Staying At Mutts in Varanasi

#1 Apr 14th, 2016, 15:59
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Hello all,

Hope everyone's well.

Another thread on the Iím-sure-overdone topic of accommodation in Varanasi. My flight arrives in Varanasi on the 10th of August at 16:25. I was thinking that I would find a book a hotel for the first three nights or so, and then essentially play it by ear Ė I will be travelling alone, making this easier. Iím happy to stay somewhere pretty low-budget, although I imagine Iíd baulk at excessive numbers of bedbugs and cockroaches

I have been thinking that I would go to a mutt by one of the ghats and stay there for some time after Iíd arrived. I have a month in India, flying out of Varanasi again on the 6th of September at 17:40. I may go and visit Haridwar also, and perhaps even further north, but I may equally simply stay in Varanasi. Either way, at least a few days at a mutt would be practical, time-wise.

However, I wonder if anyone has any advice on that score. I will be going as a pilgrim, but I am not Indian by ancestry, and while people might look twice by appearance Iím sure it wouldnít take long to figure that out! I also only speak some very basic Hindi, and although I might improve it to some degree before I head out there I canít see myself having fluent conversations. (My two non-native tongues are Welsh and Spanish, neither of which is likely to be of any particular value). Would I be OK with English in some mutts?

Thanks in advance IndiaMikers!
#2 Apr 16th, 2016, 02:35
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Further: I'm looking at Hotel Haifa for those first three nights - seems to be located close to temples, is right next to Assi Ghat and isn't too expensive. Although I do have fond memories of the hostel in Guatemala providing lodging, showers, free breakfast and Wifi for only 5 GBP

But I'll find cheaper places once I'm 'on the ground', I suppose!

Does anyone have any insights regarding Hotel Haifa? Including, why is it called Haifa?
#3 Apr 16th, 2016, 04:48
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I may be mistaken, but I believe most mutts specialize to people from particular states and/or communities, so I wonder what type of reception you would get if you showed up at the door without being a member of the core community. I would guess that even if you get a room you would be stared at quite a lot and I at least would feel rather uncomfortable. (Have you been to India before?) It would be good to know of your experience. Rishikesh, on the other hand, seems to have a better ashram setup for international visitors. You are also more likely to find a suitable dharamshala in Sarnath.

Haifa? I did see several signs in Hebrew especially for lassi bars, and the clientele seemed to be mostly post-military-service Israelis, looking quite chilled, if you see what I mean .
#4 Apr 16th, 2016, 05:50
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I'm curious?

What is Mutts?

Please don't mean it's an unrael place lord!
"Travel is fatal to prejudice,bigotry and narrow-mindedness" Mark Twain
#5 Apr 16th, 2016, 05:58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ananda2193 View Post I'm curious?

What is Mutts?

aka Math. like this. I've heard it called Ramakrishna Mutt. Or Math.

where monastics stay.
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#6 Apr 17th, 2016, 01:50
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Originally Posted by Rasika View Post I may be mistaken, but I believe most mutts specialize to people from particular states and/or communities, so I wonder what type of reception you would get if you showed up at the door without being a member of the core community. I would guess that even if you get a room you would be stared at quite a lot and I at least would feel rather uncomfortable. (Have you been to India before?) It would be good to know of your experience. Rishikesh, on the other hand, seems to have a better ashram setup for international visitors. You are also more likely to find a suitable dharamshala in Sarnath.
Interesting, OK, thanks! I definitely plan on spending a lot of time in Varanasi. Possibly I'll consider those, but if I'm honest I get the impression a lot are pretty commercialised and New Age-ised (to coin a term!).

But really I guess the best way for me to get around that is to get on with learning Hindi.

No, haven't been to India before. Although I do have some experience with ashrams and temples elsewhere. Not the same, of course.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasika View Post Haifa? I did see several signs in Hebrew especially for lassi bars, and the clientele seemed to be mostly post-military-service Israelis, looking quite chilled, if you see what I mean .
Oh it's actually related to Israel! Most Israelis are post-military-service, it's compulsory unless you're Haredi or Arab!

Not sure I'd be able to manage that kind of chill

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sama View Post aka Math. like this. I've heard it called Ramakrishna Mutt. Or Math.

where monastics stay.
I read somewhere that any pilgrims can go and stay at the maths along by the ghats. But maybe, as Rasika said, this is more for people of particular communities (be that regional or sectarian...).
#7 Apr 17th, 2016, 03:11
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Oh, and if Hotel Haifa's all a bit "chilled"-ex-military-Israeli-dudes, any other hotel recommendations along the ghats, or vaguely in their vicinity? As someone used to walking a lot, that 'vaguely' can easily stretch into kilometres!
#8 Apr 17th, 2016, 05:47
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Actually I don't know if Hotel Haifa is a chilled Israeli enclave, I've heard good things about it. I do recommend the place I stayed: http://www.kautilyasociety.com/blog/rambhawan/

I may have got this wrong. but mutts to me sound quite restricted to people following a certain guru, etc, such as Ramakrishna Mutt, Shankar Mutt. What you are looking for is usually called a dharamshala, or choultry, or ashram - somewhere open to any pilgrims. There is a list here: http://www.varanasi.org.in/kashi-ashram.

