I ardently recollect those gone by childhood days when my family used to visit numerous holiday destinations during summer vacations. Happy days! photo album archives are memoirs of great times. Life wheel revolved making me a man and that child hood heydays memories blurred. But one place kept me mesmerized, mum, numb and made me to visit again. I visited it after 15 years and again got swept in the ecstasy, jamboree and tranquility of this place, the city of moksha, Varanasi.
So after long wait of 15 years I was in Varanasi, through capillary streets I visited my place of stay. I decided to offload my tiredness by taking a sleep and wake up in dawn to start my invasion in Banaras. Waking up at dawn has a mystic feeling and as I was in city of faith itself the morning seemed extremely spiritual and enlightening. I followed a roadmap to visit Assee Ghat and lost the way. The streets were a maze which bewildered me. There is one striking scene at the dawn in the city which is unique, one can spot almost daylight crowd in the dawn here. People chanting mantras, people climbing temple stairs, people thronging the tea stalls with kettle on coal fire propelling steam from the boiling tea and there is something in the place which engrosses you in a mono-dialogue with yourself. I followed an elderly person in the crowd and Eureka! I was on a Ghat. I was dumbstruck at the effervescent scene at the Ghat. The amber horizon, the morning cold breeze creating waves in the Ganga, floating diyas in the rivers, people taking dip in the holy Ganga and worshipping it, the cymbals, the temple bell, the rendition of Aartis, weavers spinning silk and weaving Banarasi sarees and so many others serene views, all amalgamated to create the magic never seen before. I stood dumbstruck boasting my serendipity of witnessing this pure and spiritual play.
Life and Death
Marikarnika Ghat is one such Ghat were people long throughout their life to get them immersed into after they relieve their body. Burning funeral pyres is common scene and people from nook and corner of India come here to die and get a good after life. I realized the greatest truth of being human is that we are mortal and paraphernalia obsession is an illusion.
The city has eminent history which is world known and kudos to Banarasi people who keep it alive and intact. The Viswanath Temple is the central shrine among hundreds of Lord Shiva temples. I lined up in the row to Darshan of the deity. This temple built in 1776 by Maharani Ahilya Devi of Indore has the ‘shivalinga’ 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference. By 1 pm in after noon I stepped out from the street of the temple moving ahead to next destination. Some important temples of Varanasi are Durga temple, Tulsi Manas temple, Sankat Mochan temple and the Bharat Mata temple. I got this privilege to visit almost all of these temples. Bharat Kala Bhavan is an archaeological museum built in the campus of the Banaras Hindu University has vast collection of over 100,000 artifacts like paintings decorative arts, Indian philately, textiles, costumes and literary and archival materials.
On the second day of my visit I set out for Ramnagar Fort early in morning after paying a visit to the Assi Ghat of the Ganga again. This fort is barely 14 km from the city situated on the opposite side of the river Ganga. Built in 18 century it is the house of Kashi Naresh. Ramnagar Fort and its museum is the emblem of the grandness of king of Banaras. Kashi Naresh is considered as the patron of Varanasi and in a way is head of Varanasi and devoted in service of people. Ramnagar is famous for Ramlila that is held annually under the aegis of King of Varanasi. Needless to say I was taken aback by the grand heritage this fort possessed and left in noon to visit Chunar. Chunar is 25 km away from the Varanasi city and lies in the district of Mirzapur. By 3 pm I was front of Chunar Fort just beside the river the Ganga. Chunar fort was established by Maharaja Vikrmaditya, the King of Ujjain to remember the stay of his brother Raja Bhartihari who had taken his Samadhi in alive stage and still that Samadhi Sthal is worshiped. This grand fort along with Sonva Mandap, Bavan Khamba and Solar Watch are worth watching. By 7 pm in evening I went on shopping spree to buy pottery for which Chunar is famous to take back as souvenirs for friends and family.
Varanasi is one place where I can shed my food-hygiene sensitivity and go on eating spree. I love gorging on roadside food joints which resemble almost like a part of home and some are in homes too. I started my day with Jalbei, Kachodi and Dahi trio, while roaming in the city I sipped glasses of Lassi and Thandai which were my favorite beverages and in evening delicious chaats and golgappas were perfect evening delight. Varanasi is open hearted in terms of hospitality. Through Pedas, laddoo, Burfi and the local Rabri I discovered my sweet tooth. And the Paan is one undisputed item which resides in the heart of every Banarasi .
So my two day short stay was worth depicting as a travelogue. I decided to come back some day and discover Banaras to its fullest. Varanasi has heart of gold. It gives you a lot, provided the way you take it. I took back good memories, taste of desi food, loads of pottery, handicraft and an enlightened I.