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Old 30th November 2011, 17:42   #76
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Default Re: Exploring Banaras - Day 1 - Silks, Sun Set cuise, Ganga Aarthi and Lord Vishwanth

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Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
After leisurely breakfast, we meet Mukesh, our guide to chalk out the program for the next three days. Winter has not set in and it is pretty hot outside.
Poorna,
The silk sarees are simply too good along with the other exquisite stuff that you have purchased. Very good narration and photos summarizes your post. However is there not anything worthwhile that you ate in Banaras?
Also as Mr Rao mentioned dayavittu tell the reason of Udaipur...Can you please make a faster narration as well your thread has been like a morning ritual for me...
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Old 1st December 2011, 21:17   #77
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Default Exploring Banaras - Day 1 continued - Gullies, Ghats and boat ride on Ganga

Yes. This is Kashi. The holiest of the places for Hindus. We enter the narrow street leading to Vishwanatha temple known as Vishwanatha galli. These gullies are so narrow that only one two wheeler or a bicycle can enter them.

Kashi comes alive in these gullies. It is maze and one can get lost easily here. One gully leads to another and we follow Mukesh very closely so that we won’t get lost. It is a lively scene out there where you can see all kinds of hawkers selling Pooja material, knick-knacks, small restaurants, kirana shops, sweet stalls, utesnsil stalls, fabric stores etc You can get anything here. It looks like a whole world in itself.

Brinda and Mukesh at the start of the Vishwanatha Galli

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These siganages should tell the story on what is to expect inside!!

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Gullies with road side shrines aplenty

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Brown Bread bakery – the famous bakery in Kashi which supports welfare activities for the poor

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Mukesh brings us to shop known to him and a young boy is assigned to us to take us inside the temple. The temple is highly protected – after bomb blasts in Varanasi in 2006 - with layers of security and we see many armed police men around the temple. We are not allowed to carry cameras or cell phones. We get frisked by the police and go to the flower vendor to pick up a basket containing flowers, banana, a pot of milk and some peda for offering to the lord. We are not prepared for what was in store inside the temple!

Flower vendor – look at his sitting pose!!

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There is not much of rush and there is no special darshan like in other places. We stand in the queue and expect to have darshan in next 30 minutes. The queue moves slowly. This is not a big temple and shares its compound with Gyan Vapi mosque built by Aurangzeb.

As we enter we notice hordes of monkeys – big & small – roaming around the temple freely snatching away the fruits and Prasad from the baskets carried by piligrims. These monkeys are absolutely arrogant and are not sparing anyone carrying the Pooja basket. Brinda, who is carrying basket is scared and hands it over to Ram Sharan the boy accompanying us. Ram Sharan covers the basket with his hand trying to protect it from these monkeys. That won’t last for a long time. A big monkey suddenly jumps from the roof, snatches away the fruits and the peda from him. In the bargain, he suffers small bruises as well. Fortunately the flowers and milk pot is still intact.

We near the main idol – A small linga – and perform milk abhisheka. Seeing us, the Pandit sitting and facilitating the Pooja sign us to come closer and touch the idol and perform puja. We do as he says and promptly pays a Dakshina of Rs 100. He is visibly happy!!

We come out of the temple and just opposite the shop where we had left our camera etc is this chai shop – chai shops in Kashi are a dime a dozen. Freshly brewed chai in kullad is welcome. The shop sells perfumes, spices and other Pooja articles as well. Ram Sharan offers to add chai Masala to the tea. We accept is offer and like it. We drink one cup and order one more.

Brinda in front of Chai stall with lady constable

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Chai done and we now move towards Dasashwamedha Ghat for our sun set cruise and Ganga Aarthi. We still have time for the start of cruise and want use it to explore the gullies. I ask Mukesh to take us to - Kachori Galli, Blu Lassi bar and Rajbandhu halwai as we have time. Kachori galli is next to Vishwanatha Galli and very soon we are in front to Raj Bandhu, the well known halwai.

He is preparing hot samosas and kachoris which we cannot resist. We pick up a kachoris and samosas and then the special peda. As we are eating our kachoris, we hear the words “Ram naam satya hi”. I look out and a dead body is being carried by a group to Mani Karnika ghat. Life goes on as usual!!

