Though referred to by many names (Kasi,Banaras,Varanasi), I would like it to call Banaras because that embodies the true spirit of this small little place on the banks of the Ganga. Excited and elated like a little kid getting a chance to go out, I set out for this mystic place away from the routine tall structures and false city life for a small holiday. Fortunate enough to be accompanied by a friend (also a local to Banaras),i travel in the company of thousands of people finding each available spot in the train to park themselves for the long journey. A usual sight as we get down at the station at dawn, a huge crowd trying to evacuate the station as soon as possible. The now familiar views of a Uttar Pradesh town pushes me into believing that nothing is special about this place too. It lasted for just a few moments till I step into the real Banaras. I tag along with my friend into the small corridors of the old town seeming lost in directions to follow and lost in the views i try to catch as I go along. Pan shops setting up their desks so early, Fresh Jalebis being fried, People carrying along dead bodies with the Ram chants, Tea being served in the kulhads that i thought i would never see again after my childhood. And all this as the city wakes up to a new day. At this instant i knew that i have stepped into a real special place and the excitement in me grew more.
With an exhaustive list of places to be seen already in hand with suggestions from many people, we start out with a sweet morning at Ram Bhandar.The hot Jalebis giving us the perfect start for a pleasant stay. The first place decided by my friend-the world famous Banaras Hindu University (BHU). More because it is where he had studiesJbut before that, we did what every Banarasi does and follow with utmost dedication and religious fervour-chew a Banarasi paan. The whole city represents the culture of the paan chewing people so much that a satellite image would show Banaras in RED not because of the sacredness of the place, but because of the the red juice being spit at every available space. BHU amazes one with its rich history and the vast green cover that it encompasses. With subjects ranging from Sanskrit to astronomy to Medicine to Computer, it represents a university that has evolved over a century and stands testimony to the commitment of its founder-Mr.Madan Mohan Malviya.
The most prominent public places in Banaras are its temples. Every street has its own temple dedicated to the legends of Ramayana (Ram, Hanuman) and Shiva (considered to be the source of Ganga).Hence my next stop is the most famous Hanuman temple of Banaras-Sankat Mochan temple. Not being a hard core religious guy i follow my friend all around the temples and keep pestering him to take me to the Ganga.A ride around the ancient city reveals the intrusion of many parts of the modern life-Malls, Foreign eateries but they fail to cloud the real city that is Banaras.
To be continued…