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 ? ]

Vidur’s Travel Diary – 8 : Gwalior [ C ]


MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           APRIL 27 , 2012           09.30 P.M.

Gwalior travelogue is really getting longer . This is the third one . 

But I clicked lots of photos and apart from that , Jai Vilas Palace and Gwalior fort are really historic and have many anecdotes worth telling , so I can not shorten the travelogue even if I wish to .

If I am remembering correctly , I visited Gwalior for the first time in 1977 / 78 . I went to visit Jai Vilas Palace and Gwalior fort for the first time on that visit . Since then I have visited these two places  3 / 4 times . But this time I went with renewed vigour and with different understanding and outlook .

I always knew that Gwalior is associated with legendary singer Tansen and Maharani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi also . But I was unable to visit their memorials on my previous visits . This time I made it a point to include these memorials in my itinerary .

So after finishing visit of Gwalior fort , I went to see Tansen Mausoleum . I was excited as it was my first visit . Passing through the lanes and by – lanes of old Gwalior , my car stopped in front of an unimpressive iron gate . But as soon as I entered in the compound I was shocked to see a grand mausoleum .

This grand mausoleum belongs to Muhammad Ghaus , a venerable Sufi saint of those times and the mentor of Tansen . Tansen [ born 1493 or 1506  – died 1586 or 1589 ] was born as Ramtanu in a Hindu Gaur Brahman family . His musical talent came to prominence at the age of 5 . Initially he learnt music from Swami Haridas of Vrindavan . He rose to national prominence in the court of legendary Man Singh Tomar , the 10th Tomar King of Gwalior . In Man Singh Tomar’s court he became exponent of Dhrupad and made this form of Hindustani Classical music world-famous . Man Singh Tomar gave him title of  ” Tansen ” . He , later on ,  joined the court of Ramchandra Baghela of Reva . Mughal emperor Akbar heard about him and invited him to his court . Tansen went there , joined his court and thus rose to prominence and immortality .

Later on he embraced Islam and married Akbar’s daughter Meherunnissa .

Mausoleum of Muhammad Ghaus - Sufi Saint & Tansen's Mentor

Mausoleum of Muhammad Ghaus - Sufi Saint & Tansen's Mentor

Mausoleum of Muhammad Ghaus - Sufi Saint & Tansen's Mentor

Mausoleum of Muhammad Ghaus - Sufi Saint & Tansen's Mentor

Mausoleum of Muhammad Ghaus - Sufi Saint & Tansen's Mentor

Mausoleum of Muhammad Ghaus - Sufi Saint & Tansen's Mentor - Main Entrance

Mausoleum of Tansen

Mausoleum of Tansen

Mausoleum of Tansen & Muhammad Ghaus As Seen from the Entrance

Mausoleum of Tansen & Muhammad Ghaus As Seen from the Entrance Gate

Tansen's Mausoleum

Tansen's Mausoleum

From Tansen’s mausoleum , I drove to Maharani Lakshmi Bai memorial at Kotah Ki Serai near Phool Bagh . This world-famous queen of Jhansi [ November 19 , 1835 – June 17 , 1858 ] valiantly fought the British during 1st War of Independence of 1857 . She lost Jhansi fort due to treachery of her own people , came to Gwalior to seek help of Scindias but was not able to get their help . Scindia’s unflinching loyalty to their British masters and their non – cooperation to the freedom struggle drove Maharani Lakshmi Bai away from Gwalior and while crossing a nullah , which is still there , she was martyred by British army . She was only 23 years old at the time of her death .

Maharani Lakshmi Bai Memorial : The Place Where She Was Martyred

Maharani Lakshmi Bai Memorial : The Place Where She Was Martyred

Maharani Lakshmi Bai Memorial : The Place Where She Was Martyred

Maharani Lakshmi Bai Memorial : The Place Where She Was Martyred

Maharani Lakshmi Bai Memorial : The Place Where She Was Martyred

Maharani Lakshmi Bai Memorial : The Place Where She Was Martyred

After paying my obeisance at the memorial of Maharani Lakshmi Bai , I was engulfed with emotions . It is sad to get martyred at the tender age of 23 . It is sad to not have a family life , which she definitely deserved . She died for the country at such a tender age but her memorial is not well – kept at all . Few months back I visited Rajiv Gandhi’s memorial at Sriperumbudur . It was so well maintained and beautifully kept , that I was amazed . I am not saying that Rajiv Gandhi’s memorial should not be maintained properly . But the memorial of Maharani Lakshmi Bai also deserves same treatment , if not better .

I am saddened by the neglect .

Evening started descending on the Gwalior city . It was time to leave . Same never-ending feeling engulfed me again and completely.

I remembered Agyeya’s famous lines and left Gwalior . Hope I would visit Gwalior again and really soon .

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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