This is my second post in the April A to Z Challenge (2016)
My theme this year is “Travel”. Alphabet of the day is ‘B’
This year in February I traveled to a place I’d been longing to visit since ages – The city of Banaras in Uttar Pradesh, India. Although the city’s official name now is Varanasi but in my heart it will always be Banaras. We met a proud Banarasi babu during our stay there who told us about the history of his city, the two rivers, Varuna and Asi, which make up the name of the city, Varanasi. There is also an Assi ghat by the river Ganges.
‘The earliest mention of Banaras appears in Sanskrit texts, the surviving versions of which were written centuries later than the events they describe. These texts which mention “Kashi” – another term for Banaras – include some of the most important sources of Hinduism and Buddhism…” – Tales Of Banaras ( The Flowing Ganges). The Life And Lore of India’s Sacred City on the Ganges Through the Tales of Shiv Prasad Mishra
Our flight landed at Banaras in the afternoon and the cab we had booked beforehand was waiting for us at the airport. A friend had made all the arrangements for our travel in Banaras and our two days stay there. I would rather have a person with references driving me around in a new city, than a stranger. My husband indulges me and feels it is a small price to pay for my peace of mind. The cost of hiring an air-conditioned cab for a day( ten hours) was Rs 1900 and it suited us fine, also the driver was a local resident and had a lot of stories in his dashboard 🙂 He was better than a guide and was very helpful. He drove us to the hotel, we checked in, freshened up and immediately left for Sarnath, a few kilometers from Varanasi – Lord Buddha had given his first sermon in Sarnath, after he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at BodhGaya in Bihar.
‘Isipatana, Rishipatana or as it is more popularly known as Sarnath had always been a center for spiritual aspiration and learning. Once the Buddha achieved enlightenment, his first objective was to find his five companions and tell them of his achievement. This he did at Sarnath and it is known as the first turning of the wheel of Dharma’ – The History of Sarnatha or Cradle of Buddhism by B.C. Bhattacharya
There is a Bodhi Tree in the temple premises at Sarnath and I loved being there, felt a deep connection and positive vibes. I sat there for a long time and got up reluctantly on my husband’s insistence.
We also visited the Sarnath Archeological Museum and saw the wonderful collection of Buddha images and the Lion capital of Ashoka – the national emblem of India. I bought a few wooden artifacts from the museum shop and a couple of books made by handmade paper.
We visited the famous temples in Banaras- Kashi Vishwanath temple, Kaal Bhairon temple and Sankat Mochan Temple.
The Evening arti on the river banks of the holy river Ganges was an experience I cannot describe. We sat in the boat across the river bank and watched the evening prayers being performed by priests.
I ended my trip with a shopping spree in the city’s markets for the world famous Banarasi sarees, picked up half a dozen banarasi silk stoles too 🙂
By Sulekha Rawat