Back from Varanasi

#1 Apr 14th, 2016, 17:29
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#1
I've just come back from 6 days in Varanasi - thought I'd share some thoughts, which probably won't amount to a trip report, but might help some.

Accommodation: we stayed at the Ram Bhawan which is run by the Kautilya Society. This is a lovely old haveli very close to Munshi Ghat. It is *not* a hotel and one shouldn't expect the services of a hotel, as they make clear. But it is a lovely experience, with very interesting other guests sharing thoughts and suggestions over the (simple) breakfast and yummy lunch on the common dining table.

What might be the main problem to some might be the 15 minutes walk from the closest drop-off point to Ram Bhawan over narrow lanes and crowded streets. Particularly difficult with luggage. On the way back we had one of us take the luggage on a pedal rickshaw upto Godowlia, but that is only after walking through Bengali Tola while dodging cowdung...

Talking of cowdung, I had heard so many terrible stories about the dirtiness of Varanasi that in the end I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe because it was beginning of summer, but it wasn't all that dirty and smelly. Maybe as the first stop in India it might be much for some, but I didn't find it overwhelming. One other aspect which we were pleased with is that even in the narrowest and most crowded of lanes none of us were hassled.

And the Ganga. I went with two cousins who were keen on a ceremonial dip, and I went along ostensibly for the ride. But when we got to the other bank on a boat, I confess I went in upto my thighs and it was certainly pleasant. My cousins had a full head dip. Neither of us are any the worse for it, and none of us are developing green scales or anything. I talked to a gora who said he had been dipping in everyday. Rumours of body parts floating around are grossly exaggerated.

Talking of cremations... I enjoyed walking up and down the ghats, but the one part which felt really strange and uncomfortable was the stretch near Manikarnika Ghat. One cannot simply walk through the ghat, as one can the other ghats, even Harischandra Ghat which is the other burning ghat. I felt weird walking near to Manikarnika, not helped by all the guys offering to guide me to the balconies high above where foreigners are allowed to observe. It just didn't feel right.

Walking to Assi Ghat is fun, particularly at 5am. However, while in the past the main activity might have been devotees preparing for early morning dips, now the silence is mostly broken by boatmen offering their services.

I found the main Aarti to be loud, artificial, and uninspiring (with canned recorded music!), but a good opportunity to people-watch, especially the large number of pilgrims from all over, and also the far-out foreign tourists. The morning Aarti at Assi was better, with live chanting by a group of girls followed by classical music and half hour of vigorous pranayama/yoga. I might consider staying at Assi the next time.

And I certainly hope there is a next time. Varanasi was always a distant dream, only losing its mystery after reading from the many IndiaMikers who've been there. Now it seems like a practical and real place to spend time, simply hanging out and appreciating the sunrise over Ma Ganga. On my wishlist was experiencing the music of Varanasi and this didn't happen as much as I hoped. Now I am thinking of the Dhrupad Festival next Shivratri...
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#2 Apr 15th, 2016, 04:35
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This is the South Indian Ghat!
#3 Apr 15th, 2016, 07:28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gametotravel View Post This is the South Indian Ghat!
The sign there says it is Kedar Ghat in Hindi.
#4 Apr 15th, 2016, 08:29
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How interesting! Thanks for the write up and the photos!
#5 Apr 15th, 2016, 10:39
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Originally Posted by Govindpuri View Post The sign there says it is Kedar Ghat in Hindi.
The red and white stripes signify holy area!
#6 Apr 15th, 2016, 11:29
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Originally Posted by Govindpuri View Post The sign there says it is Kedar Ghat in Hindi.
Yes, I hope I didn't give the impression it was another one, Gametotravel.

I really liked Kedar Ghat, and the temple just above. Very unhurried darshan, including the many other deities. A proper kund (well) by the river and a Vedic school next door. A much calmer experience than the Vishwanath Mandir.
#7 Apr 15th, 2016, 12:13
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Vedic students and their chanting does add depth to the place! The red and white stripes are like advertisement hoarding!
#8 Apr 16th, 2016, 05:37
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good stuff. one of these days I'll get there! had planned 3X already but something always called me away from it.
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#9 Apr 16th, 2016, 15:10
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#9
Nice write up, brought back great memories

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