I had a long cherished wish of visiting Benaras for the stories about the place. that in my sub concious I had already developed a very vivid and exciting picture of the place.Well, it turned out to be better than my wildest imagination.It was a 3 day trip to the land where as they say Hindu religion was born.
We took a train to Varanasi Jn and reached there around 10.30 am by an overnight journey from Kolkata(popularly known as varanasi Cantt railway station).We were headed to Godowlia area by a rickshaw (costs around Rs.80-100).Godowlia cross road is a very popular, crowded and bustling place.It is the gateway to the famous kashi Viswanath temple and Dasaswamedh Ghat.We took a hotel very near to the kashi viswanath temple and the ghat is a 2 minutes walk from the place.The place is a market place-cum-entryway to the temple and ghat.As with all pilgrim places it was crowded and dirty.We planned to visit the ghats in the afternoon. The sight of the ghats will tell you what Benaras is all about. Its a city which swears by the ghats.The ghats here are part of their lives in some way or the other.Dasaswamedh ghat is one of the most famous and important ghats of Benaras.We were greeted by tourists,sadhus,hawkers and touts on the ghat.The ganga aarti takes place every evening from 7 pm and lasts rougly an hour.Now unlike haridwar you can see the aarti from two places here - from the shore and from the Boats.
We tried the boat ride on the ganga.Usually the shared ones with about 20 odd people on a boat and 30 minutes duration will cost you 50 per head and the individual boat will cost aroung 300-400 fro a 2 hours ride.The ghats look very different from the boats and you will be able to really witness the whole expanse and granduer of all the ghats from the boats.
We planned to go on a day long tour around the places of interest around Varanasi. Its generally a good idea to start early on a Toto or an auto as private cars would cost you more money. We took a Toto which costed us around Rs.700 for the whole tour. We were out to visit a few famous temples, ramgarh fort, BHU and Sarnath.I would suggest you to keep time for sarnath and if you want you can give ramgarh fort a miss also. We started our journey from BHU.It has its own Vishwanath temple and a sprawling campus.Its a good place to have breakfast. Up next was ramgarh fort, in ruins now and not a lot to see inside.But please do not miss the malai lassi just outside the fort entrance. Sankat Mochan temple ,Kal Bhairav temple fall on the way.Each have its own flavour and grandeur to add to the glamour of the place.
The place which hold our interest the most was Sarnath. Just to let you know it is a Buddhist ruin of utmost importance where Lord Buddah first hold a meeting for his disciples after attaining salvation. It houses a buddhist temple , a museum and a huge ruin.It is very very well maintained and well guided for the tourists to visit and explore.It has many famous stories about the place.You may take a guide to know the place better if you want to.The ruins of sarnath has the famous ashok pillar after which later on became the national emblem of India. Sarnath is very well preserved , you can almost feel the times gone by by strolling through this place.
We got back to the Dasaswamedh Ghat to enjoy the evening hustle bustle and a serene boat ride.
Last day in varanasi was dedicated to the ghats. We left for Assi Ghat to see the "Subha-e-Benaras" , a cultural extravaganza hosted by the state govt every morning at 5.30 AM. The ghat was full with tourist doing yoga or just soaking in the serenity of the place.If you want to connect with your soul, you have to give varanasi a visit. The ghats are the lifeline and each one had a ancient story to tell. The scenes at the ghats change as per time of the day. You will see people using the ghats differently at different times of the day.Yoga and meditation in the morning to bathing and worship in the day time followed by gangaaarti in the evening to just a hangout and chatting place in the night.the city's life revolves around the ghats.Manikarnika ghat,maharana ghat,ahalya bai ghat are some of the ghats we visited. Signing off from this pious place , but having a desire to return to this place again. varanasi will leave a mark on you for sure.
Dont forget to try the kachoris,lassis,dahi vadas and the malai tea.cheers.