One alley. One story. All I could do was not to spare a chance to walk through the ones that caught my eyes.Walking along with Gau Mata like passer by. Pausing to catch the glimpse of the local Brahmins pass while chanting age old mantras. Witnessed Hinduism by the ghats and Islam in the hood. Meanwhile sightseeing took me to Sarnath among other places. The whole experience vibrated peace. That is how Varanasi treated me for a 3-day trip. Ideally, it is week long trip if you want to really have the much talked about mystic experience of the city. But my ESL life could only squeeze this much break for leisure travel off the work travel schedule!
The aura of the Ganga aarti kept the entire stretch of the ghats lit with a hypnotizing belief that time is always under construction and life is building upon it. Hundreds of people gathered everyday to witness the one-hour long ceremony of showing gratitude to the Ganga. The exciting part is when you realize how all the priests are in sync with each other while performing the rituals. It was so beautiful to watch how so much of effort is invested in empowering human beliefs.
Just when I started to sink in that feeling, it was the moment when I came face to face to the only reality that makes us live the entire life in denial- Death. Manikarnika ghat; it is believed that people who are cremated here receive Moksha or salvation. This riverfront is always seen with fire burning the Hindu dead bodies at all hours of the day. It was one of those mind numbing moments when you are so close to an absolution that you don’t know what to feel. It all seemed too real to be true. Like I landed in a period drama movie set!
Tasting the local food is always a delight of any place. However, as I explored more, I discovered it is a city which is a home away from home for people across the globe. Besides gorging on the heavenly Kachori subzi, cruncy jalebi or scooping rabdi from the cute little pots, I could also spot cafes that served international cuisines with authentic arrangements. Be it a German bakery, an Italian bistro or Oriental food, it took me by surprise! The best however, was the lassi. After a heavy rush of strange numbness from the Manikarnika encounter, I went to this much recommended lassi shop, The Blue Lassi. I have no idea how it got the name, but they sure churn the best ones. Their selection of flavors and styles of preparation left me in awe and definitely pulled me out from the strange feeling to vacation vibes once again!
Spotting Aghoris on and off were confusing moments. I was not sure whether to feel scared and look away or stay fascinated and stare at them. With their creepy sense of fashion, Aghoris drew attention no matter what. Being almost naked in public or covering the body with human ashes felt plain normal for them. Using a human femur bone as a walking stick or wearing human skulls around their necks seemed perfectly fine. Their calm attitude made them seem even more mysterious. It is a different world!
I was always fascinated to hear different travel stories from the people who ever visited this old city. What I feel now is it’s even more fulfilling to see what you hear about a place is so mysteriously true. It was one vacation that I would love to repeat yet again. Such was Varanasi through my eyes!