Monday, September 19, 2016


Varanasi. Kashi. Beneras...Same old city quiet literally no matter how you choose to address it - a city that is touted as the oldest city on planet, city of Life, city of Death and things between those two events. A city that brought a mixed bag of feelings and emotions based on the stories that floated around me since my childhood. A city that is the ultimate destination of every practicing Hindu.the one that is errected on the banks of holy Ganaga..the river that cascaded onto the Earth from the matted crowning glory of Lord Shiva.

The other side of the coin shows something else..A crowded city, filthy like never before, stinks to high heavens, city of fake swamis begging on streets, city of half burnt funeral pyres that are shoved
into Ganga..And ofcourse, beware of being looted in the name of Holy Father. Quiet the contrast, isn't it? And naturally, my decision to tag along with family and extended family wasn't an easy one, specially when thrown in with a baby and a tight itenary to the motherland. But I caved in, and it is probably one of the best travel desicions I had taken in my life!

I have a very unconventional equation with God. I say God and not religion cause I feel the term 'religion' puts barracades around the omnipresent. I grew up learning from Catholic nuns. I firmly believe in Dargah Sharif of Ajmer and Hanuman, Lord Ram's biggest fan, is an icon that I identify myself with. Vishwanadhji (Translated to 'Master of the universe) the ultimate form of Lord Shiva, resides over the holy city of Kashi. It is firmly believed that if you breath your last here, the gates of the heavens open up to you granting Nirvana. Isn't that enough to prick one's curiosity?

When I spotted lush pastures from the flight's window, a mental image that I had of Ganga ghat blurred into a reality slap. Kashi wasn't to be seen till we travel a good thirty kilometers by car. My hotel window wasn't any different. It showed a city scape..a visual that would have been any generic place in India. I am sure I irked the driver of our rental car with an equivelant of 'are we there yet?' I kept asking him as to when I would get a glimpse of the river, or the Temple's gopuram (Roof/Dome that is tapered as per Hindu archetcture). He just did the Indian negation nod after a few 'We won't be able to spot them' replies.

What followed were self discoveries, soul searches, epiphanies, deep meanings and fond memories. When I visited Vishwanadhji's temple, I was taken aback by the sheer size of his insignificant dome like rock embedded into a 3x3 niche TO THE CORNER OF A 10x10 room. The experience was so surreal that ir just put things in perspective. I travelled miles and miles away from homw, changed flights, means of transport, invested hours of thinking through and apprehensions to be face to face with an idol that blurred into an epiphany of sorts...all that was for a glimpse at something as plain but the vibrations it generated in my being, the warmth it flooded my soul with and the moisture I felt in my eyes snapped in a perspective that only such and experince could impart.

What followed was a yearning to see the Ganga in all her glory. We secured stellar seating to view the spectacle called 'Ganga Aarti' an offering of prayer with an array of lamps. I was lost into a world amid all that crowd and bedlam...a spectacle that etches onto your soul with its aura and the sound of drums resonates in your heart. Ganga is a river that is considered no less than life giving elixir. One dip into her serene waters and she is believed to wash away our sins and cleanse us from inside out. I took a dip and two and three and felt like I stepped out of a hot spring with medicinal properties.

A pair of black cobras danced to the tune of a snake charmer in the premisis of KalBhairav temple a deity that is supposed to rule over and keep guard of Kashi. A deity that is one of the many forms of Lord Shiva that assumes the form of a Dog. Countless monkeys played around the Hanuman Mandir, the most spacious of all the temples in Kashi and the Consorts of Vishwanayh have humble little adobes and really dainty forms - a sharp contrast to their larger than life auras as Mothers of the universe.

There is so much to record, and so little ammunition to express them - an experince that is beyond words in the truest sense, that the words that are my creative blocks elude me.

Varanasi is everything they say it is. The Ganga was a earty red hue, with dirty banks and random water weeds floating the edges. The streets looked like mazes, not enought wide for even modestly sized four wheelers. Cows share the streets with pedestrians and clueless piligrims. The main temple is all muddy and wet, perhaps from people walking in with wet clothes after the Ganga dip. But I was  oblivious to all this. My mind was busy looking at the stars, gasping in self discoveries, amalgaming into the omnipresent. As they say - everything we see is a perspective :-)

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