I woke up the next morning to the sound of the alarm I had set on my mobile phone. It was a day to explore and witness the grandeur of the city of Varanasi- a day to explore the temples of education and faith. My friend, who was on a vacation to Kolkata, had two huge suitcases accompanying her. She wanted to drop them off at her hostel and this was the perfect excuse for me to go to the Benaras Hindu University (BHU) also known as the Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalay. BHU is one of the oldest universities in India and one which is extremely coveted for its high standards of education.
We skipped breakfast and hastily got ready to go to the campus and boarded an auto for Lanka (not Ravan’s Lanka), of course, and reached within fifteen minutes through the rugged and rustic roads. We preferred to walk it down to her hostel and she explained some of the major buildings that fell en route. We arrived at her hostel where some familiar faces greeted her. After accomplishing the task that we initially came to BHU for, we set out for exploring the city. My friend insisted on trying the Malaiyo, (a sweet dessert made of malai and topped with dry fruits). Initially I thought it might be heavy, but one spoon of malaiyo and I instantly fell in love with it.
After a hearty breakfast, we proceeded towards the Assi Ghat. I had heard that there is a Morning Arati in Varanasi which takes place in Assi Ghat but we just could not manage to get up on time to witness it. Nevertheless, it was as beautiful as I could have ever imagined. Lines of boats were parked near the shores. A few handfuls were out on the waters touring tourists and photographers. I saw a flock of birds encircling the sky at a distance. They were making a wonderful pattern over the sky. The temples in the ghat were filled with devotees and a few people were sitting and sunbathing in the January sun on the ghat. We stayed there for about half an hour before making our way out.
We got on a hand- pulled rickshaw to take us to some of the most famous temples of the city. The Durga Mandir with its own temple pond attracted my attention a lot. Unfortunately, as is with most temples, photography inside the premise was not allowed. I went inside, took a tour and came outside. It was a beautiful red colored temple. We then moved onto the Tulsi Manas Mandir. The walls of this temple were inscribed with versus from the Ramcharitmanas in Sanskrit. Outside the temple, miniature statues depicting scenes from the Ramayana was positioned at frequent intervals of each other.
I was rather interested to take a photograph of me in a yogic position and requested my friend to click a photograph which she obligingly did. Our next destination was the Tridev Mandir where all three deities – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh– are worshipped. Interestingly the stairs of this temple had carvings resembling Mughal architecture.
We made a quick stop to Godhulia because I wanted to buy some little curios for my family back home; and what better than the main market of Varanasi to help me decide on the gifts to bring back home. After finishing my shopping, I even took a minute out to visit the Brihaspati temple before heading back to the hostel.
We reached Zostel around 12:30 pm and decided to take rest before venturing out for lunch. Also, we were to be joined by another friend of ours. His travels were very unique in its own way and would make anyone burst out laughing.