Banaras Sojourns – The conclusion.
Posted on: December 27, 2017 By: MG
It was late evening when we had reached Varanasi on 25th, kind of all geared up with our woollen caps and jackets to gracefully accept the North Indian cold. On top of our must do things on the non spiritual side was to savour the Banarsi food. So we had Puri Kachauri, bread toast, kulhad ki chai, kadhai ka doodh, jalebi, chura matar chaat on our wish list.
Trust me friends when I say -nothing to beat on a cold wintry North Indian morning is a few kulhads of chai and the butter toast which they make here. They toast the bread on an angethi ( coal stove) on a special grill which can take in almost 8-10 slices of bread. The stall owner would then do a Zubin Mehta, and move his hand in a rhythmic way over the angethi turning the grill in all directions till the bread turns into a toast of the just right golden brown colour and of an inviting crispness. And then comes the yummy part and all diet schedules are put on a hold as the stall owner spreads a huge cube of butter on a slice (equal to what you would normally apply on 5 slices of bread). That’s what they call as butter toast here in Varanasi with butter oozing out of the bread to spread all around your mouth as you take a bite. In comparison our home made butter toast now looked like one from a famine infested part of the world.
It was then followed up with a visit to Kachauri Gali. The gali ( street) obviously got its name from the few shops selling the yummiest of Kachauris you can ever get your hands on. There are two types of kachauris, one stuffed with potato and served with chana syrup and chutni and the other puri Kachauri served with alu ki sabji. Savouring the hot steaming Kachauri and ending with a round of hot sumptuous jalebis on a cold wintry morning is heavenly. Trust me as I write my mouth has started watering.
The day was kept for a visit to Sarnath. Holiday season ensured that the traffic was chockablock. Kudos to ASI for they have done a great job in keeping the relics safe at Sarnath. Inspite of huge rush for a change there was cleanliness at the site. The lawns were well maintained and information posts about each relic gave us a connect of what it would had been 2000 years ago. The Ashoka Pillar which we had read about in our history books was just a 5 ft broken stone column with the head ( the four lions) kept in the museum. The giant Stupa made as a in memory of Buddha first’s sermon overlooked the entire Sarnath site.
The entrance to the museum left us awestruck as our 2500 years old majestic national emblem ( the huge four lions sculpture) glared at us as if asking us-‘Do you know about the rich art and sculpture you inherit? Do you feel proud about it?’ Isn’t it amazing that whatever we have as a culture, whether it be spiritual, architectural, musical, medical, educational, philosophical, all this is not a just few hundred years old but it was all thought of thousands of years ago. I felt so overwhelmed with this very thought that i am walking on the same ground on which Lord Buddha must have walked on, that I am touching something which the great men of the past gave their life to. I wanted to so much soak in all that was there.
But the scene at the Sarnath site was different, the majority of Indians visiting Sarnath were there as tourists and not as travellers. They failed to let go of the present and were unable to walk back into time. They were indifferent to what they were watching, indifferent to what they were treading on. They had made the lawns a picnic spot, they had made relics a place to sit on and carve their names.
What we don’t appreciate, what we don’t respect we lose that. No wonder we were looted and plundered for majority of us were indifferent. I remember visiting Hampi where we have at the 14th century Vittala Temple, the Ranga Mandappa. It was well known for its 56 musical pillars also known as SaReGaMa pillars. Each pillar made out of a single block of stone would produce a given musical note when tapped with a thumb. Visiting it made us say -what architecture! what art! But it’s closed now for visitors as few pillars were destroyed by the moghuls, a few by the British and many by ‘Indian tourists’.
That’s what indifference does, makes you careless to protect what’s yours and makes others powerful to destroy what’s yours. Did our teachers miss out during our schooling days to create some pride in what we have inherited, did our leaders over generations miss out on making the country feel awesome and proud of our past?
Anyways back to the hustle and bustle of the Banaras city. The modern city has two things which are distinct. One is the habit of eating tobacco. I wouldn’t go over board if I were to say almost everyone on the street would be having their mouth stuffed with it and make it so difficult to decipher what they would be saying. Time and again our driver would come to our rescue and it would be fun watching two guys speaking with their mouths full of tobacco speaking carefully in a dialect just to avoid spilling what’s inside.. and that has made the city a spit freak city. Everyone would spit everywhere. And second is it’s also a horn freak city. Everyone is Happy honking. But like I said yesterday when you have something higher to hold onto then the lower doesn’t trouble you.
The ghats were much cleaner than what I was told with couple of river cleaning boats continuously doing the rounds to make Ganga clean. But without inculcating civic sense the government would find it impossible to make Swachch Bharat initiative a success. We are too big a country for a government to bring about a change.
Banaras gave us more than we came for. So the discomfort of honking, of filth is just a small payoff. For the positive side our driver didn’t honk the entire time he was with us for those two days and he was happy to realise that he was still alive inspite of not honking. In fact the second day he actually started feeling uncomfortable with other people honking unnecessarily. People change. Don’t they?
Last but most important on the list was Rachna’s wish to visit a weaving unit to see ( and buy too) how a Banarsi Saree is made. Nothing much to say except that both were granted by yours truly..
So with our Varanasi sojourns over we head to Lucknow for a day and then to my hometown Nainital.
Hope you had a good read!
Bye for now and make a great day!