages and know that you are thinking of us. A special thank you to Sam Bell, who has kept up his promise to leave us a message everyday. We would really appreciate it if you could continue sending us messages and promoting our website to both friends and family as the hardest part of our journey is yet to come.

A special message from Katherine: From reading the comments on my scarves: ok if you know me you will think it perfectly normal for me to be wearing a scarf wherever and whenever! They keep me cool ok?


sophie bainton

@ 4426 days ago

once again…all sounds fab! painful thought of a 5 am start but by the sounds of it the trip more then made up for it! all looks absolutely just wow! wicked photos!

It’ll get harder but you guys can do it and you are all in our thoughts!!!! xxxxxxx

tonnes of love, soph xxxxx

Kathy O'Brien

@ 4426 days ago

Hi everyone,
Looks like you’ve had yet another fantastic day. The pictures are lovely, a pity about the sunset but I’m sure it was a great experience anyway. We are glad you are enjoying reading our messages, it is great for us to read all the messages and to see what you’ve been up to. It’s now 1.45 and the snow has started to melt. Quite a lot of schools were closed today including St. Joan’s as you will have seen from some of the messages. Ciaran’s unfortunately for him was not. Enjoy your last night and day in Varanasi. Hope you are all not too homesick and are looking forward to Kolkata which will be a truly amazing and spiritual experience.
Siobhan we think about you all the time, and still have Francesca’s masterpiece in front of the fire. Ciaran said he will get round to sending you a message at some time. God Bless and all our love as always Mum, Dad and Ciaran. XXxxXXxx


@ 4426 days ago

With that weather i bet you wish you were back home in the snow :p extremely jealous of all you guys, such a fantastic experience, even if you do have to get up at 5 (ouch).
anyways hope you all managed to catch up on your sleep!!! and had a good evening
until tomorrow (or later depending on whether or not i think of anything else to write :p)
x x x x x x x x x x

xXx FrAnceSca xXx

@ 4426 days ago

Hey everyone!! another amazing experience of India you had today! All sounds really interesting and spiritual.
Siobhan did you get my text this morning? Well as you already know we woke up to thick snow this morning-no school!! Big snowfight at the park = VERY cold feet but worth it lol
It’s nice to hear that you enjoy reading all our messages, am thinking about you all the time! Time difference confuses me though! :P
Once again, Fantastic pictures, thumbs up to the photographer! Hope you managed to catch up on your well needed sleep and enjoy your last night in Varanasi.
Everyone is rooting for you, especially in the Vitale household, sending you all our love and kissess xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
o and desperate housewives was amazing last night! im glad i didnt let you tell me who died Siobhan!hehe xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Siobhan- my grandad says hello and take care xxxxxxxxhehexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

xXx FrAnceSca xXx

@ 4426 days ago

hey shivvy, jst another quick note after that text u sent lol
My brother is feeling a lot better, but was out in the snow with the Basley boys from like 8am til 1 in the afternoon today so wont be surprised if he gets ill again! I went out about 10ish so i dnt know how he coped being in the cold longer!! o well deffo made the most of it, can’t remember having snow this heavy for agessssssssssss!!!
i bet you’re missing your BOOST choc bars haha xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


@ 4426 days ago

Hey guys! well every1 else may b happy bout the snow but im not! Bcz of how thick it has been my driving test was cancelled dis morning! Now i have 2 wait even longer!!!!!!! I wanna b out in the heat with u guys!!!! Cant wait 4 dis weekend tho! Shane i will miss u at the bar! and Katherine on the dance floor!!!! And Shiv u kno im gona miss u! But we will go out and celebrate shanes bday wen u get home! Glad 2 hear u r enjoying urselves! Sounds like u had yet another excellent day! And even tho u kno it is going to get harder it will b worth it! Cant wait 2 hear more from u!
As tom sed miss devlin we miss having coffee with u! We’ll wait till u get home, put the kettle on and have a good old chat like the old times!
Miss u all xxx

Anna O'B

@ 4426 days ago

Hey everyone!
Looks like you’re having a great time, we’ve all been thinking about you all lots. Had a great snow day today! But unfortunately school is apparently reopening tomorrow…
Keep having an amazing time.
Lots of love
Anna xxxxx


@ 4426 days ago

Hi Grace
No school for me today, nor Nikki and Joanne!! – we’ll probably be closed tomorrow as well if the ice sets in – all Slough Secondaries are closed tomorrow.
Photos look good – Was it peaceful on the Ganges?
Have you bought anything yet?
Have a good flight tomorrow, the Mc Canns send their love.
Look forward to the next photos
lots of love
Mum and Dad xxx
Tom says Hi!! James is stuck in Oxford.

