One of my best friends came to India at the end of October. I could not take days off from work to travel with her as I would have liked it, but we managed to visit Varanasi together during a weekend. This was my third trip to this city. You may check out the previous posts here and here. We arrived on a Saturday around midday. This time we stayed at a guest house near Meer Ghat. They helped us arrange a walking tour for the same day and a morning boat tour for the next day.
For the walking tour, a guide took us through the labyrinthine streets of Varanasi. Always present, the Lingam, an abstract representation of the god Shiva. You’ll see it everywhere. After all, Varanasi is dedicated to this god.
Our guide also showed us Manikarnika Ghat, the main cremation ground. Hindus believe that deceased people cremated in Varanasi will achieve moksha, or liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. As a foreigner, you may be interested in learning about the funerary rites of Hindus, however, if you go to this Ghat, do it with the awareness that it is a sacred place and that it can be an emotionally charged moment. It is better to make the visit short and discrete.
After walking for a few hours, we went for lunch and then decided to rest a little. Varanasi is a place that can drain your energy very quickly because there is so much happening at the same time, everywhere. We went out again before sunset to watch the evening aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat. An aarti is a Hindu ritual of worship, in this case dedicated to the Ganga, the holiest river of India. I must admit that it has a touristy feeling to it, but still, an interesting experience.
The next day, we got up very early for the boat tour. It was worth it. We could see how the city came alive as people approached the river to perform their morning ablutions and rituals, and other activities like washing their clothes. We even watched the sunrise while we were on the boat in the middle of the river. An experience filled with peace and serenity!
Probably the most memorable part of our trip was getting lost in the alleys. We were trying to find the Alamgir Mosque. I had been there once with the help of a guide and I though I could find it on my own. Big mistake! We got lost very quickly and google maps wasn’t helping at all.
We eventually reached a gath and were ready to quit. We took a breath and decided to walk back to the guest house, this time along the ghats to avoid getting lost again. Suddenly, we looked up, and the mosque was right there, above us. There were some stairs next to us, but we were not sure that they would lead us to the mosque. At that point, my friend was determined to find it, so we climbed the stairs, reached the top and saw…nothing! I was in total disbelief, but instead of going downstairs, we walked a little and turned around a corner, and there it was, Alamgir Mosque, in all its glory, waiting for us!
We stayed at the Mosque until we realized that the time to meet the taxi driver that would take us to the airport was fast approaching. Not having learnt from the previous experience, we started walking trough the alleys and got lost again. Luckily, we found our way just in time to meet the driver. The taxi took us to the airport, with a brief stop in Sarnath. I didn’t take many pictures there, but you can see some of my past trips here.
My friend stayed in Delhi for a few days more, doing sightseeing in the mornings, and joining me for dinner in the evening. It was good to have her around. The highlights of my stay in India have been the visits of my family and friends. What could better than sharing a little bit of this experience with them? Besides, they always bring not only joy and excitement, but also, the strength and balance that keep me grounded.