We now move to Blue Lassi shop. Kashi has many Lassi shops and Blue Lassi is one of the popular joints. We can see a bunch of firangs sitting insde and enjoying the Lassi. The Lassi is made by hand and the man making it – the third generation of the family – takes pride in doing his job. He goes on churning the fresh curds and makes glasses after glass. The Lassi is possibly one the best I have drank. He tops Lassi with dry fruits and it is heavenly. I ask him how many glasses he prepares every day. He says may be around 700-800. I ask him whether his hands do not pain doing all the churning. He says he is used to it now. The shop prepares its own dahi for Lassi and does not buy from outside.

Blue Lassi shop

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Blue Lassi getting ready

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Fulfilled with Kachori, Samosas, Peda, and Lassi we now move towards the Dasashwamedha ghat. This is the main ghat of Banaras. Increase in water level has submerged the steps of the ghat making it narrower. Crowds are already gathering to witness Ganga Aarthi likely to start at 7 PM. Mukesh signs the boat man who is ready to take us for a sun set ride.

It is not exactly sun set ride as you cannot see sun set in Banaras. Nevertheless, riding a boat in Ganga at night is a fascinating experience. We pick up floating diyas from the small boys who are selling them. We see everyone carrying some with them.

Boy selling diyas

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Ganga shrine on the ghat

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A sadhu on the ghat

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Bhajan session in a shrine on the ghat

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The boats are parked away from the steps and we had to literally hop from one boat to another to reach ours. To some extent we are experienced now having done similar circus in Prayag. We settle down in our boat for a ride on Ganga and move towards Manikarnika Ghat.

Crossing from one boat to another

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Leaving floating diyas in Ganga

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Dasashwamedha ghat as seen from the boat

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Boat ride on Ganga

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Manikarnika and Harish Chandra are two ghats in Banaras where cremation happens 24/7. Dead bodies keep coming from different parts of India. It is very well organized. There is an eternal flame which continues to burn 24/7. We see the pyres burning from our boat. The scene is surreal. The boat goes close to the ghat but Mukesh advises not to take pictures from close up as it will be like disrespecting the dead. A poignant moment for the relatives cannot be an entertainment for the tourists.

Manikarnika Ghat

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Eternal flame @ Manikarnika Ghat

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Pyres and activities @ Manikarnika Ghat

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We turn back and come back to Dasashwamedha ghat. The boat gests anchored and we are now to watch the grand spectacle of Ganga Aarthi from the boat.

Crowd waiting for Aarthi to start

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The stage for Aarthi – The stage is set at a high platform due to rise in the water level in the river which had submerged the steps. Once water recedes, the Aarthi happens on the steps of the ghat.

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To be continued ........The spectacle of Ganga Aarthi!
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Old 2nd December 2011, 11:11   #78
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Default Re: Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh

Khajurao > Majestic sculptures.

Photography is really outstanding.

Beneras by lanes simply rock!

Fauji man I have missed my dental appointment thanks to this TL !

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Old 2nd December 2011, 12:29   #79
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Default Re: Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh

Sir, Amazing pics, Amazing plan, Amazing Details. Your private message made me go through this log and this is fantastic.
Been at these places in my childhood and still have awesome memories of them.
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Old 2nd December 2011, 22:59   #80
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Default Re: Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh

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Originally Posted by pravdr View Post
the suside point is called "khakra koh" again a geological wonder.all of this area was under sea and when it rose when the tectonic plates clashed. near to this point is a fossil musuem.did u see it? regards' dr praveen
Thanks Praveen. We saw the board but did not go inside.

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Originally Posted by pravdr View Post
in 2010 road from bhopal to sanchi was good.but it seems the sagar section is still not repaired. i had to drop my plans to visit udayapur 4 kms before. udayapur has a magnificent temple similar to khajuraho. the roa was so bad and with low gc it was not possible so 4 kms before udayapur i turned back. at one place a tractor was placed across the road as it was so bad it was unmotorable and the road was diverted along farm road.

udayapur and gyraspur are hideen gems only if we had roads reaching them

praveen
Bhopal - Sanchi is still good. They have to maintain the road lest they will lose UNESCO Heritage status. Beyond Sanchi till Sagar is a mess. It is sad that we had to miss magnificent Udaypur and Gyraspur as we did not have energy to drive on the bad roads.