Em Ridley

@ 4425 days ago

Helooooo everyone!!
As much fun as the snow was today, i still think i’d rather be in India in the sun and surrounded by all its beauty!!! I’m very cold, and we’ve only missed one day of school.
Shane and Siobhan-as you know it was the performance of Cinderella on tuesday and it went really well, but me jen and tom were major stressed before it. Somehow we got through it without your help and wisdom-but i wish you could have been there to see it all and cheer me up!
I hope you continue to have a fabulous time, you are looking great from the pictures, and i’m loving the scarf Katherine!! Keep it coming…
Bye bye xxxxxx

Carol, Mick and Shannon Normoyle

@ 4425 days ago

Hi Shane and the gang,
As you know we all had a day off today cos of the snow, it looked beautiful but cold. It`s melting quickly so I presume we are back to normal tomorrow. Shannon and Barbara made a snowman with Dershnie next door, he looked really good, he had a chocolate for a mouth. It was lovely to speak to you today Shane although I couldn’t really hear you very well, you did sound really tired though, bet everyone is feeling the same but I’m sure it’s worth it. Thank you once again for the brilliant photos and update. I can’t believe how much you’ve all seen and done already. Have a safe train journey tonight hope it’s not too scarey and you manage to get some sleep (that’s if Siobhan stops talking, ha ha only joking I love you loads Siobhan). Hi this is now Shannon speaking, I haven’t got to speak to you yet on the phone.Next time you phone I will definately speak to you, you have to tell me all about it so far and if anything really good or special has happened.I’m missing you so much!!!
Take care loads of love mum, dad and Shannon(especially me(shannon)!!!)

patrick lincoln

@ 4425 days ago

none of you guys except Kathryn (Spink) will actually know me but I am aware of your trip and all your’re doing – its a great venture! Its good to be able to follow what you are up to each day and to hear of your travel and your reactions to the many new experiences which you are all having!
Keep up the daily postings and enjoy, learn and be enlightened by all the all the experiences you are having!! lots of good wishes to you all and hello to Katheryn and John



@ 4425 days ago

Hello Siobhan
Glad to hear that you have had another fantastic day. At this rate you will want to take the “girls” to India instead of Malia!!!
Sounds like lots of travelling on trains and planes (was it a plane?)
Well, missing you loads and I know my daughter is!
Looking forward to the next diary entry, take care,
Love Hilary x


@ 4425 days ago

okay, so its me again.
dedication – i have been out all day in the snow – and got in at about around now (its late trust me.)

the pictures look great again, the one on the river; its quite surreal!
i bet it was another amazing day – and everyone whos commenting (including me) is becoming increasingly jealous.
also many people have commented how very amazing it is that you are interacting on such a daily basis! this is people who have no idea of you, or much to do about udayan.. but its definatly spreading!

it seems you are enjoying it – and i hope this continues.

keep safe and take care.

love BELL

Lynne Bradshaw

@ 4425 days ago

Hello everyone

You probably don’t know me but I have been working at St Joan of Arc for three years now in two roles — firstly as an LSA and, secondly, more recently, as the teacher of Year 11 GCSE Health and Social Care.

I have been following your (physical and spiritual) journey with huge interest and enormous ENVY because I was fortunate enough to live in India (Mumbai to be precise) for two years (returning in 2000) and still miss it greatly.

It was not the easiest place in the world to live, particularly with a very reluctant 14 -year -old daughter in tow, but it was a life changing and life enriching experience for all of us, and I don’t doubt that you will view the world slightly differently upon your return.

I am sure Varanasi and the Taj Mahal were as memorable for you as they were for me but I suspect your memories will be more about the colours and sounds of India, the lovely people and, sadly, the suffering so many endure.

And hopefully you will not forget the ace teachers who accompanied you — they are the best.

Safe trip home and if you have a de-briefing session, please include me. I would love to hear and share your experiences.

Well done everyone

Lynne Bradshaw

Kevin O'Shea

@ 4425 days ago

Oh my God Neal-

Your in India floating down the Ganges, Mum n Dad are in Morrocco kissing snakes on the head for luck- and I’m sitting in the library in Reading doing employment law- how unfair is that???!!!

Hope your all having an amazing time, well in fact I know your having an amazing time, so embrace it and keep up the good work on the website Chris! England lost to Spain in their friendly last night- what a shame. lol

Neal you need to start thinking of what your going to get for Mrs Weldon on Valentines day!!!!



P.s- I had a cracking bit of rump steak today hahahaha

Kathy O'Brien

@ 4425 days ago

Good morning darling Siobhan, and hello everyone. I was going to say “and all the other little darlings” but that is another country altogether.
I hope you have all caught up on your sleep and feeling well and rested and got up at a reasonable hour today. The sightseeing in Varanasi today must have been great, on the one hand you have the wonderful colour, sights, sounds and splendour of India and on the other the awful poverty. It must be quite heart wrenching to see it first hand.
Well off to Kolkata tonight on the train, I bet after all your sightseeing (you have done so much) you can’t wait to get to Kolkata and see the children of Udayan.
Much love to Caroline, Trisha and Kathryn for giving you all this exceptional experience – can’t thank you guys enough.
Well I must sign off now and get some work done and look forward to seeing your update later on today.
Lots of love and kisses, Mum xxXXxx