Kasi Yatra: Day 2

9th June, 2017

Part 3

BHU| Some other temples | Ganga Aarti

Benaras Hindu University is one of the oldest and the most renowned universities of India. Founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, it is the largest residential university in Asia. It is spread over an area of around 2700 acres. How do I know all these? Wikipedia facts 😛 Guessed it right 😉 But the campus is really big. The buildings of the departments and hostels are all traditional and brick and cream colored. The campus is full of trees and is being maintained pretty well.

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Inside the campus, there is Shri Vishwanath Temple constructed by the Birla family. This temple has the tallest temple tower in the world (Wikipedia again :P). It is spread over a wide area and has garden on all sides. The place is serene and you would want to spend some time with yourself there.

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Then we went to Tulsi Manas Mandir which is 2-3km away from BHU. This is a temple of Sri Rama. Ram Charit Manas is engraved on the walls of the Mandir. It also has beautiful images from the epic Ramayana. From there we went to Durga temple which is nearby. A person was singing “Sajan re jhoot mat bolo” song outside the temple premises with such verve; I did not want to leave the place. From there we went to Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple. There were monkeys lining both the sides of the path to the temple. It seems they are to be called “Babaji” and not as monkeys.

We then went to the Ghats for Ganga Aarti and hired a boat. There was still time for the Aarti to begin so we went on a ride to see all the Ghats starting with Dashashwamedh Ghat. Aarti is performed on Dashashwamedh and Babu Rajendra Prasad ghats. We went till the famous Manikarnika ghat. This is the ghat where dead bodies are burnt after all the rituals are performed. It seems women are not allowed to that place. The boat wala told me so many other stories. But my mind did not register any of it. It was focused on watching the pyre. It’s such a terrible scene but I could not take my eyes off it. From Manikarnika ghat, we headed back to Dashashwamedh Ghat as the Aarti was about to begin. It starts around 6:45 PM and is performed by a group of priests. People get on boats and the boats line up facing the Aarti.

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During that time boats occupy half the width of the river with very less space between any two boats. One can literally move from one end to another just by walking on the boats. During Aarti, small businesses crop up over the boats. Tea sellers, Puja kit (consisting of Diya, Agarbatthi and flowers) sellers, water bottle sellers move from one boat to another and make money. Altogether, it is a spectacular sight and must be experienced once in a lifetime because any description is not adequate to give an idea of how beautiful it is.

With that, we called it a day.

Prev: Kasi Yatra: Day 2 (Guru Ravidas Mandir)

First: Kasi Yatra: An Introduction

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Kasi Yatra: Day 2

9th June, 2017

Part 2

Guru Ravidas Mandir

My father is an avid reader of Bhakti poets (poets of the Bhakti movement in India). Varanasi was the hometown of most of the Bhakti poets like Ravidas, Mirabai, Tulsidas, Kabir. My father asked the guide to take us to Ravidas Mandir that afternoon.

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Guru Ravidas was a cobbler by profession and was a staunch devotee of Lord Sri Rama. He was tormented because of casteism. But he did not lose his faith in the Lord. Later all those who treated him in a bad manner, looked up to him and became his disciples. His Kirtans have even found place in the ‘Adigranth’.

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Guru Ravidas Mandir is located near Benaras Hindu University (BHU). A very big building has been constructed as Raidas (Ravidas) Mandir. Inside the Mandir there is an idol of Guru Ravidas and a prayer hall. When we entered the Mandir, few men were singing verses from the ‘Gurubani’. It was quite pleasant. My father asked one of them where they were from and if they could sing some more verses from the Gurubani. He took us inside a room where few other devotees were there. He told us that there were so many beautiful stories in the life of Guru Ravidas and that at the moment he remembered this particular incident where people of upper caste make false accusations against Ravidas ji to the King. The king then puts Ravidas ji through various tests, all of which he succeeds by God’s grace. At the end, the ones who accuse him only make him sit in a golden palanquin and carry the palanquin on their shoulders. Our narrator shared this story with us and told us that after this incident Guru Ravidas ji sang the following lines in the glory of the God:

 ” Aisi lal tujh bin kaun kare” 

(Oh my dear Lord! Who can do these miracles if not you?) 

(For the video: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9QXYJgCGYX9eFkzYkNLLXFoemc )

An amazing thing is all the devotees present there discussed only about the glory of Guru Ravidas ji and the Gurubani. Nothing else. They were all from different places, belonged to different castes or even religion. But nothing mattered. I felt that Guru Ravidas ji’s dream of establishing a society without caste inequalities is being fulfilled by his followers.

While coming out of the Mandir, a man called us to have tea. There was a big dining hall sort of thing adjacent to the Mandir. Anyone can go in there, have a cup of tea and leave. The tea had a peculiar taste. It tasted more like jaggery juice with the essence of tea intact. It was great. After drinking the tea, we had to wash the glasses by ourselves and stack them in their place. What an amazing practice!

From Ravidas Mandir, we went to BHU.