As you haven't been to India before, these ashrams may be a bit of a culture shock. is your primary motivation for staying in a mutt the experience or saving money?
#9 Apr 17th, 2016, 06:01
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Kirran, IM member Dharmabum (who does not come here anymore) recommends Tiwari guesthouse in Varanasi. It's his second home. It's at Assi Ghat, very close to Haifa. I know it's not expensive as I was supposed to stay there once. Check it out!
#10 Apr 17th, 2016, 06:57
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I stayed at the I think Shanti a few blocks from the burning ghats when I was there in 1991. Very cheap and lot's of other travelers. And a splendid view from the roof of the river and beyond. Beware of the monkeys though. Don't give them bananas unless you want to be charged at and running for your life.
#11 Apr 17th, 2016, 11:13
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Hotel Haifa at Assi Ghat is a good place to go for a meal.

Several years ago we stayed at the Divya, next door to the Haifa , which was OK for the price, but nothing great.

Assi Ghat is a great location, however, being close to the university, to a great bookshop, and to the boat trip departures on the Ganga.
#12 Apr 17th, 2016, 15:17
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Originally Posted by Rasika View Post Actually I don't know if Hotel Haifa is a chilled Israeli enclave, I've heard good things about it. I do recommend the place I stayed: http://www.kautilyasociety.com/blog/rambhawan/

I may have got this wrong. but mutts to me sound quite restricted to people following a certain guru, etc, such as Ramakrishna Mutt, Shankar Mutt. What you are looking for is usually called a dharamshala, or choultry, or ashram - somewhere open to any pilgrims. There is a list here: http://www.varanasi.org.in/kashi-ashram.

As you haven't been to India before, these ashrams may be a bit of a culture shock. is your primary motivation for staying in a mutt the experience or saving money?
Thanks for both links Rasika.

It's fair to say I am a follower of Shankara, and I'm happy to learn from the Ramakrishna Mission people also, I've known people associated with them.

Not about the saving money! That would be a bit exploitative, somehow - so I guess that leaves the experience.

I'll check out a bit more about the ashrams as well. Kabir Math there especially - Kabir's an awesome dude, I'd be interested to see how one would follow him though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sama View Post Kirran, IM member Dharmabum (who does not come here anymore) recommends Tiwari guesthouse in Varanasi. It's his second home. It's at Assi Ghat, very close to Haifa. I know it's not expensive as I was supposed to stay there once. Check it out!
Ah, wonderful. Thankyou Sama. I'll look at this one - may well go for it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ananda2193 View Post I stayed at the I think Shanti a few blocks from the burning ghats when I was there in 1991. Very cheap and lot's of other travelers. And a splendid view from the roof of the river and beyond. Beware of the monkeys though. Don't give them bananas unless you want to be charged at and running for your life.
Monkey-related problems are a whole new realm of experience for me Worst we have here is ducks.

I can have a look at Shanti also, lot of options now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by theyyamdancer View Post Hotel Haifa at Assi Ghat is a good place to go for a meal.

Several years ago we stayed at the Divya, next door to the Haifa , which was OK for the price, but nothing great.

Assi Ghat is a great location, however, being close to the university, to a great bookshop, and to the boat trip departures on the Ganga.
Fantastic. I can check it out for a meal. Although my diet is a fairly strict Sattvik one, but if impractical or impolite I can stretch a point and go for some pepper and onion. Radical.

I saw someone saying before how the Ganga aarti at Assi Ghat was rather less "canned" than at some other ghats, which is rather what drew me to it - but that all sounds like good stuff to be near as well, so this is all coming together.
#13 Apr 17th, 2016, 15:21
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Are you an ISKCON member or can become one while you're in the UK? They have a very well reviewed guest house in Varanasi (within your 5GBP budget) but it's not open to non members. I think this situation of yours can be worked around. Check your local chapter for membership terms.
#14 Apr 17th, 2016, 15:49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vaibhav_arora View Post Are you an ISKCON member or can become one while you're in the UK? They have a very well reviewed guest house in Varanasi (within your 5GBP budget) but it's not open to non members. I think this situation of yours can be worked around. Check your local chapter for membership terms.
It's a nice idea - but I'm not sure I could let go of my belief in biological evolution!

Or Smartism, for that matter.
#15 Apr 17th, 2016, 19:31
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Originally Posted by Kirran View Post Monkey-related problems are a whole new realm of experience for me Worst we have here is ducks.

I can have a look at Shanti also, lot of options now.
Apparently there is more than one Shanti in Varanasi if you google. The one I was at is right by the Burning Ghats and is around 3-4 stories high that used to have a single room on the roof but now according to Lonely Planet the roof is a restaurant. And on the roof they had a metal stairway lookout going up a floor further to give you an even better view. Sure to meet other travelers there if you want companionship.

Here's the view from the roof circa 1991
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