Exposures

Ancestry Papers – Ashes & Bones – Eunuch Blessings

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Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

One day I found myself standing on a bridge in Haridwar, looking down at little vignette scenes only found in India.
One scene showed men sitting cross legged on a platform writing in long thin ledger books – 500 pages thick – recording and updating genealogical histories of families. This practice (only found in Haridwar) is handed down from family to family and no one knows when it started – could be thousands of years. This info includes those who immigrate abroad.
Another scene showed a husband with marigold garland performing a puja with incense burning just before taking a red bundle of ashes and bones and slowly releasing his loved one back into the sacred Ganges river. He then performed an act of charity by giving the deceased clothes to the poor.
My favorite scene was quite a show. At first it looked like any pilgrim gathering at the Ganges… grandparents, aunts and uncles and little children all dressed up and enjoying themselves. Looking closer, I see two little boys in the laps of loved ones crying while having their hair shaved off by local barbers with straight razors. I held my breath hoping I would not see blood. What was this all about? Our friend Sanjeev explained this is a tradition with all boys before the age of 5 to bring good luck in carrying on their ancestry. Looking even closer, I see a transvestite dressed in a deep pink sari (our guide calls a eunuch), giving their blessing over the child’s bald head. It was explained that people born with both the masculine and feminine have an even higher energy that is respected and sought after. He did say, though this is true, they still have very hard lives.
We walk away thinking – this is just another typical day on the Ganges.

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