To be continued…

Prev: Kasi Yatra: Day 2 (Vishwanath Darsan)

Next: Kasi Yatra: Day 2 (BHU, Ganga Aarti…)

First: Kasi Yatra: An Introduction

 

 

Kasi Yatra: Day 2

9th June, 2017

Part 1

Our guide, Santosh ji, told us that the right time to go for darsan of Baba ji (Sree Kashi Vishwanath, main temple) is early in the morning, before 6 o’clock. A person named Dileep guided us to the temple. He understands Telugu but spoke in beautiful Hindi. We went to Dashashwamedh Ghat first. Offered prayers to Ganga and then proceeded towards Vishwanath Mandir through all those narrow lanes. I wonder how people here remember the lanes without getting lost. They’re like a hypnotizing maze. On top of it, people of Kashi do not have the word “cleanliness” in their dictionary. Plus the constant reasonless honking. Also, given that it’s June 9th, although monsoon hit Hyderabad, it wouldn’t hit Uttar Pradesh until June 22nd. So, it was very hot here. As a result of all this, even before reaching the temple I got headache.

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As we reached the temple early, the crowd was not heavy and we had a quick darsan. From Vishwanath Mandir we went to Mata Annapurna Mandir which is quite close to Vishwanath Mandir. It’s a beautiful temple. People were performing Kumkum Puja in the temple premises. As it was Friday, Amma also wanted to perform Kumkum Puja. After the Puja, we went to Vishalakshi Mata temple. Unlike temples in South India, temples in Kashi do not have a large compound or monumental towers (gopuram). They are all just like houses. Nothing extravagant. Even the deities are treated like family. Lord Shiva, Vishwanath ji, is called as Baba (father) by the localites and Mata Annapurna and Mata Vishalakshi as Maa ji (mother).

Dileep ji, our guide, is from a weaver’s family. From Vishalakshi Mandir, he took us to his place where they sell the famous Benarasi sarees. There were various kinds of sarees, each one beautiful in its own way. We purchased two sarees of Benarasi Silk.

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From there we went to Kalabhairava Mandir. Kashi yatra is not considered to be complete until Kalabhairava’s darsan. From there, we went to our room to rest for some time, to allow the brain to process and get ready to take in more for the day.

Prev: Kasi Yatra: An Introduction  |  Kasi Yatra: Day 1

Kasi Yatra: Day 1

Most of my travels are either unplanned or planned in the nick of moment. Though that sounds bad, I feel that’s the best way to travel. Varanasi trip is no exception to this. We (my father, mother, brother and I) gave serious thought to the mode of travel just a month before the trip. I could even imagine the IRCTC (Indian Railways) website criticize, “Are you kidding me? There’s just a month to the travel and now you want train tickets? “. With no other viable option but to take a flight, we had booked tickets on IndiGo (Hyderabad to Varanasi).

8th June, 2017

First day of monsoon in Hyderabad. There could not have been a better start for the day. Ilaiyaraja’s ‘Chirugaali Veechene‘ made it even more pleasant. We reached the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (Hyderabad) two hours before the scheduled departure. As it’s the third time for me to travel by flight, I was very excited. After all the formalities i.e. check-in, baggage check and security check, we waited for a few minutes at the specified gate to board the flight. But at the last moment, the gate number was changed. It being a “silent” airport, we had to scan the screens again for the modified details. Later a local audio announcement was made. Twenty minutes before the scheduled departure, we were allowed to board the flight. Last time, we went to Varanasi by bus and it took us nearly two days to go. But this time, by flight, it took us less than 2 hours to reach the destination. What’s more, IndiGo airlines are best known for their punctuality, so we reached 30 mins before the scheduled arrival. Initially, I got all excited about the journey. Take-off was like an amazing moment for me. The flight making way through those clouds beds and flying ‘up above the world so high’ was ecstatic. It felt as if there’s an entirely different world on those clouds and it takes more than these five senses to perceive it. But other than that, the journey had no element of thrill. It did not give me the feel of journey, in the first place. Whoever wishes to save time by travelling by flight, unless it is an emergency or there’s no other option, I suggest not to take flight. Because, come on! Journey is all about making memories. As Amitabh Bhattacharya ji penned, in Ae dil hain mushkil song, ‘Safar khoobsurat hain manzil se bhi‘ (travel is more beautiful than destination).

Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, Babatpur (Varanasi) is a small one. It’s around 25 km from Varanasi. The hotel we got the accommodation at, Hotel Hindustan International, has a travel desk. We got a pick-up arranged from airport. Mr Santosh came for the pick up. Santosh ji is a native of Varanasi and apparently, he knows the history, geography and politics of the place. Plus, he spoke a beautiful Hindi. We asked him to guide us in devising a plan to cover maximum places in and around Varanasi. After reaching the hotel, we booked a car for the next three days of our stay. This Hotel is around 3 km from the main temple and Dashashwamedh Ghat. The Rooms in the hotel were great. Although none of us was tired, we called it a day as we had to go for morning darsan the next day.

This is it for today. Will be back with more. Do follow for updates.

Prev: Kasi Yatra- An Introduction

Next: Kasi Yatra: Day 2 (Part 1)

 

Kasi Yatra

We are like a beautiful empty bottle when we are born. As we grow, the bottle gets filled with wonderful things at times and with mundane things other times. Sometimes it gets clogged with filth. Rarely do we pause and check the contents of the bottle. And when we do, we find different ways to filter the contents.  Of all the different ways, I find travelling the most effective way.  I can’t agree more on what Anita Desai, the renowned Indian novelist has to say that, “wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.

One of the most beautiful places that I had the opportunity to visit is Varanasi. Located on the banks of the sacred Ganga river, in the Northern part of India, this place made me experience so many things at once.

In a series of entries, I would post the details of my travel.

Next: Kasi Yatra: Day 1