The train is to depart at 0730 hrs from the Patna Junction and the clock said you have 10 minutes before you call this trip “a goodbye”. As the saying goes, ‘the one who lives closer to the station is more likely to miss the train’. But it ain’t happening today, I said to myself. As I have already contributed my ‘part’ to the budget of the trip, I could not miss it. I knew the moment I entered my UPI pin for transfer that I was not getting it back whether I board the train or not. So, I need to hurry then. I packed my bag leaving the id proof, wallet, snacks and all the necessary items at home but didn’t forget the earphones though which btw never got a chance to use them. I have my priority set, you know. I rushed to the station and just in a nick of time I reached the train bogey where all my friends were.
Looking at the number of people in the train, it didn’t seem like a General bogey. There was so much space for the seat that you could actually call it a sleeper class. Maybe it was Saturday, that’s why it was empty or was something else. Either way we had a comfortable journey. Upon reaching Dindayal Upadhyay Station, we stepped out of the train. Why? You might be wondering. A simple calculation was done. The train would take at least an hour to reach Varanasi Station from there and we had planned to take rooms near Lanka Gate. From Varanasi, it would take another 20-25 mins to Lanka Gate but from DDU, it took only around 40 mins.
We circled outside the DDU station and seven of us started discussing how we would reach the Lanka Gate. Hold on, when we left Patna we were only five in number then how come seven of us were circled for discussion, we wondered. Upon realization, we found two rickshaw drivers had chimed in into our discussion. They were just listening to our moronic conversations. We booked one of the auto rickshaws from them. We were charged rs 250 for the Lanka Gate. If taken individually, rs 50 was charged for each person which is fine. Also, rs 30 is charged from Varanasi Station to Lanka Gate, so our calculation is still valid.
All of the hotels that we sorted in our list of accommodations were fully booked which surprised me a bit as there was no festive season and given it is the city of Lord Shiva, the ‘Sawan’ was almost more than a month away. After tanning ourselves for almost an hour in the scorching sun, we finally found a hotel with decent rooms. It was over our budget but we didn’t have the will to go another hour in search, so we stayed. It had room service, wifi, a lift, a small balcony with no good view, and the rooms were air-conditioned.
What I liked the most of all was the shower. It was a totally different experience. The nozzles were not just letting out water with full force and pricking the droplets on the body but it was literally spraying like a drizzling rain. I had a great time bathing. What I didn’t like were the space available in the room and the price. It had fair space but not to our requirement. The hotel was near the Lanka Gate road, that’s why they charged us Rs 2000 for a day per room.
The food was exceptionally good everywhere. The one I encountered that changed my taste bud for south Indian food was ‘Chetan South Indian Corner’. The sambhar Vada, the idli, the dahi vada, the masala dosa with the coconut chutney, I tried all of them. And all of them tasted like a new flavor, a true flavor. We all had our stomachs filled with these in only around rs 300. I would recommend everyone bookmarking this place for the next itinerary. A value for money deal.
The clock ticked 6pm and it was time to go see the famous ‘Ganga Aarti’ of Varanasi. The Assi Ghat was just 15 minutes walk away from the hotel. There were people, lots of people at the ghat. The vibe was not much different than any other crowded place and then the soulful melody of the flute echoed. The aura changed completely. The crowd became a devoted audience stoned in the uplifting reverberation of the bhajan. The priest stood on the raised platforms wearing blue silk dhotis and bright orange kurtas with a stole on their shoulders. All the priests’ hand motions were rhythmically in sync. It was such a profound sight to experience. You need to be there to feel it. We returned to our rooms with a peaceful mind.
The next day’s plan was to visit Kashi Vishwanath temple. We checked out of the hotel and took hawa-hawai which cost rs 100. I had two tasks in mind before I went into the temple. One was to get an ‘Om’ printed kurta and the second was to get a tilak on the forehead. The first somehow took quite a time. Being available in a variety of options, I wasn’t attracted to any of them. Some had color right but the prints were not vibing on them and some had right prints but were not in the color I wanted. It took time to find that little sweet spot for my taste. Now, it was time for the second task. Outside the temple, there are people who put tilak on your forehead but not for free.
Everyone is so ready to put on the tilak. When you place your right hand behind your head and lean forward to get a tilak, you would be surprised that it is done. It is so quick. Even if the person you think is putting that tilak misses any seconds, the other one would just grab that lost opportunity and put that tilak in that fraction of seconds. I was amazed to see the ‘trishul’ on my forehead and was totally impressed by this artistic skill set that I gave her extra money. Later my friend told me that they use utensils to print that art on your forehead. It was so fast that I didn’t even realize what and how it was done.
After the tasks completion, one problem remained, the bags and the phones. These are not allowed inside the temple. There were shops which offered to put bags in their lockers but you had to buy ‘prashadi’ or ‘chadhawa’ from them and their costs were not reasonable. There was a locker shop which I think was run by the government or the ngo but they were totally booked. So, we had to buy the ‘prashadi’ from one of the shops to get the lockers. Putting our phones in the bags and bags in the lockers, we entered the temple.
There was a room inside the temple where you could keep your shoes and also it provided lockers too, if only we had known before we could have saved the trouble of negotiating to fit five bags into two lockers. Anyway, at the security check, there was a basket and if you were carrying something that is not allowed, which is almost everything, you need to put it there and say your goodbyes to them. We were in a queue to enter the main premise soon after.
Entering through the gate, I saw one circular dome in between the two cone shaped domes with all the beautiful intricacies joined together out of which two were gold plated. There was reconstruction going on as some parts of the premise were scaffolded. To enter there and to visit the dome, four gates are constructed to ease out the crowd. And it wasn’t long before the sight of the magnificent ‘Linga’ in that dome was in front of me. It was for a moment as the guards were not letting anyone to stall there.
I then noticed all the devotees after visiting the ‘Linga’ went to some raised platform to the left of the dome. And there it was, the symbol of eternal waiting, ‘the Nandi’, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. But it was facing not at the dome. I know that the statue of ‘the Nandi’ is kept outside the temple but it faces towards the ‘Linga’. It clearly seemed to me that something was not right. The ‘Linga’ was behind the ‘Nandi’.
It is believed that the temple was looted twice by the Aurangzeb which is also mentioned in his journals and some parts of the temple were also destroyed and to save the ‘Linga’, one of the priest of that time hid it in his home and hence, the ‘Linga’ is not in the place it was once before. This is all the internet knowledge I just imparted. To reclaim the land, the case has been filed in the court. To know more about this issue, just google ‘Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi case’.
People were whispering into the ears of the ‘Nandi’. Many people believe that their prayers could be communicated to Lord Shiva if they whisper it into Nandi’s ears. Then I saw a person whispering into one ear and then again to the other ear, in case ‘Nandi’ didn’t hear it the first time. People are amazing, you know.
Our next place to visit or you can say to have lunch was to go to Maa Annapurna Mandir which is inside the temple itself. Inside the Maa Annapurna Mandir, names of people were shown on a screen with their donations in real time. And it kept going on. We found the queue but it was way too long. It was expected but we didn’t have the time as it would take more than an hour before we could even taste the food. So we dropped the idea as we needed to be at the station to catch the train. But putting that in the bucket list for our next visit to Varanasi, we headed off to the station.
Read More : 11 Best Places to visit in Varanasi