Benares! Day – 3

This post is the progression of my earlier travelogue posts (Day 1Day 1 ContinuedDay 2 and Day 2 Continued) on Benares trip earlier this year, Hope you enjoy it.

Benares – Day 3

In the day 2 post where i mentioned i met a few photographers and travelers while i was having my late lunch at the Cafe Zoe near Assi Ghat. We discussed a lot on traveling, photography and life in general, among other things. Life in their countries and life here in india. It was then that i started loving my travels more, cause they made me meet people from across the world who thought like i did.

We met in the evening again on the same day. While bidding goodbyes for the night they invited me to their place for breakfast the next morning. I was so psyched to meet them again. The best part! we didn’t exchange our numbers, they just gave me their address and told me to be their in the morning.

The next morning, i was up at 7 o’clock. Got my shower and ready to go in the next half hour. Then, I started for their hotel where few of them had been living from the past few days.

It was a Welcome Heritage hotel on the far north side of the Main ghat. As i walked towards this hotel, i had to go through two really scary and shocking spots, which i didn’t know were there on my way. First was the living area of the Aghori Babas.

Oh boy! That place scared the living shit out of me. But as i digested all that was going around while crossing that spot, i made peace with it. These Aghori monks are said to be an mysterious ancient tribe who feast on human flesh as part of their rituals, as well as drinking from human skulls, chewing the heads off live animals and meditating on top of cadavers in search of spiritual enlightenment.

Here a picture of an Aghori Baba taken by an Italian photographer Cristiano Ostinelli who spent time with the tribe to discover more about their way of life. Here’s the complete article.

Aghori Baba | Photo credits – Italian photographer Cristiano Ostinelli

I wasn’t even back to my wits yet, then came the scariest moment of my Benares Trip. It was a heavy feeling of weird kind of energy when i passed by the “Manikarnika Ghat”*. I’m getting goosebumps even right now, as i’m writing this. I couldn’t even take my camera out, when i was crossing this place.

I saw death in bulk. Grief, i never saw before, fire slowly consuming the flesh. It was dark. Here are couple of picture taken by other travelers, which i want to share here just give a glimpse of this place.

Photo Credits - Varanasi City Online (Website)

Photo Credits – Varanasi City Online (Website)

Manikarnika Ghat - Photo Credits - Honza Soukup

Manikarnika Ghat – Photo Credits – Honza Soukup

My mind was out of my body for few minutes. I was dumbstruck as i walked away from this place. The energy from this place was so disturbing that i could feel it the rest of the day.

I reached the hotel after 10 minutes. After reaching the hotel i sighed in relief. I greeted my new friends as they came down to get me to the rooftop of the hotel. The darkness which i experienced 15 minutes back, subsided for next few moments.

Here is the picture from that moment when i saw this front view of the Welcome Heritage Hotel. It looked like a part of a palace.

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Front view of the Welcome Heritage Hotel

As we reached on the rooftop, my jaw was wide open after seeing this spectacular panoramic view of the Ganges and the Ghats. Here are some beautiful pictures from that moment. Probably these will help you out too, to get away from the darkness shown in above pictures, if you started feeling it too with my words.

The below one was an old rusty heritage building, which was apparently under dispute between the hotel where i was standing and the bahubali Babas (illegitimately) living on this property.

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Rusty Heritage Building

To the right was this panoramic view. You can see the historic bridge in the far north end. The view was mesmerizing.

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Here is a zoomed in version of the same bridge. How magical is the view. Isn’t it?

The Bridge

Here is a picture of a boat sailing and leaving the wake pattern on the holy Ganges.

The Wake

A picture from the hotel’s rooftop wall.

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‘Four Buddhas’

Then we had breakfast on the rooftop itself. Sitting out eating nice breakfast with the warm hospitality by the staff and watching this view. It helped getting my mind of the sad views i experienced sometime back.

That was the day when i learned breakfasts can be great conversations starters. It was amazing discussing life with those new friends and fellow travelers. Sometime you just feel like some friendships are meant to happen, even though you could never imagine.

Post the breakfast they insisted to join them to the music room where two musicians (from the hotel) later joined us, to play Sitar and Veena. The morning was slowly becoming from amazing to mesmerizing.

Here are a few pictures from the hotel’s music room which was on the first floor. I took these later when i was just exploring the hotel on my own in the afternoon.

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Left side of the music room. That’s where we sat listening to the mesmerizing veena.

Center of the music room with a small temple.

Right side of the music room where musicians were set up earlier in the day.

Close up of the temple inside the music room.

This heritage hotel was so amazing, i might not even be able to showcase with these few pictures. I feel like i should have videographed the whole experience. It was one of the rare experiences. Few more pictures to showcase the enigma of this beautiful heritage place converted into a hotel.

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Coffee room

Shot from another angle.

Painting of ‘Maharana Pratap’ on the wall next to the living area.

