Tuesday, 12 Dec 2006: A date with the Gods in Varanasi January 12, 2007Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
Woke up early to begin our tour of Varanasi aka Banaras aka Kashi (which means luminous), the oldest continuously inhabited city on Earth, supposedly founded by the Hindu deity Shiva. Navigated the narrow and winding alleys to get to the Ghats. Jostled for space with the cows. The atmosphere was very relaxing, soothing, almost felt like being surrounded by the Gods. Went to the Ghats, rented a boat for 600 Rs for a ride on the holy Ganges along the ghats. The atmosphere was filled with the scent of holy fragrance, religious chants and a breezy wind. Went to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, was amazed by its gold covered roof. As I repeated the mantras told by the priests and made an offering, I felt like on top of the world.
The boat ride was interesting. Was regaled by tales of Varanasi and the Ghats by the boatman. There is a ghat in Varanasi called Narada Ghat, where only buffaloes bathe. It seems that any couple who bathes together in that Ghat will never know peace for the rest of their lives. Even watched a bloated dead body float by, a very scary feeling. A passing boatman commented – Sab ka gathi yahi hoga (this is the fate that awaits everyone). Loved the shudh hindi / Bhojpuri dialect of people in Varanasi. Ate breakfast from a Kerala restaurant in Varanasi which has been there for over 50 years!
Visited Banaras Hindu University, famous temples in Varanasi such as Durga and Birla Temples before setting out to Sarnath where Buddha preached his first sermon. Was awed by the Dhamek Stupa, a stunning monument paying tribute to Buddhism. Visited the Japanese temple and learnt how to say Budham Saranam Gachami… in Japanese! Fed carrots to the deer at Sarnath Deer Park. Did some rail-fanning in Varanasi Railway Station, even caught some junkies sniffing glue at the outskirts of the platforms. Didn’t hang around a lot… the guys were intimidating. Got back to the Hotel, indulged in a lavish traditional Kerala Ayurvedic massage, felt like ready to take over the world. Got on the Ratnagiri Superfast at 8.45pm. Mumbai beckoned.
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