Howrah-Amritsar Express. That was the train that actually allowed me to board in. Well, precisely when I wanted to book tickets just before 10 days of my journey, there was no other train for me and I had to book 7 tickets from the total 28 available tickets. I assumed that it might be a tiring journey but trust me, the train reached Banaras so smoothly and almost on time. When I reached Banaras railway station, it was freezing cold because it was well-explanatory for all of us that a chill-wave had been already started. Banaras welcomed us with almost 6 degree temperature at 9 AM and frankly, we all were not amazed by this shivering hospitality.
Banaras, the name reminds of Kashi Biswanath Temple. The name reminds of the evening Aarti on Dasashwamedh Ghat. The name reminds of Godowliya Chowk, Rabris, Jalebis. Banaras is one of the most affluent cities of Uttar Pradesh(UP), the most politically powerful state of India. It is the oldest city of India and for that reason history speaks its own story here and the population is also very high. The city is full of heritage buildings even now and you can just feel the history. We stayed very near to the Godowliya Chowk, the most important place of Banaras or the city center in other words. If you want to go to Dasashamedh Ghat or Kashi Biswanath Temple, you have to cross this chowk. This is the place where many tourists come to shop a lot of things as the entire road is an extended market.
After checking-in we went to the Dasashwamedh Ghat for a boat ride. This boat ride is very famous in Banaras as there are 64 Ghats on the river Ganga that you should explore by a boat. Ghats means the place on the bank of a river where someone can take bath. As this was winter, I experienced a lot of migratory birds flying over the river. They were delicate, they were beautiful. Ghats of Banaras carry some wonderful historical facts. A lot of wise, intellectual, great men came to Banaras for various purposes and somehow they made these Ghats and gave away to the local people for their utilization. All the Ghats are wonderfully structured and the constructions are gigantic. We had a 1 Hour boat ride and explored a number of Ghats. Ideally it would take quite a few hours to visit all the Ghats.
It was a very cold day and we decided to take rest in the Guest House. It was simply a dual effect of the journey and the biting cold. Being very frank, this was my third visit to Banaras but I had never experienced that kind of a cold over there. It was like a frost bite. It was enjoyable but in the early morning it was simply a torchure. Dinner was awesome as after a lot of days I enjoyed a Uttar Pradesh dinner. Rice, Chapatis, Dal Fry, Alu Gobi, Alu Matar, Pickles and baked Papad. Just sumptuous.
Next day we went to Sarnath. The place where Lord Budhha gave his first sermon. Sarnath is only 10 KMs from Banaras. A crystal clear place that speaks of peace, Budhhist Heritage, tranquility and humanity, that is Sarnath. I have been fallen in love with Sarnath since my childhood. The famous Dhamek Stupa and a beautiful peace pagoda is there near the Holy Tree. The entire area is outstandingly tranquil and it’s a treat to the ears. This was also the third time in Sarnath and again I felt that peace in my mind. The place of Lord Budhha, the place of peace. Sarnath tells a great story of leadership. A man started his journey from Nepal, extended his arms, made friends and celebrated peace. From Lord Budhha to His Holiness Dalai Lama, everyone enriched Sarnath and that’s why this place is so much important. In this world of unnecessary hustle-bustle and war-mongers, Sarnath offers a divine piece of a Peace-Cake with an icing of humanity. I have never stayed there because I have never got that scope but I wish to stay atleast 2 days there sometime. Just to feel Lord Budhha and his messages. There is a huge statue of Lord Budhha in the pagoda. You can also stay there for a day or two. It would be a real great thing. Several hotels are there. No need to book if you are not going in any of the Budhhist festivals. There are Chinese and Japanese Budhhist Temples also to visit. We had exceptionally good Alu-Chats in Sarnath. Alu-Chat and Fulkas are a delicacy in UP. Fulkas are Fuchhkas in Kolkata.
Evening we all spent on shopping. Since we were close to the market, we had a great scope of shopping a lot of things. Banaras is very famous for its woolen garments and jackets made of leather and foam. A number of shops are there staring from Godowliya Chowk to almost the entry point of Dasashwamedh Ghat. Even a number of traders sit on the road displaying their stocks of sweaters, woolen caps and hats, mufflers, shawls etc. Banarasi Saree is a very very famous outfit in Northern India and it originates from Banaras. Banarasi Saree is named after Banaras. A lot of weavers are there in Banaras who create these Sarees. You can find many shops displaying and selling Banarasi Sarees in the market even there are some factories near the Chowk where you can go for witnessing the craft-works and purchasing. Ladies from all over the world are very eager to visit these factories and those who like to wear Sarees, buy from the factories directly. If you don’t wear Saree you can opt for woolen sweaters, cardigans and pull-overs and wear with the jeans and other trousers or skirts. Salwar-kamijs and stroles made of Banarasi silk are also available and the designs are just awesome. In a word, Banaras is a shopping paradise for all women irrespective of country, religion and mind-set.
