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Published: September 30th 2018
Being a little cooler first thing in the morning we decided to get up early again today. I must admit that without knowing there was a boat waiting for us it was difficult but the call to prayers by the next door mosque at 5am helped wake us up.
After finding someone to let us out of our guesthouse we wondered down to the Ghats to watch the morning goings on. The Ghats just north of the Manikarnika ghat (main burning ghat) were surprisingly quiet compared to those we rowed past at the same time to the south yesterday. There were a few men washing in the Ganges and a group having a religious service in an area at the back of the Ghat. Finding a place with a reasonable view we sat down to watch the goings on.
Once sat down we were no longer asked about boats or bothered by anyone wanting us to buy things.
It didn’t take long for the ghat to get very busy. Women and children arrived to wash. We had short conversations with people trying to practice their English. And we watched as groups formed by small shrines and had religious ceremony’s making
North part of Manikarnika Ghat
little balls from flour and Ganges water. These balls, and other offerings, are put into the Ganges as offerings to deceased souls as they believe heaven is open for 15 days from 4 days ago (I’ve tried to find out more about this but google has failed me and the people I’ve spoken to haven’t been able to expand on what I’ve already been told).
As the sun came up and started to become uncomfortable we walked back towards our guesthouse. We went past the Golden temple and Gyan Kupur well, the outside area currently covered in scaffolding and building works. Entry to the temples is supposedly for Hindus only. Plenty of tourists get in depending on the security guards on the day but we decided to respect their wishes and not try.
After breakfast, a short nap and checking out we went back for a wonder towards the golden temple - we wanted to see if we could view it from the outside by walking to the other side of the perimeter. By this time there were extremely long queues of people waiting to get in. Squeezing past we discovered that it’s not possible to get a
Scales at Manikarnika Ghat
Wood is sold by weight depending on type of wood and weight required
good view of the gold leafed temple towers which seems a bit of a shame. We were, however, told that as a tourist you don’t need to queue - there’s a separate tourist entrance where you can get in. I felt quite uncomfortable about the idea of queue jumping just because we’re foreign (and pay). We were also told you can’t see the towers from the inside so we decided to leave it.
Whilst in that part of town we found a whole street dedicated to cheese which was interesting and went to the Lonely Planets ‘best lassi in India’ - the blue lassi. The lassi was very good, served in single use clay pots. Being on the main route to the burning ghat we also saw about 5 bodies (well covered in bright sheets and flowers) and their funeral processions go past (men only and women are too likely to cry).
Later in the day we headed back down to Assi Ghat and then inland to the monkey temple. This was described by one of the locals as his favourite place in Varanasi. The large temple has a small garden full of monkeys. They were even using the
humans drinking taps!
The temple itself isn’t a particularly pretty building but it was very popular with music and singing and it had a good atmosphere.
Walking back towards our accommodation we went past the beautifully lit Sri Durga temple and the adjacent gardens.
Once out of the narrow alleys and onto the main roads we found Varanasi much less attractive. That said it’s still full of beautiful old buildings and temples and if you remember to look up it’s fascinating. President Modi has done a fantastic job at clearing Varanasi up - whilst you still have to watch for cow & dog poo the rubbish is swept up and cleared away most days making it one of the cleaner cities we’ve been to in India.
Given Varanasi’s mixed reputation we were pleasantly surprised that we really enjoyed our time here and could easily have stayed longer. The people are mostly very friendly and the area is so geared up to tourists it easy to find good food and coffee and is one of the few places I’d have been happy walking around on my own.
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