Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dos and Don’ts In Varanasi

Apparently, the claim of spirituality in Varanasi is utter nonsense. There are more shops than deities here. Westerners come here to see the poverty of India because I feel they can experience a sublime pleasure to see the superiority of materialism over spiritualism, of course in their own material mind-set.

For the record, I’ve met people here who stay in this place for a long time. Mark Dyczkowski lives here from last 40 years, working on Kashmiri Shaivaism. There is a young French priest Yann who lives a simple life here from last 2 years. There are some other people I know here who came here from different parts of the world and fell in love with this city. As my friend Yann has told me there are two eyes, and we have to see from both eyes. If we see from one eye, we only see one way of looking at things. Both eyes give us the duality, and we have a choice we can pick the good and bad according to our nature.

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I put here some dos and don’ts in Varanasi from my own way. You can implement those points if you would come to this place.

•    Visit the ‘Little Sisters of Jesus’. Their house is near Pandey Ghat, you climb the stairs and just next to Vishnu Guest House, it’s the House of Jesus (Yashu Grah written in Hindi means home of Jesus). These sisters are living in Varanasi for a long time; they are really nice and helpful. They can also tell you much intricate things about Varanasi and their experience as a Westerner living this city.

•    You may visit ‘Baba Kinaram Ashram’ near Shivala. It is the only Aghori Ashram where you won’t see the concept of “flesh eating Aghori”. You can clear your misconception about Aghors by reading innumerable quotations and books found in their bookstall.

Aghori Ashram at Shivala
•    There is a small Dargah in Benia Bagh, which was established by Rahim Shah Baba. It is a small Dargah but I found the place very peaceful.

•    At Shivala you may visit ‘Missionaries of Charity’. There are people living there who are proscribed by their own families. Their small yet moving stories are inspirational to learn the crude side of our society. You can also perform small voluntary work if you wish.

•    Don’t miss the Ganga Aarti at Dashswamedh Ghat. I feel there is something very Hindu about it.

•    Go to Manikarnika Ghat and watch cremation. It’s the largest burning place in Varanasi and nearby. You may read more in my Burning Ghats post.

Varanasi Galis
•    Go and get lost in Varanasi confusing lanes and bylanes.  Don’t worry people there are friendly and always give you a right direction. You will see so much in Varanasi narrow galis (lanes).

•    See that stretch of Ghats from the other shore. Take a boat ride and travel to the other shore.

•    Try to find your hotel or guest house near ghat from where you can see the sunrise and whole of river Ganges.

•    Don’t be robbed or fooled by a few drug dealers. If you want to smoke marijuana, smoke with sadhus but not with other people.

Ganga Aarti at Dashwamedh Ghat
•    Don’t get too inspired by sadhus and take shelter in their feet. Most of the sadhus in the peak season who are living on ghats are very friendly with foreigners because of their livelihood. They can tell you endless stories, show you certain things but that’s not religion or spiritualism of any kind. If you want to find good Sadhus, find them in obscure places.

•    Don’t roam in the night.

•    Bargain with rickshaw walas. They generally charge you double if you are new in the city.

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