Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Adventure 7: Varanasi

Today at around 8:30 AM we started from my uncle’s house in Noida for Gurgaon, where my Nani (mom’s mom) lives. We ate lunch at Gurgaon, then pushed off for the airport. So my dad, Nani, and I were leaving for Banaras. I couldn’t believe that it was finally happening. By the way, I will be using the names “Varanasi,” “Kashi,” and “Banaras” interchangeably, so please don’t be confused. When we landed in Banaras, I noticed that the people looked noticeably different than the people I had seen in Delhi or Kashmir or Bangalore. It’s always interesting to note how every city has its own kind of people. Some cities have differences in skin color (actually almost all do), some cities have differences in facial expressions, some have mustached men, some don’t, some have women covered head to toe, some have women with almost no clothes at all… It’s an interesting country. In Banaras, I don’t know what the difference is exactly, but when I figure it out I’ll write about it.

 

We arrived in Varanasi around 3:45 PM and then took a taxi from the airport to the J. Krishnamurty Center in Raj Ghat, Varanasi. One very peculiar thing to notice about Varanasi is that Varanasi is split up by ghats, or locations along the Ganga River. (Many people say “Ganges” but that irritates me, because the real name is “Ganga”). So along Raj Ghat is the J Krishnamurty Foundation center, and it’s beautiful. It’s right on the banks of the Ganga, and the view is ridiculous. The main campus is on the west side of– get this – the Varuna River. The rural center is on the other side of the Varuna River, and both campuses are actually just on opposite sides of the intersection of the Varuna and the Ganga. To get from one campus to the other (it’s about a 7 or 8 minute walk), you have to cross a wood-plank bridge, which is literally just like they used to make bridges in medieval times. I’m not kidding. It is wooden, there are lots of planks, and you can see through the spaces between them, a couple of them are broken, it’s just like the movies or cartoons. It’s actually kind of scary to walk across it sometimes, but you just have to have faith and walk across it, because that’s the only short way between both campuses. I learned that every year the bridge breaks, and every year they rebuild it. During the rainy season, the water level rises so high (the bridge is at least 20 feet above the water) that it actually takes down the bridge!! So they rebuild it every year after the season. How crazy, right? I’m amazed at this place. Though I am no longer 5000 years in the past, I am now living in the oldest city in the world… I’ll write more about Kashi itself later, because there’s just too much to say about the city. There are hundreds of books written just about Kashi the city. But right now I’ll write about what is or has been going on…

 

Right as we arrived, we dropped our stuff off in a guest house where my dad, Nani, and I were going to stay for a couple of days before I moved into the rural center, where I will be staying for the rest of the month. When we dropped our stuff off, we went to the rural center to visit Partho [Uncle], the guy who is in charge of operations there. We talked to him for a bit, he gave us a tour of the place, and then he told us that if we wanted to take a boat ride all the way down the Ganga and see each ghat all the way up to Dashashvamedha Ghat we could do that, and then see the aarati there (which is famous because of the way they do it…) but we had to go NOW. So at around 6:30 PM we set out for Dashashvamedha Ghat from Raj Ghat in a small rowboat, rowed by one old guy named Ramlochan, and steered by a young guy named Kamlesh (the steering is using another oar, from the back of the boat, by hand). We made our way along the ghats of the Ganga and finally at around 7:40 PM or so reached Dashashvamedha Ghat. There we watched the aarati (I would explain what aarati means, but I think it would be better if the reader did some research on his/her own). We then came back, which took another 45 minutes or so, and the reached the room at around 9:15 PM. After we got back we ate, which was an awesome home-cooked meal, and then retired to our rooms to rest…

 

I am now in my main place of study for the semester… and I am already in love with this city. Not because of its beauty, not because of its people, and not because of its weather. I am simply in awe of its glory… and it’s unfathomable history. I’m no historian, and in fact I have always said how much I hate history class, so I know how weird it sounds coming from me. But India’s history in general, and more specifically Varanasi’s, is extremely fascinating. Imagine the 200 years of American history we learn in school, versus the 7000+ years of cultural history of India!! I say cultural history because India’s history itself is older than 7000 years, but the age where the culture we see and learn about today started to come up around 7000 years ago. I will write more in-depth about Kashi closer to the end of my stay here (and I will continually be writing about it on my own, but I will not post it until then), because I would like to learn as much as I can before I actually publish it. And I would like it to be accurate. I can write a lot of things based on my emotions, but that is not going to help anyone get anywhere.

 

Tomorrow will bring about a new adventure I’m sure, but I have no idea what it is yet. We’ll see…

3 comments:

watersquash said...

thank you for the post, I was just about to ask you about Banaras

wow, you are really there...how amazing is that? I am really looking forward to your next post! k great, bye...be safe (hadn't said it in a while)

lots of love,
sakshi

Akshay said...

See?? History is ALWAYS interesting...one day it will come back to get you!

I told you so haha.

Thats really cool. my dad also says hi.

mary said...

you're finally there!!! It must feel great varun! i'm so glad you're safe, and already doing so much!! don't take a minute for granted... but DO take too many pictures...

lots of love

-mary