The name Varanasi comes from combining Banaras and Kashi, the twin cities that are filled with culture, history and a lot of stories. Mark Twain said," Varanasi is older than history, older than legend, even older than tradition and twice as old as all of them put together." His words perfectly capture the essence of what the city has to offer for a traveler looking for solace and satisfaction.
I arrived in Varanasi on the morning of 15th March at 8 PM from Jamshedpur which is my hometown by the Neelanchal Express which was running late by 2 hours. I had already booked a room at Zostel Varanasi and hence took the auto from the station to the hotel. The checkin was very smooth and after freshening up, I started my wanderings around the holy city. My first stop was Pizzeria, a popular eatery by the Assi Ghat which gives you bad Pizza but an amazing view. The sun was up in all its glory which made the Ganges shimmer in blue and the sand glitter in white. I walked around the ghats for a while capturing the art on the walls and admiring the creation of God for his abode.
I had booked the Zostel offer for the boat ride across the Ghats on the Ganges River and then viewing the famous Ganga Aarti. Our companion was Sunder who was a fabulous storyteller. We took off on his boat from Dashwamedha Ghat towards Manikarnika Ghat - the one where a thousand funerals are performed in a day. "It is an irony that we consider the holy river Ganga to clean all our sins but we aren't able to keep her clean", I thought while on the boat ride. Being present in every second of every moment that you're living while you travel makes you a tad more philosophical and aware I guess.
As the dusk approached, Sunder took us towards the Ganga Aarti which is one hell of a spectacle. Hundreds of people gather each day to witness this marvel - where belief, spirituality, religion come together in utmost coherence. I was in awe; the chants of the pandits will make you feel so clear in your mind and heart that happens when you're at peace with yourself.
The first day ended with trying all the delicacies at Deena Chat which very famous. Dahi Vada, Samosa Chat, Golgappa and Alloo Tikki Chat were the ones I tried and all of them were yummy. The rooftop of Zostel has a pretty ambience where you can chill for a while after a tiring day. I ordered some pasta and sandwiches for dinner and chose to call it a day.
Day 2 began with super yummy breakfast comprising Kachori and Jalebi at a local shop. Then began the exploration on the outlines of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Since the line was very big, I choose to explore the lanes of Banaras and capture stories on the way.
Blue Lassi shop is recommended by all locals and is a favorite of all the travelers. How could I not go there? The place has been running for almost 75 years and every person who comes by, put up their passport picture or a memory on the walls of this tiny little blue shop. The lassi was decent too.
With lunch at The Brown Bakery, I chose to end my day. I was taking the train to Agra in the evening which was my next stop in this travel plan.
Watch out for the next post on the City of Grace and Beauty, Agra.