Another shopping point is the Biswanath Gali. Gali means the narrow street and this street is full of shops. From garments to religious items, you can have a wide array of products that would simply entice you for buying. You can also have some fantastic sweet shops offering Rabris, Jalebis, Gajar ka Halwas and lot of other delicious sweets. Most importantly you can find the Pan Masala shops in this Gali. Pan(Beetle) is a very famous thing in UP and all over the world Pan comes in two varieties, Kolkata and Banarasi. Banaras is the land of Pan and different kind od Pan Masalas that enrich the Pan. While in Banaras, never forget to buy the traditional sweets and Pan Masalas. Masalas are the different spices used in Pan.
Kashi Biswanath Temple is situated at the end of Biswanath Gali. Actually the Gali has been named after the Lord Biswanath since it’s adjacent to the temple. The temple is one of the ancient temples of India and a lot of people come here from all over the country and the universe. This is the city that celebrates the harmony of all the religion. You can see a great mosque adjacent to the temple and a wonderful church at the Godowliya crossing. Banaras has never experienced any communal outrage as all the people live with their own religious dignity and a great respect to the people of other religions. Banaras is trully a snapshot of our secular India that celebrates humanity and spirituality.
Dasaswamedh Ghat is very, very famous for the evening Aarti. Aarti is an everyday ritual for worshipping Lord Biswanath and the Mother Ganga. Lord Biswanath is another form of our Lord Shiva. The Aarti starts at 6 PM everyday and ends at 7 PM. It’s an amazing experience. That one hour would definitely take out all the pathos, stresses and tensions from your life and would invigorate a lot of energies in your mind. You can think that it’s a big time, religious group counselling that heals you, soothes your mind and refreshes your life. If a weekend Jam Session in a disc helps you de-stress your week-life then the Aarti would give you a sublime peace and relaxation. Come, feel the spiritual India, open your arms and pour as many happiness as you can.
Banaras is a big time meeting point of hermits and other religion-happy people. You can see a lot of hermits here and there in Banaras. They come to promote holiness and sanctity. Hindu religion has got 10 different sects and you can see them and feel the exuberance of Hinduism. After Kumbh Mela, Banaras is the most sought-after place of Hindu religious rendezvous.
Next day we hired a Tanga, a Horse Carriage for local city tour. Riding a Tanga is a real fun and we had a great tour indeed. We visited Banaras Hindu University, Sankat Mochan Temple, Durga Bari and Tulsi Manas Mandir. Banaras Hindu University is a central university and it’s got a wide campus. Students are coming all over the world for studying Technology, Computer Applications and Indology. I was also very fanatic to study Master of Computer Application there when I was persuing my Graduation studies but couldn’t do it. You would get amazed by the vivaciousness of the campus.You must see Sankat Mochan Temple, Durga Bari and Tulsi Manas Mandir. All these temples are old temples of Banaras and definitely in the Must-See list. Get fulfilled.
Evening we experienced the Aarti. Snapped a lot of pictures and again went for some shopping. Next day morning we went for the Puja in the Kashi Biswanath Temple. This temple has got lot of security measures arranged by Uttar Pradesh Police and you have to undergo some physical checks and machine checks. Ultimately you would reach the Garva Griha, the actual place where the Lord Biswanath is situated. Visiting the Garva Griha is an amazing feeling. We also bought Peda, the famous sweet of Banaras after exiting from the temple.
People work for comfort and come to the Almighty for peace. Whatever religion you belong to, Banaras has got a space for you. The major thing is to get blended with the people of different religions who has got an ultimate religion called humanity. Come once to Banaras, fall in love for life time. Experience India, experience life.
Banaras : Some useful information
Location : Uttar Pradesh, India. 800 KM from Delhi and 710 KM from Kolkata.
Mode of Transport : Nearest Airport is Babatpur Airport, Trains are plying from all over the India.
Accommodation Cost : Rs. 300.00 to Rs. 5000.00. Large range to choose from.
Food Cost : Rs. 50.00 to Rs. 250.00.