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Originally Posted by Rajesh1968 View Post
Looks like a catalyst for me to plan for MP - Jyothirling tour, Omkareshwar, Trimabak, Somanath and Srisailam in Septemebr 2012. Looking forward to next update
Thanks Rajesh. Saw your GQ adventure. Fantastic! Pls plan the trip after rains. These areas look lovely.

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Originally Posted by roamingrao View Post
Fantastic photographs, captivating narration, Exotic locations ( may i add erotic also ! ), mouth watering dishes, colourful benaras... the list goes on. Rated five stars too.

Yella ok, but Udaipur henge ????

I have been following your travelogue right from Bangalore to Shirdi to Bhopal to Khajuraho to Allahabad to Varanasi. At each junction, i've been saying this to myself - Ok, fauji bhai will now take a left turn towards Udaipur. But no, you seem to go more eastwards !!

Now, Iam posting this unable to kill my curiosity ! I know you've mentioned earlier that you would reveal this, but please dont keep the secret for long - start driving towards Udaipur and Bangalore faster.

Swalpa daye thorisi !! Atleast I am sitting on the edge of the seat !!!!


Otherwise, I'm lovin it !
Thank you Ashok. We just followed your footsteps!! Should i keep you guessing about our U turn any more? No sir. Here it is. Here is how it happenned. We left Orcha and were in Jhansi and driving towards Lalitpur. Our plan was to drive to Nagpur - Hyderabd and then Bangalore. But Telengana was again flaring up and i stopped and told my wife why don't we avoid driving through it.

I opened the map and saw Udaipur was just 450 KMs! Udaipur is one of our favourite place having stayed there for three days in 2009. But i was not sure of road condition. The next step was to call HVK who confirmed that it was a good idea and road condition was fantastic. I also called up Sudipto who had travelled on this road - he has penned a nice TL on his Rajasthan trip - the previous day and he gave a thumbs up. Now we were heading towards Udaipur.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ku69rd View Post
Poorna,
The silk sarees are simply too good along with the other exquisite stuff that you have purchased. Very good narration and photos summarizes your post. However is there not anything worthwhile that you ate in Banaras?
Also as Mr Rao mentioned dayavittu tell the reason of Udaipur...Can you please make a faster narration as well your thread has been like a morning ritual for me...
Thanks Mahesh. I was bit held up last week. Will update regularly henceforth. Regarding Udaipur, look at my response to ashok above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nanduchitnis View Post
Khajurao > Majestic sculptures.

Photography is really outstanding.

Beneras by lanes simply rock!

Fauji man I have missed my dental appointment thanks to this TL !
Sirji, thank you so much for your kind words.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nomadabhi View Post
Sir, Amazing pics, Amazing plan, Amazing Details. Your private message made me go through this log and this is fantastic.
Been at these places in my childhood and still have awesome memories of them.
Thanks Abhi. Glad to know that you liked it.
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Old 5th December 2011, 12:53   #81
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Cool Re: Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh

WoW !!! had missed the activities on this thread for a while.. it feels amazing to be back here Banaras- Bana hua Ras a city which is full of life Waiting for more sir !! keep posting and I shall keep reading
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Old 5th December 2011, 16:51   #82
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Default Exploring Banaras - Day 1 continued - Spectacle of Ganga Aarthi!!

As i said earlier, the flooding waters have ensured that the Ganga Aarthi cannot take place close to the river. The authorities have set up a sort of platform from where the Aarthi is performed. This to some extent has reduced the overall experience of spectacle. Nevertheless, it is a grand spectacle that is a must in the itinerary of anyone visiting Banaras.

The best place to watch Aarthi is from the boat anchored in water. It is comfortable and you won’t get jostled around by the crowd. Fortunately, we had carried our 70*300 mm zoom which was able to capture the action more clearly. Seven young boys nicely dressed in silk arrive and take their positions.

