This may sound harsh but Nepal is really poor, there we are treated as human beings. Here we are merely cash cows. Money talks. Nothing else. Fact.
Same as the Hindu religion here. In Bali I was accepted into the temples and treated as an equal. I was allowed to pray to Hindu gods with all the local people. I did not feel marginalised. Here we have to undergo security checks. Leave all electronic goods and bags in lockers just to enter the grounds. Under no circumstance would we be allowed to enter the inner sanctums. I find this strange as Hindus state that they are fully tolerant of all other religions. However no other religions are allowed to visit their temples for fear of spiritual pollution. I find this hard and judgemental.
However its not all bad. Varansi as a holy city will not allow Hindus who have not eaten into the temples, so they make sure that all the beggars have something to eat each day. Many temples offer free meals, this is a good thing. I also felt the energy of human devotion and faith, especially whilst on the Ganges. The spiritual energy is something India cannot rob you of. Which I guess is why we westerners flock here and have for centuries.
For me the difference in tolerance between Hinduism in Bali, Thailand and India is marked. In Bali and Thailand we were free to join in and felt a big part of the culture. In Varanasi we are aware of a huge gap. Although on a local level we felt welcome to participate in Arti ceremony and ablution in the Ganges, we were definitely excluded from the inner sanctums. Our money is welcome our devotion is not. Although every Hindu we spoke to was quick to tell us there is only one God, I wonder if they feel that God could also be ours.
Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful to have visited this most holy of Hindu cities and we have had a wonderful time. The highlight has to be our bathe this morning with some of the pilgrims. For me that was a very personal spiritual experience . However I cannot help but feel based solely on my personal view Indian Hinduism is a totally secular religion that is marketed for the tourist trade purely to provide money and little much else.
That said we would not have missed this experience for the world. Tomorrow we return to Buddhism as we leave Varanasi for our final two days in Boudhgaya.