I doubt the tour guide had this in mind, but it was pretty perfect to be on the river watching the cremation and Aarti ceremonies at night on Halloween, and then sunrise on the Ganges the next morning, All Saints Day.
After an early wake up call and retracing our steps down the river, we loaded into our boat and rowed up river, observing the people bathing in the Ganges, and doing their laundry.
Across the river we could see pilgrims making there way to Varanasi—in my drawing they look more like trees than people.
It was then that some of us participated in making offerings to the gods with the leaf boat-with-lit-candles. We were told to make the offering in someone's name and make a wish to ourselves, while leaning over the boat and say aloud a request of Lord Shiva to grant the wish. I wrote it for you phonetically [sic].
Care to guess the nature of my offering and wish? It's not against the rules!
A busy, busy day ended in busy, busy traffic that stopped dead for an hour and a half. The jam was caused by the fact that they were literally paving the road as we went. It was really frustrating, until we started clowning around on the bus and the mood went from cranky to zany.
This was my last day of really meaningful experiences as I had to turn back to "business" but what a day it was! Adding to the evening before, this 24 hour span ranks among the most meaningful of my entire life. I will carry this feeling with me for a long, long time.
UPDATE: A little creative Googling leads me to the more helpful explanation of "Om Namah Shivaya" or "I bow to Shiva."