Let the spectacle unfold now

The Aarthi starts with a Bhajan praising Ganga accompanied by the sound of conch shell.

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There are various stages in the Aarthi and the first activity is worshipping with incense sticks or agarbathi. The practice is to worship the gods and goddesses in all directions and the boys use well practiced hand movements in each direction before coming to original position and face the river.

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This is followed by dhoop which follows same pattern

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The next one is spectacular as the boys lit up big Aarthi plate with many small diyas. Each plate should have at least fifty diyas in them. As they perform the Aarthi, the crowd below cries “Ganga Maiyya ki Jai".

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Old 5th December 2011, 17:07   #83
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Default Continued....Ganga Aarthi

The Deepa Aarthi – Aarthi of diyas – is followed by aarti by “Agni kund” or “fire plate” in each hand.

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The fire Aarthi is followed by “Chamara Seve” in the form of peacock feather fan and a fan made of fine hair. In between we see blowing of conch shell

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The complete Aarthi take 45 minutes to perform and is a real spectacle. We get down from the boat and move from one boat to another before reaching the steps of ghat. It was not worth taking a video of the Aarthi as the distance was long. Mukesh suggested if we want to a buy a DVD of Ganga Aarthi produced by the temple authorities. He takes us to the platform where the Aarthi was done few minutes back. Here are people selling the DVD and we pick up one as well.

We come out and walk around the ghat to experience the frenzy of activities. It seems like an eternal festival here. We see groups engaged in Bhajans, someone performing a ritual, some listening to a discourse. There are many like us who just want to absorb the atmosphere.

We come out of the ghat and ask Mukesh to take us to a good place for dinner. He takes us to Kesari restaurant which is part of a large group. We order thali and get excellent rotis, subji and Kheer as dessert. It is delicious – especially the Kheer – and we walk out happy. The next stop naturally has to be a pan shop and Mukesh takes us to a well known pan shop in the area.

Eating Pan is part of culture in Banaras. There is no specific time for it as you can see people chewing one all the time. Banarasi pan is generally “Sada” pan unless you specifically ask for “meetha”. Even when they make “meetha” no gulkhand is added. The pan leaves are fresh and tasty and “geela” supari completes the recipe!! The pan is served on a small leaf with chunks of “Chuna” or lime which Banarasis savour. I don’t think Orthopedics in Banaras have much business with amount of calcium that goes into Banarasis body in the form of Chuna making their bones stronger!!

The Famous Banarasi pan!! Notice the Chuna on top of it!!

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We catch an auto and return back to hotel for a well earned sleep. We have to get up earlly next day to go on sun rise cruise which is what we have been waiting for.

to be continued........Stunning sunrise cruise, Morning street scenes and Desi ghee breakfast in Ram Bhandar!!!
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Old 7th December 2011, 11:58   #84
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Default Re: Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh

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WoW !!! had missed the activities on this thread for a while.. it feels amazing to be back here Banaras- Bana hua Ras a city which is full of life Waiting for more sir !! keep posting and I shall keep reading
Thanks Bilal. No doubt about it. Banaras is a city full of energy and full of life and needs to be savoured slowly.
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Old 8th December 2011, 16:38   #85
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Thumbs up Exploring Banaras – Day 2 – Sunrise cruise & Morning scenes @ Ghats

Mukesh had asked us on the previous day to be ready by 5.30 AM to go for Sun rise cruise. We had asked the hotel guys to give us bed tea – never ask for coffee in North India - at 5 AM.

Tea arrived promptly and we were ready in the reception by 5.30 when Mukesh joined us. We were to board the boat at Assi Ghat. We go down to the ghat and the boat man fixed by Mukesh says that there is lot of slush on the ghat, requests us to go to Tulsi ghat where he will bring the boat.

Tulsi ghat is five minutes’ walk from the hotel and we get into the boat there. Tulsi ghat named after Tulsi das whose house and small temple is on the ghat from where he wrote Ram Charit Manas.

