Benaras: The First Face-Off

#1 Feb 10th, 2019, 10:59
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#1
Benaras is said to be older than time. It is believed (as per Hindu mythology) that this city was founded by Lord Shiva. It is also believed that Pandavas visited Kashi after the Kurukshetra War was over. Many people still has strict belief that if they die at Benaras and cremated at Manikarnika Ghat, then he/she is freed from the cycle of rebirth. Rigveda has mentioned this city as an important place of learning. Even recent excavations here have found evidences of human inhabitation dating back to 2000 BC. All these inputs get to become overwhelming, especially when you plan your first visit after some years of wait.

On the first week of January I noticed a group is organizing a photography tour to Benaras, starting 19th January. Such tours are usually organized during Dev Deepavali, which I consciously avoided because of the mad rush at that time. Hence I confirmed my participation at once and started looking for trains to reach Benaras. Disappointingly all direct trains which were leaving Howrah at my preferred time, were firmly in to the waiting list. This forced me to find another route: Shalimar - Patna - Varanasi. Shalimar to Patna was a confirmed berth in the Duronto Express. But the 4 hour journey from Patna to Varanasi was in waiting list. Return tickets from Varanasi to Howrah was also in waiting list, but within top 10 of the list.

Patna to Varanasi ticket got confirmed on time and I reached the sacred city around 11:30am. I was put up at Hotel Alka on Meer Ghat. From station I took a rickshaw, ,mainly to get a feel of the place. The ride up to Godhuliya gave me first glimpse of the chaos Benaras is known for. I got down at Dashaswamedh Road and quickly entered the puzzling network of gullies (narrow lanes) where the old city lives. But finding Hotel Alka wasn't hard, mainly because it's a pretty well known hotel there. It's a very busy hotel having different categories of rooms. If you couldn't get a river facing room, never mind. Their terrace gives a fantastic view of Ganges.

From late afternoon that day, I started exploring ghats with the group. Gosh !! Such mindboggling and diverse activities are going on the ghats here, that one gets completely mesmerized with the happenings. Then there is famous Ganga Arati.

There are 2 places on Dashashwamedh Ghat where the Arati takes place - one having 7 performers and the other with 5. Actually they look more like performers than priests, hence the term. The boatmen always offer you a ride whenever you are on the ghats. But before arati, the offers start hitting you every 20 sec. You can hire a boat and watch arati from a distance or can hire a seat on boats standing near the ghats.

If you plan to seat around the place of arati, you need to occupy place at least from 5pm to get a vantage position. Most of the creamy seats are for "special" guests. But once arati starts, it's beautiful to watch.
Regards,
Avishek.
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#2 Feb 10th, 2019, 11:08
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Arati Pictures (Set 1)







#3 Feb 10th, 2019, 11:12
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Arati Pictures (Set 2)



#4 Feb 10th, 2019, 11:39
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Gorgeous shots!! Good use of HDR.

#5 Feb 10th, 2019, 11:45
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Closing Notes

During subsequent 3 days, I explored the ghats several times and never got bored. In fact after you leave the crowded Dashashwamedh Ghat behind, it gets increasingly enjoyable to walk along the river. Then you can stroll all the way to Assi Ghat, where it again gets a bit crowded. You may choose to climb up the stairs from any ghat and start exploring the life in the gullies. Once in those narrow lanes, you will find temples inside many houses. The temples are usually on the courtyards of the houses. While exploring these lanes, I found that large area from the Viswanath Temple to the river, is being cleared of all constructions. Many houses are being demolished or have been taken down already.

Food is sumptuous in Benaras. You can have chaat, rabri, lassi, thandai, kachouri, malai, and many varieties of sweets in shops scattered throughout. Though food is mostly veg, but you get European food as well in many cafes located behind the ghats. Then there are South Indian food, Bengali food, Marwari food and what not.

Akhara at Tulsi Gat, Jantar Mantar, Manikarnika Ghat, Bengali Tola, Kachouri Gali, Hanuman Gali, Vishwanath Gali, Gyan Bapi, Nepali Tample, Lolark Kund and the list goes on, but time goes out. Then Ramnagar Fort and Sarnath remained unexplored and saved for the next trip.

Though the city has an ancient history and supreme religious importance, but it's all about the people who throng the ghats in thousands every day. People from different corners of the world, with different objectives in mind, from different socio-economic background find this place equally enchanting. Their dedication, devotion, submission, patience, seek and all the combined emotions make this city magical.
#6 Feb 10th, 2019, 11:48
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People (Set 1)







#7 Feb 10th, 2019, 11:54
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People (Set 2)







#8 Feb 10th, 2019, 12:46
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#8
love all the shots!
My India Photos, 2005-2017
"When you are truly genuine there will invariably be people who do not accept you. And in that case, you must be your own badass self, without apology." -- Katie Goodman
#9 Feb 10th, 2019, 13:47
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People (Set 3)







#10 Feb 10th, 2019, 18:38
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#10
The Aarti pictures are very nice.
#11 Feb 11th, 2019, 00:35
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#11
Thanks for your report Avishek, Really nice photos to go with it. Such a wonderful city, will be getting another visit from me an a month or two

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