What comes to your mind when you think of Benaras? I am sure, your mind makes you think of the picturesque beauty you were mesmerized with when you first saw them online. And if you are visiting the place after looking at the peaceful pictures, then you will be a little surprised initially to see the chaotic traffic on jam-packed roads. That’s what happened with me but you can’t judge a place like that. Can you? So what do you do? You need to absorb the vibes and explore the multiple layers the city is locked into. If you want to enjoy the beauty of the place, start your day very early. How early? You have to start at the time when even sun is lazy to come out.
So, I started my first day with seeing the morning Aarti at Assi Ghat followed by a boat ride while the sun finally planned to come out. You need to experience the magical moments when the water below your boat is creating melodies that sync well with the musical Pakhawat played in the background on the bank.
An hour’s boat ride will fill your heart with the freshness that will stay with you for a few days. After you descend from the boat, you will feel like hopping banks on foot before you finally move back to your hotel. The beauty of the place doesn’t end at the banks.
There are a lot of historical places that can’t be missed. So, with a desire to explore more, I visited Sarnath on the second day. The place where Gautam Buddha first taught the Dhamma, is quite interesting and you can spend a day there watching the serenity of the monastery and looking at the stone idols including Ashok Stambh at the museum. You will gain some knowledge, if not wisdom from this visit and you can go back to the banks to watch the evening aarti at Dasheshmedh ghat. You will find prolific photographers there and find it hard to get the right place to watch the aarti. But, don’t worry about the place and just try to get involved in the aura created by the mandal performing the pooja.
On the third day, I thought of visiting Ramnagar Fort. Saraswati Bhawan which is the museum inside the fort once used to be the Durbar Hall or the Public Audience Hall of the fort. The museum showcases a rare collection of American vintage cars, bejeweled sedan chairs, ivory work, medieval costumes, gold and silver brocaded royal Palakis, jewelry, costumes made of kimkhwa silk and an impressive armory hall with swords and old guns.
I was there for three days and I could not afford to miss the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple has been mentioned in the Puranas. You need to read the history of the temple but you actually need to see the beauty that is possible only when you visit Benaras. The only sad part is you are not allowed to take your camera or phone while you visit the temple. So people who love to click every damn thing will have to satisfy by capturing the beauty by their eyes and saving them in their hearts.
When you come to Benaras, you have to visit BHU that claims the title of the largest residential university in India. This Academic Institute of repute should not be missed. The sprawling campus away from the main city boasts of the history and how can we forget that this university has given us great minds, scholars and big politicians.
Before heading to the railway station, I went again to Assi ghat just to fill my heart with some more peace and try kullhar coffee. I did miss buying a Banarasi Sari but I did not miss drinking the famous Banarsi Lassi and Thandai (sans Bhang ;)).
Finally, I was standing at the platform and before departing the place, I made a promise to myself… that I will visit the place again.