Sunrise cruise on Ganga in Banaras is a memorable experience and not be missed on for anyone's itenerary. It gives a glimpse of morning life along the ghats in banaras. If you are lucky - as we were - you can see stunning views of sun rising. (I had got up the next day to watch sun rise from the hotel but clouds spoilt the show totally)

These boats are slow moving with oars. Each boat has a boat man and his assistant. They move very slowly and help us to see stunning sun rise over the horizon with Ganga in the foreground, the panoramic views of ghats and the morning life on ghats closely.

Ganga is Banaras and Banaras is Ganga. For locals it is the lifeline. For devout pilgrims she is “Ganga Mayya – the mother who will wash away all the sins”. I am fascinated by the energy of the people, their beliefs and devotion to god. You have people for all walks of life gathering on the ghat to worship the sun as he rises in the east. They all are equal in front of Ganga Mayya.

It is believed that worshiping Sun as he rises after having bath in Ganga is very auspicious. There are also people who have gathered to give “Tarpan – offering of holy waters” to their ancestors at sun rise. There are many who have arrived at these ghats just to take bath in Ganga and purify themselves.

Let me now take you on the cruise on Ganga.

Sun rising in the east with Ganga in the foreground. I find these moments highly spiritual and we can connect with nature so nicely. I am attaching the pictures as they were taken followed by those which were post processed. Both look stunning. I want you tell me which looks better

Original pictures are alternated with processed pictures

First glimpse of sun in the horizon

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The sun rises slowly

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These are few short videos we shot while cruisng on Ganga











To be continued .....Morning scenes @ Ghats

Last edited by Fauji : 8th December 2011 at 16:41.
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Old 8th December 2011, 21:17   #86
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Default Re: Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh

Varanasi visited. When do we reach lucknow ?????

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Old 9th December 2011, 13:07   #87
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Default Exploring Banaras continued - Morning scenes @ Ghats

The boats on sun rise cruise on Ganga

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Panoramic view of Banaras ghats from the boat

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The Ghats – these are the places where you can see action in Banaras. Due to high level of water, steps are submerged. Once it recedes, one can walk from one ghat to other all along the river. Each ghat has its own history, temples and significance and place in the cultural ethos of Banaras. In all, there are 85 ghats on the bankd of Ganga.

Raja Ghat. Built by Peshwas in 18th century.

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Harishchandra ghat - There are only two ghats where creamtion takes place in Banaras. Harishchandra and Manikarnika. You can see bodies arriving for cremation.

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Karnataka State ghat - We were surprised to see this. Must have been funded by Karnataka Government

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Ranamahal Ghat - Looks like built by Rajputs. You can see the palace like structure on the ghat

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Kedar Ghat

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Munshi Ghat - Built by Munshiji??

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Old heritage buildings on the ghats

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Ahilyabai ghat - Built by Rani Ahilyabai Holker of Indore

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Dasashwamedha Ghat

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Prayag Ghat

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Jain Ghat - Built by Jain community

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Nishadraj Ghat

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Old 9th December 2011, 16:41   #88
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Default Re: Fauji's Drivologues - Fascinating Fortnight in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh

Good travelogue with some amazing pictures of Ganga Maiyya.
The arthi in the evening and the sunrise in the morning fantastic.
The natural pictures of the River Ganga seems to be good than the processed one.
Great going.
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Old 9th December 2011, 16:55   #89
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Default Exploring Banaras continued - Morning scenes @ Ghats

Panchkot Ghat

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Dhandi Ghat

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Digvijay Ghat

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Morning activities on ghats – They can range from bathing, pranayamas/yoga, pujas, rituals for ancestors (Shradh), chai/pani, shakhas of RSS!!!

Banarasis enjoying morning swim

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Action at ghats and devotees Offering prayers to Surya

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Pandas facilitating rituals for devotees

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Ladies getting ready for Ganga puja

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A man doing pranayama on Janaki Ghat. What are the dogs upto? Performing shwanasana???

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Sadhu doing pranayama

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Mobile store with all puja stuff!!

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Telmalish on the ghats!!

