Vidur’s Travel Diary – 13 : Varanasi


MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           JULY 03 , 2012           01.15 A.M.

Varanasi or Benaras or Kasi or Kashi , this old and perennial city of India , which symbolises Hindu ethos and its timeless tradition , is a new metropolis , yet it existed and started its journey several millennium ago . As per tradition and folklore it is 5000 years old city . Its mythical and cultural name is Kashi . Rigveda mentions this city as Kasi or Kashi . During British era the name was changed and the city came to be known as Benaras . After independence the city was rechristened as Varanasi . Varuna and Assi are two rivers , which caress the city from two sides , hence the city was rechristened as Varanasi .

Varanasi predates history . It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world and the oldest city in India . As per Hindu mythology this city rests on the trident of Bhagwan Shiva . This city is closely associated with the legendary Raja Harishchandra , an ancestor of Bhagwan Ram . Harishchandra ghat still exists and bears his name and reminds us of his supreme sacrifices in pursuit of truth . Along with AYODHYA , MATHURA , MAYA [ HARIDWAR ] , KANCHI , AVANTIKA [ UJJAIN ] and DWARKA , Varanasi , for the Hindus , is the 7th Holiest Cities of India . I consider myself lucky and fortunate that I have chance to visit all the above mentioned seven cities .

I have been to Varanasi several times . I first visited this city with my parents and other siblings , while I was a toddler . It was for the MUNDAN [ Tonsure Ceremony ] of my younger brother . I still remember my first journey to Varanasi by train . I was a kid and I used to converse with my parents only in Bhojpuri . My father insisted that while in Varanasi , we all must converse in Hindi . I was finding it difficult and avoided speaking throughout the journey .

I have visited this city numerous times since then . Every year when I visit my native place Deoria , I have to make a halt either at Varanasi or Lucknow . This year in June , I took a morning flight from Mumbai on June 16 , 2012 and along with my wife , landed there in the afternoon . Varanasi now has a swanky and sprawling airport . Old airport was not worthy of the reputation of this ancient city . This new Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport is truly impressive .

Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport - Varanasi

Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport – Varanasi

Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport - Varanasi

Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport – Varanasi

I took a cab and drove to Hotel Gautam Grand near Varanasi Cant station .

Hotel Gautam Grand - Varanasi

Hotel Gautam Grand – Varanasi

When in Varanasi , you have to enjoy the crowded lanes and by-lanes of this mythical yet  modern metropolis . Godaulia is the nerve – centre of the city .

Godaulia - Varanasi

Godaulia – Varanasi

The world-famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the 12 JYOTIRLINGAS of Bhagwan Shiva in India . You dare not afford to miss this shrine . The old temple , built by Adi Shankaracharya in 8th century , was destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb , who built a mosque on the ruins of this temple , which , today , is known as Gyanvapi mosque . The present Kashi Vishwanath temple was built by Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1717 . This temple was adorned by Maharaja Ranjit Singh , who donated 820 k.g. gold in 1889 .

Kashi Vishwanath Temple - Entrance

Kashi Vishwanath Temple – Entrance

World Famous Lane of Vishwanath Temple

World Famous Lane of Vishwanath Temple

World Famous Lane of Vishwanath Temple

World Famous Lane of Vishwanath Temple

 

Gyanvapi, the original holy well between the t...

Gyanvapi, the original holy well between the temple and mosque (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After darshan of Kashi Vishwanath temple , you proceed to Dashashwamedha Ghat , where Ganga Aarti is performed in the evening . Dashashwamedha Ghat was built by Maharaja Savai Jai Singh II in 1693 . It is one of the 100 ghats of Varanasi . Originally Ganga Aarti was started in Haridwar by Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya . Few years back it was started in Varanasi also and today it is major tourist attraction .

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Ganga Arti - Varanasi

Ganga Arti – Varanasi

Apart from Dashashwamedha ghat , Kedar ghat and Harishchandra ghat are other two major ghats of Varanasi .

