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Blog 9: Varanasi Part 1
When translated from ancient Sanskrit, Varanasi could also be called the City of Light. It is here on the banks of the great Ganga River that Budda rolled out his first teaching, The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma, there by initiating a new religion called Buddhism.
Author Mark Twain wrote in 1897 of Varanasi, “Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”
My western style of clothing had by this time on my journey, melted away, being replaced by brightly colored balloon trousers . Held at the waist by a cord and tied at the ankles, my shirts all two of them, were white light embroidered cotton . Around my neck hung a beaded leather pouch containing my passport and travelers checks. Other than this, I owned nothing of value. My hair had grown into an awesome Afro of curls and for the first time a recognizable beard augmented my visage.
It was culture that I came for in this holy place. In Bombay I had heard about the great festival of classical Indian music and dance and I was here to experience it first hand.
Ravi Shankar became quite famous around the time of the Beatles and he was a star player amongst many others.
Varanasi has been this cultural centre of Northern India for a thousand years and is closely associated with the Ganges.
Hindus believe that death in the city will bring salvation, making it a major centre for a death pilgrimage. The city is also known worldwide for its many ghats, embankments made in steps from stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform the ritual ablutions of washing , cleansing and cleaning themselves in the sluggish flowing waters. These ghats are also where Hindus cremate their dead.
The whole amazing spectrum of life till death , being played out along the banks of this great and Holy river, I now had become part of it too.
Accommodation was simple, the rooms were spartanically furnished. A bed, a small table, a light and as everywhere a squat toilet. The food was abundant, delicious, vegetarian and diverse. Never a day went by without a new treat to my already inspired palate.
Breakfast could be chilly badgies, a fresh chilly dipped in chickpea batter and deep fried, washed down with the ever ready chai available almost on every corner.
The chai wallas, as they were called were the captains of huge copper cauldrons which simmered continually over a small coal burner. The regular addition of milk, cardamom , cinnamon, Black pepper, Darjeeling tea, honey and water results in a heavenly nectar to be enjoyed at any time of the day or night.
With that it’s “ Namaste ?“, I’m off to bed .
Continued Part 2.