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Morning aarthi of Ganga Mayya. This is not a elaborate ritual like evening aarthi

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With Dr Mishra and members of RSS Shakha

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Dasashwamedha ghat - the main ghat of Banaras - is already brimming with devotees and locals

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Boats anchored in Dasashwamedha Ghat

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To be continued......Morning scenes inside the gullies of Kashi and Breakfast @ Ram Bhandar

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Default Exploring Banaras continued - Day 2 - Morning walk in Gullies & breakfast Ram Bhandar

After meeting the members of RSS, we climb down from the platform where Ganga Aarthi is performed. It is still 7 in the morning. We walk towards Vishwanatha Galli on the way to Ram Bhandar. The tea shop next to Dasashwamedha Ghat is inviting and we stop to sip cups of excellent tea.

A name plate on one of the buildings denoting that the building was built by Holkars of Indore

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Desi toothbrushes for sale at Dasashwamedha Ghat!

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Walking in the gullies of Kashi in the morning is a different experience. The bustling gullies of evening are calm. Locals are moving around doing their errands and the safaiwalas are cleaning up the lanes. It is also time to observe the laid back style of Banarasis in general. The eateries are getting set up and chullahs are lit. Women are selling curds and flower vendors selling flowers to pilgrims going for darshan of Vishwanatha.

Gullies – quiet in the morning

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Mouni baba in Vishwanatha galli

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Lady selling cyrds in Vishwanatha galli

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Eateries getting set up and chullahs getting ready

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Madhu chat centre – another famous chat shop in banaras preparing chole

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We now move towards Tattheri galli which is famous for old utensils. We are not here to buy utensils but to taste Puri – Chole of Ram Bhandar. An institution of Banaras, the food is getting ready even as people have started gathering around the place. The staff says that it will take fifteen minutes before they can serve us.

We had to spend time and I ask Mukesh to take us the haveli of Bharatendu Harishchandra, the famous writer, grammarian and doyen of Hindi literature.

Bharatendu Harishchandra - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It is close by and as we stop to look at the name plate, we meet the active and energetic Ram lal who is well known in the locality. Ram lal must be in his seventies but is sprightly and full of josh. He is a well known personality in the locality and I can see everyone greeting him as they pass by. I strike conversation with him. He says he had come to Bangalore in early seventies to participate in “Mr India” bodybuilding contest and won. He volunteers to take us to Bharatendu’s house – normally no one is allowed inside – and we enter into a beautiful and well maintained haveli in the middle of small houses and gullies. It has a "Mantapa" or "canopy" built in marble where Bharatendu used to meet with his friends everyday and also write. It has fountains at all corners and Ram lal orders the servants to start them so that we can experience it. The fountains and water channels inside haveli was also meant to keep the place cool.

Bharatendu Bhavan

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With Ram Lal in Bharatendu Bhavan

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We come out of the haveli and Ram Lal shouts at the staff of Ram Bhandar to check whether the breakfast is ready. Answer being affirmative, we are now into memorable culinary experience.

I said earlier that Ram Bhandar is an iconic set up. It did not take much time to realise why. All preparations are made out of desi ghee and the aroma of Puri and jalebis fried in ghee is idifficult to resist. The food is too delicious. I can’t explain it here. You have to eat it to feel it. If you are in Banaras, do not miss out these experiences. This is what Banaras is all about. Talking to locals, eating delicious local food, pan, the street scenes……

We order Puri – Chole and Kachori – Chole followed by jalebis!! What more can we expect to start the day! Bidding good bye to Ram Bhandar we wash it with excellent chai from one of the shops nearby.

Ram bhandar - Notice desi ghee in kadai!!

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I ask Ram Lal where can I get Nimis and ask for Markandeya, the shop which is famous for. He says that very few people are making this in Banaras.

For nimis, milk is boiled with saffron, pista and possibly a hint of sugar, till it thickens. It’s then left out at night—oh so poetically—in the dew. In the morning, a man churns up vast amounts of froth in the pot, scoops the weightless treat off to put in kulhars. Give it to Indians for these recipes!!Unfortunately, he says, we can’t get it now and it is available only in winter when there is lot of mist.

We miss out on that .

To be continued......Sarnath, the place where Budha preached his first sermon
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