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This blog captures the life experiences of the Enigmatic India team in the beautiful and enigmatic country of India.We capture our experiences through our writings, photos and products that depict the very essence and fabric of India.Through this platform, we invite you to join us in our journey as we explore.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trip to Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

We finally set off in the month of May to the oldest city ever-Varanasi. Umm, Banaras? No, Kashi! What’s in a name anyways!

The scorching heat, which was a little over 42C, didn’t actually seem to dampen our spirit, although a lot of people had cautioned us against it.

Well, the moment arrived, and there we were! Heading towards Ganapati Guest House, where we would be spending our next three memorable days. A little about why we chose this guest house and not any other. Its right on the bank of the river, alongside all the Ghats. There’s a balcony with a view of the Ganges which gives the guest house a breathtaking ambience. It is just a couple of minutes away from the main temple Kashi Vishwanath Mandir, although a little away from the main road. This meant that we would get dropped at a spot that was a15-minute walk away from the place of stay. It was worth it all, because the uniqueness of Banaras is its streets. The Ghats, the steep stairs and of course the legend of our Ganga maiyya and Shivji deciding to stay here for good!!

  At probably seven in the evening, the moment we checked into the hotel and stepped into the balcony, I looked onto my right, only to see the famous Dhashwamedh Ghat with the Ganga Aarti ongoing, and a large fleet of boats on the river, with loads of yellow lamps-dreams floating. An inexplicable visual, one must watch it to feel it!
We quickly hit the road to pay our respects to Shivji before beginning our journey. It was amazing to see the 4 feet narrow roads that led to the temple. Scooters, Gau Mata, people, everything fit so beautifully well into the small streets!

Behold! My dream came true as I stepped into the Kashi Vishwanath temple, that I had been yearning to visit (and I have no reason why) for a long, long time now.

The next morning, we set off for the boat ride, again an experience of a view into the life on the Ghats. If one Ghat had life in abundance, there were two others- “Harishchandra Ghat” and “Manikarnika Ghat”-  that were buzzling with the silence beyond life. While there were some who had just gotten out of the river after a holy dip, there were some others, whose bodies were put on the funeral pyre. There were also 
some bodies that were waiting, for their turn, to receive Moksha in the holiest place on this planet. Once, we saw 16 pyres at a time! They say, this is one place where the cremation happens on all 365 days of a year.
Amidst the sunrise, people, the floating shops for memoirs, the swim of the kids, the intense prayers, and the hustle and bustle, there I was, witnessing it all, with no words to explain how I felt.

Foooooooooood! Kachori, kulhad chai and jalebi. That was in our mind, as we set off towards the main road...yumm…we were already thinking about our next food destination! :’)

After a leisurely freshening up, we set off to the main temple again, and many prayers later, we realized the heat was picking up, and were advised against heading anywhere until evening.So, we decided to hit the main road in the hot sun, to find good food. Not that Ganpati Guest house doesn’t provide food, we were just too ambitious. And yes, we did find a restaurant, but there was nothing banarasi about the food they served. On our way back to the guest house, I couldn’t stop ogling at the stores that had the banarasi sarees on display. At 40C, after a heavy-not so banarasi-meal, there went my foot on a hole-y road, and cracked me up with a bad ligament tear. I quickly wrapped my ankle up with a bandage and set off again! This hole-y incident somehow decided the course of our next two days and how!

When walking is the only choice you have as there are no vehicles (that fit into the 4ft narrow lanes and not hit the Gau Mata at the same time), I never even fancied a thought that I could push myself so much. We kept walking.

A good rest later, we moved towards the evening boat ride, followed by the world-famous Ganga Aarti- a ritual par excellence.  And then we headed to the Kashi Chaat Bhandar, a small shop at the main road, which offers lightning fast service in spite of the great rush they have to handle, and serves great food! Favorite in the menu? Has to be the tangy tamatar chaat! Don’t even try forgetting to order it.

We set off to Sarnath-where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon, the next day, in a vehicle booked by the
guest house, and on our way, visited the Sankat Mochan, and the Durga temples. It’s amazing to see the beauty of Sarnath, the teachings of Buddha, and the museum, all of which were calm and peaceful- offering a sharp contrast to what happened in Varanasi. 

We went to an outlet nearby to check out some Banaras memoirs, and once we were done, we returned back to the hotel and relaxed.

Khaikepaanbanraswala every day ;) you are not supposed to chew the paan. Atleast that’s what the vendor advised us to do.  It just melts in your mouth and gives you a chill feeling!

Day three, we were all set to return, and lo! How could we miss out on the KalBhairav temple!! We rushed to his abode, prayed and then came back for a leisurely lunch at Ganpati Guest house, as we started packing for our trip back home. *sobs*. I know I am going back again. This time in a colder season.
Banaras is in the Ghats. You have to feel it, you have to live it. With friendly people around, who are always willing to help, the ancient city of Varanasi still retains its fervor. Isn’t it surprising to see a city that hasn’t let modernization change its core even a bit? That’s Varanasi for you in a nutshell. A beautiful experience that makes you stretch beyond your limitations.:’)

(Contributed by Gayatri Kuppa, photo/images rights with Gayatri & Nikhil Kuppa)

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