We start the day very early but wasted around 1:30 hours waiting for our driver to Varanasi. The disappointment continued with the size of the car and also the driver Sanjey, seemed not knowing the way to Varanasi. Still, we said it is an experience too 🙂 I followed our location on the map until he finds the highway and finally we were on our way to Varanasi, the oldest living city.
The highway was pretty nice comparing to the road between Lucknow and Kanpur, also it was a lot greener too, we were not very close to Ganga but we were going in parallel, I believe that was the reason. It took around 7 hours to arrive to our hotel, but during our travel we had the chance to talk about CSC, IBM, life, India. I have downloaded some information about Varanasi, we read and learnt about it a bit to get ready for the city: the ghats, why the city is holy, where the name comes from, God Shiva and Brahma etc etc. We also played some games on the phone and had fun.
The first observations about Varanasi was traffic of course (no surprise) but it was cleaner than Kanpur. When we reached to hotel, our tour guide Raju was waiting us. We had a quick lunch and discussed about the plan for today. When we heard that we are going to see 4 different templates and they are all built recently, we were a bit disappointed, especially myself. In Delhi, we had the same feeling with the temple about Bahai religion. We did not come this much way to see the new temples, this is an ancient city, isn’t it ? I asked Raju to give the names of all these temples and we decided to go to two temples: Sankat Mochan which is the monkey temple and Durga temple without the monkeys. And then to the old part of the city to walk around and feel the city itself. To be frank, Raju was disappointed about our reaction (especially mine) but he was easy to adapt and we started our journey in Varanasi.
I used the “Agile Varanasi” title nd you will understand it in a few minutes. We did a very nice and a quick tour. We have seen 3 different temples in 1.5 hours 🙂
On our way Raju has talked about the gods, religion, the city’s different names, the holy things (not only this city) in Hinduism. He was also kind to answer any questions we asked related to our tour or not. One of the interesting was about the holy things and the people shows respect. We learned that if an animal, a plant is useful for human being, then they show respect to it. For example cows, they give milk which is crucial for life. For example sun, we cannot live without its light. For example fig tree, it produces oxygen 24 hours day and night not like other trees. After hearing all these kind of stories for the last one month, I started to think that these things are political.. But anyway, it’s not the correct place to talk. This post is about Varanasi 🙂
When we were passing in front to the Mother India Temple, he said this is a unique place, and maybe we want to stop for a quick tour. We said ok for 5 mins we can stop and went to the temple. Luckily we stopped 🙂 It was not a real temple, they use the temple name just to respect this place. There was a very big 3D India map made with marble. Himalayas were like a wall, it was very nice to see this map to illustrate the countries and the geographical shapes in our mind easily. He showed the Himalayas, Everest, K2, Tibet, where Ganga river rises and how it goes through India, the silk road and which valleys of Himalayas are used from Afghanistan to India and then to Tibet.. The countries around India.. It was very nice. After 5-10 mins. We jumped into our cars to the Sankat Mochan.. After 5 minutes we saw a very nice temple totally in red, and Raju said that it is the 2nd temple that he mentioned, where there used to be monkeys but they are moved to Sankat Mochan. This was the Durga temple without monkeys. We stopped there for 10 mins too. It was just the praying time and we were able to see how the people prays and donates to god and the priest. We also went to the queue, the priests used the powder and put a red dot on our foreheads, we prayed, touched to the feet of the god and donated. It was so spiritual with the smoke of the fire, the sound of the bells and people sitting and praying silently around the temple.
As said, we were agile today, so we got into the car and went to the last temple. This temple was for the god Humayun and his animal was monkeys. In the entrance we could see the monkeys and they were so cute while eating their bananas.. It was soo crowded cause we learnt that it was the new year according to the Hindu calendar. The people were reading some booklets, they were in the queue to donate food to the god. There was also a tree where people were praying too. This was one of the tree types that Raju has mentioned us in the car. And we saw a bald lady and Raju told us that she does not have anything else to give to god, that’s why she cut her hair. We have seen some people sitting and chatting and learned that it is the first meeting of a candidate groom and bride’s families. The bride was not there. Briefly, at every corner something was happening. After we are done in this temple too, we jumped to our cars, told Raju that we really do not want to go to the 4th temple and went to the old city.
Wow!! How crowded it was.. People were walking, shopping, the bikers were honking.. Comparing to Kanpur, there were a lot more beggars on the street. We also went through the very narrow streets too. Even those streets were full of shops and people. We were not really interested in the shopping and decided to go to the Ganga river. We were here in India the last one month but we did not see any praying with the river so we were excited. Raju took us through the streets like labyrinth difficult to walk with cows 😀
And finally !! Ganga was in front of us. People, boats, lights, bells, prayers, priests, sellers, temples in every corner.. It was so mystical.
We found our boat and the first stop was the cremation place. When we went there were 5 different places that they were burning the body. And two new bodies have come too. Raju told us a lot about this too. Hindus believe that if a person dies in Varanasi, he goes to heaven so nobody cries at the cremation ceremony. Also, if the dead person is a child or a pregnant women, then they don’t burn the body but they cover it with a cloth and tie it with a rop and a stone to leave it to the Ganga river itself (sometimes the rope becomes loosen and the corps come to the surface..
It was hard to watch this. So we went back to our starting point and caught the evening praying: evening arti. 7 priests were praying. It was again spiritual but at the same time a bit annoying, too modern and funny too. They prayed for the god, and then to Ganga river (sorry Ganga Ma) and let the god to sleep. God sleeps.. It was too noisy, bells, music through speaker. I was expecting a bit calmer and silent praying ceremony. And the priests were walking through the boats and putting that red powder on the foreheads to get some more donation. I found this irritating cause all these moneys were going to their pocket. I don’t know I just did not like this. We did not donate this time but we bought a small plate of flowers and candle from a little boy and prayed and put it gently on Ganga Ma.
Before the end of the ceremony we went back to the cost and saw the priests praying more closely and went back to the place where we left the car. Buuuut, the day did not end. We did not take the car but tuk tuk 🙂 I really did not ant to go back to Abu Dhabi without trying tuk tuk once. It was so fun, we were 6 people with the driver in that small car 😀 It was a real agile tour today in 5 hours:3 temples, bazaar tour, cremation and evening arti and finally tuk tuk 😀 Well done to us.
When we came back to hotel, we decided to have our dinner at the hotel next to ours to try a different place. And we were so lucky that it was a palace of one of the nepal emperors. We lved the hotel and its architecture. It was the last dinner, we talked about the CSC and India experience, what we liked most, and what we did not like at all. We talked about IBM, next travel plans etc. It was a very nice end of the day.
The agile Varanasi did not end, tomorrow morning we have the morning boat trip !!
#ibmcsc #cscin37 #cscindia37
alladola, 17th March 2018, Varanasi