The center courtyard.

The vintage style hookah bar

Below is one of my favorite pictures. It looks like a painting, isn’t it?

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The leaves

The carved wooden window.

 

Pool of flowers.

The below is the picture of the things of my traveler friend, who called this Buddha statue ‘The little guy’. This is also one of my favorite pictures, i love how it came out.

The little guy

Banaras Times

Then after exploring the hotel for a bit i came down to the reception area to get a boat to go back to the main ghat where my hotel was. In the reception area i found this area in the left, which looked pretty japanese to me.

Japanese Vibe

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The vintage setup

Then i came out of the hotel to catch my boat. I saw this view on my left. I couldn’t resist taking the photograph.

The old traveler

BTW this hotel provided free boat service to their guests, that was pretty luxurious experience. Plus some cool sailers.

I hopped on to the boat and we started heading south.

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Cool Sailors

From the boat i took photographs of the ghats as we were crossing them. Here are a few of them.

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Bhonsale Ghat

The below picture is of a temple, which was hit by lightning the night before, as my boatmen told me. I was amazed it didn’t break and exploded completely. Lightening have such power of destruction. Right now at this moment, this old temple was slowly drowning into the Ganges bank.

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The drowning temple

Pink towers

Then i saw a guy in the middle of the Ganges as we were passing by. From far away, at first we were afraid if he was drowning and needed help. But as we approached it turned out he was having his morning swim. Business as usual for him. So we went on.

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The guy we thought was drowning, but wasn’t.

Then as we were going slowly on the boat, my boatmen pointed towards this rooftop restaurant, recommending it for my dinner. The said the views from will blow your mind. It did. I visited this rooftop restaurant in the evening. I was blown away.

In the below picture, the rooftop restaurant is the one standing tall in the middle, a long staircase going up and strange but beautiful pink clothing line going up into the hotel over which the rooftop restaurant was located.

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Here is the zoomed in shot of the rooftop restaurant. It’s called “Dolphin Rooftop Restaurant“.

This place offers beautiful view of the Ganges. But it lacks a lift which makes it difficult to reach the 5th floor, so you’ll find your appetite high as you walk up five floors right before your meal and it digests the food well, while coming down five floors, except for that the food was fine!

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Then after 10 minutes more we arrived at the Main ghat (Dashashvameddh Ghat). Here is the picturesque view of that moment.

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Dashashvameddh Ghat

Just on the right of the Main ghat is the Munshi Ghat! Here is the picture of it.

Munshi Ghat!

 Few more pictures from the Ghat.

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Pind daan Ceremony

The below is the Baba who made the big chandan tilak on my forehead the night before.  The face of this Baba was pretty interesting, so i had to take this portrait. Well, It came out pretty well.

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And here i’m with the big chandan tilak on my forehead and a funny face! Ok! you can have a laugh.

A few more pictures from the Ghat.

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In the shade of bamboo umbrella.

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Shankh

It was now time to head into the market and the narrow streets of Benares. There was hustle in the market, but there was a mysterious peace settled in there. That’s what i love the most of about Benares now, serenity among the hustle.

Here are a few pictures from the market.

Red Chilly

Narrow streets

Baba giving the blessings even on the move.

When in Benares, wear the skull garlands. Just kidding.

The red feet.

Narrow streets

The open street tea stall

The tea kettle

Walking through all these narrow and less bustling streets, eventually i approached towards the main market area. Where one could find all the Benares goodies – The Bangles, The handmade table rugs, Sindoor (Red color signifying the marriage) Dani (container) etc.

I checked out many cool shops. Shopkeepers were pretty friendly and it was amazing walking through that market. I stopped by a shop to get a few Sindoor Danis for my sister and cousins. This shop was full of colors and so photogenic. I took a few shots of this shop. Here they are.

Sindoor Dani

The hands and the color.

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Damaru (Lord Shiva’s favorite instrument*)

The overhead shot filled with so much color.

Then i came back to the main market, where i took the last picture of the day. Here is that photograph.

Monk in a Bhagwa (Orange) rob.

After my walk in the market i started heading back to my hotel in Bengali Tola. I was exhausted physically and mentally (after seeing that dark side of Benares). I needed some rest and sleep now. But the thoughts of the Manikarnika Ghat didn’t dissolve, i could still feel that weird and disturbing energy. It took me a few hours of sleep to be back not normal.

I ended my day 3 in Benares with a light dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Day – 4…To be continued…

Thanks for reading.

…Himanshu

Footnotes –

  • * “Manikarnika Ghat” – An interesting article on this Ghat, you can read it here.
  • * Damru – The damru is known as the instrument of the deity Shiva, and is said to be created by Shiva to produce spiritual sounds by which the whole universe has been created and regulated. Read more about it here.

A Quote I’m pondering on lately –

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

― Marcus Aurelius

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