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Published: April 19th 2010
Well after a tiring train journey and walking in the alleys in Varanasi. I followed the suggestion of the receptionist and went to watch the evening Arti at Dasaswamedha Ghat overlooking Ganga. It was simply spectacular with several thousands of pilgrims. The plan was to take a boat ride to watch the sunset and the evening Arti at the end. Well, I was unable to take the boat ride, thanks to Indian Railways! But the ritual of Arti along with chants of Siva thandava sthotrams was awesome. No wonder why it is revered as the most scared place for hindus. After watching the event, I just forgot the painful journey and felt refreshed. There were many foreigners who were awestruck with the event. I am sure this one kind they would not get to see anywhere in the world. It was 8:00pm by the conclusion of the Arti and I proceeded to the main temple.
There was no electricity and I had to navigate my way through several small alleys making sure that I did not step on cow and human excreta on the alleys. All, the alleys near the temples were filthy and stinking. There was no drainage system and people literally lived on the alleys (bath, eat & others). The architecture lived up to its rustic history. People were very friendly though. The only way to reach the temple from the main road is by walk (approx 2 kms). I am not sure how the elderly manage to visit the temple with all the walking they need to do.
On my way, I noticed that there were many security personnel armed with guns at every corner that leads to the temple. I had finally reached the alley leading to Gate 2 of the temple. I was asked to put away my camera and cell phone. Don’t plan to take anything inside. No polythene, pens, cameras, bags, and cellphones are allowed. I deposited my items in a locker in a store at the entrance of the temple for 10Rs. I was screened for another 3 times before I could enter the temple. The temple is small, nestled within the small alleys and houses. At that time, there weren’t too many people in the temple. I purchased tickets for Mangala Arti and Rudrabhishekam for the next day. I then went inside, the Jyothirlingam of Visweswara is small compared to the ones you see in south India. Unlike what I was told, the pandits were not too bad compared to the folks in tirupathi. The best part is - you can touch the sivalingam and perform a quick abhishekam yourself. This is completely unknown in South India where you would not be allowed near the deity/lingam. The worst place is Tirupathi, where you will get to see the lord from a mile away unless you are influential!
I prayed to the lord and happily walked out of the temple. The next day morning, I woke up at 2:00am and got ready to go to Mangala Arti. I got to the temple at 2:30am. You need to buy tickets to attend this event. After waiting for a while, the temple doors were opened and we were allowed. Mangala Arti is the first puja to the lord and that too was great to attend. Luckily, I was given the privilege to ring the first bells of the temple during the Karpuram Arti. I felt blessed with the offer. After the Mangala Arti, I waited for the pandit that was supposed to perform the Rudrabhishekan pooja. He showed up late and delayed further by another 2 hours before, he started the pooja. That went ok, I was not too impressed other than the fact that I performed the abhishekam myself with milk, honey, kumkum, turmeric, vibhuthi, and others, of course with the instructions of the pandit.
I then got back to the room and took a dip in the holy river. I performed the last rites for my Dad and grand Dads. As expected, the river is polluted and not clean but it isn’t too bad either.
I was told to worship the lord after a bath in Ganga. I have already visited the temple twice before taking the dip and did not plan to visit the temple again. So, I proceeded to Visaalakshi temple. Once again, I asked around for directions and surprisingly, I passed the temple and landed in Visweswara temple. I guess the Lord has his own way of making sure I did things appropriately. There was a huge queue in the temple but I snuck in a worshipped him again. I then found my way to Visaalakshi temple, very easily this time and worshipped her. From there, I went to Kala Bhairav temple (2kms away from Visweswara temple). After returning to the room, I took a boat ride for 1 hour from Dasaswamedha Ghat. It was a nice trip. The guy took me to Manikarnika Ghat, where corpses are burnt and the ashes dumped into Ganga. That was quite as experience to watch. The holy river where millions take a dip every day, corpses burnt, people wash the clothes, defecate in the river, and drink the same water. I am sure public health specialists wonder too! Overall, it was a great experience in Varanasi. Every Hindu should to visit this place atleast once in their lifetime. I have realized my childhood dream of kasi…. Not knowing the significance at that time, I was just attracted because of a song (NTR in 1980’s Naa Desam, I guess)…..Kasi Viswanadha Thandri Viswanatha.
I checked out of my room and headed to the station to go to Allahabad. Once again the train is delayed by an hour and a half. Eastern railway sucks! I reached Allahabad at 9:00pm instead of 7:00 and sure enough there weren’t any AC dorms available. So, I checked into a hotel near the station. Rickshaws are the best and cheapest form of transportation in Allahabad.
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