Kedar Ghat - Varanasi

Kedar Ghat – Varanasi

Harishchandra Ghat - Varanasi

Harishchandra Ghat – Varanasi

Godaulia - Varanasi at Night

Godaulia – Varanasi at Night

A British Era Church at Godaulia

A British Era Church at Godaulia

Sankat Mochan temple is the another famous temple of Varanasi . According to the folklore , Sant Tulsidas worshipped here and Bhagwan Hanuman gave him darshan . After Kashi Vishwanath temple , it is the 2nd most revered temple of Varanasi for Hindus .

Sankat Mochan Temple

Sankat Mochan Temple

Varanasi is famous for Sants like Tulsi Das , Kabir Das , Ravi Das , Tailang Swami and Keena Ram . Tailang Swami and his disciple Keena Ram Baba followed AGHOR PANTH . Keena Ram Baba is most famous exponent of AGHOR PANTH . I visited his Ashram also . This was my first visit . I visited it twice . First visit was in the afternoon of June 16th and the second one was next day , on June 17 , 2012 .

The Ashram of Keena Ram Baba - Main Entrance

The Ashram of Keena Ram Baba – Main Entrance

At The Ashram of Keena Ram Baba

At The Ashram of Keena Ram Baba

The Ashram of Keena Ram Baba

The Ashram of Keena Ram Baba

The Ashram of Keena Ram Baba  - Residence

The Ashram of Keena Ram Baba – Residence

At Keena Ram Baba Ashram

At Keena Ram Baba Ashram

My Wife at The Ashram of Sant Keena Ram

My Wife at The Ashram of Sant Keena Ram

I left Varanasi on June 17 , 2012 in the morning . While proceeding towards Sarnath and Aundihar , I started remembering several luminaries of Indian history , who were born in Varanasi and spent their lives in this city .

Notable residents of Varanasi

Temple of Markandeya Mahadev in Aundihar is another famous shrine of Bhagwan Shiv , which I visited with my wife , while on my way to Deoria .

At Markandeya Mahadev Temple - Aundihar

At Markandeya Mahadev Temple – Aundihar

My Wife at Markandeya Mahadev Temple - Aundihar

My Wife at Markandeya Mahadev Temple – Aundihar

Varanasi is not a remote place for me . It is in between Mumbai and Deoria . I can and will visit it as long as I am alive . But then being alive is the big , unknown and unanswered question . Who knows it is my last visit or not ? Who knows whether I would be able to visit it again or not ?

I started for Deoria with heavy heart . Though I do hope to visit Varanasi again in winters for Allahabad Kumbh mela . Lines of Agyeya come running in my mind :

पार्श्व गिरि का नम्र चीड़ों में , डगर चढ़ती उमंगों सी ;

बिछी पैरों में नदी ज्यों दर्द की रेखा , विहग शिशु मौन नीड़ों में ; 

मैंने आँख भर देखा , दिया मन को दिलासा ; 
पुनः आऊँगा , भले ही बरस दिन , अनगिन युगों के बाद ;

क्षितिज ने पलक सी खोली , दमक कर दामिनी बोली ;
” अरे यायावर ! रहेगा याद ? “
………………………………………………..अज्ञेय 
[ Tenderness of mighty mountains reflected in pine trees ,
Upward moving pathways symbolizing my enthusiasm ,
River , flowing deep down like a line of pain ,
Tiny tots of birds sitting silently in their nest ,
I saw everything with contentment ,
Consoled myself , I would come again ,
After a year or may be after ages ……….
Horizon opened its eyes , lightning dazzled in the sky ,
As if saying ………………
O Wanderer ! Would you ever even remember ? ]
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2 Responses

  1. Stumbled upon this page while searching for some photos of Varanasi’s newly done airport. Thanks for writing all this I read the entire post. I am from Varanasi, currently in US. Appreciate your post. Thanks

    Like

  2. Neat ! Won’t be able to concur a lot much more. Exceptional Report!

    Like

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