Varanasi is an ancient city located in North India. Ancient name for Varanasi is Kasi. It was also called as Banaras at British period. It is known as one of the oldest city in the world.
Traveling alone is one of my favorite hobby. I planned to visit Varanasi to lost in the ancient ritual world and hope to find my inner peace. As Kasi is land of yogis, I believe it can help me to find my path or purpose of the life. I travel to this land on 25th September 2013 and back on 29th September, about 4 days i spent in Varanasi without mobile phone, internet and TVs.
I found my hotel through my favorite website Trip Advisor. Landed in Chennai via Air Asia and reached Kasi via Spicejet. Stayed in Schindia guest house. The hotel which I stayed was on the bank of river Ganges. People taking bath, performing rituals, prayers and even burning bodies of dead person with the believe that Ganges can grant them Moksha, meaning free from cycle of rebirth.
Hindu have many believes. As far I know, only 2 believes were exist in early India. 1 is advaitha and second is Dvaitha. Advaitha believe everything are illusion. Those we see, and experience, almost everything are not real including we and our world. Advaitha preaching that our soul is a small flame from the supreme fire. Therefore Advaitha saying that joining back into that supreme fire is Moksha or liberation from this Illusion. Dvaitha is totally opposite of this believes and it is almost similar to all current religion in the world. Later many branches formed in Advaitha and one of it called Saivism which believes God in the form of Shiva.
Kasi is land of Shiva. We can find hundred of Shiva temples and deities of Shiva in the form of Linga in every corner of Kasi. Almost every house have a temple. Pooja and Bhajan’s where performed every day. Schindia hotel staff told me that in early time most of the Kings came here to complete their spiritual pilgrimage. They builded all theses houses attached with temples for performing their daily ritual and stayed here until they complete their pilgrimage. There after it was left abandon when they back to their usual life.
Kasi is the best place to get lost as it has many sub streets like a maze. You won’t reach your destination if you not sure about your path.
I don’t know whether GPS can guide us because on my visit the internet even EDGE not working due to government control over the SMS and Internet service as one of their security measurement to control the ongoing Hindu Muslim clash.
Hundred of army and police forces are visible all over the streets and temples due to the clash. Hindu is major population there, I think almost 90% of the populations are Hindus. Yet, we can see few beautiful mosques in this land of temples. I saw a mosque which builded in King Akhbar’s time. But no Azan (Adhan) can be heard in Kasi as it is banned here.
Foods are deligious here. I ate my lunch and dinner in Keshari Banyan. The only restaurant looks clean for me. You cannot find non vegetarian foods or restaurant nearby. Hindus not allowed to eat meat even egg. But you wont feel desperate to find meat because the variety of vegetarian foods and the taste wont remind you to any meat made food.
The other thing which I enjoyed is Lassi. I daily had 2 lassi in Kiwon Lassi shop. Morning one, and another one on coffee time. I noticed all the menu are written in Korean language as well. He told that some Koreons who enjoyed his lassi few years back help him to make it popular among Korean. So you can see many Korean in this shop. White people mostly went to Blue Lassi Shop as it invested lot 😉 in the street wall drawing to promote their shop in each and every corner of the Kasi. But I dont find it is clean enough to convience my opinion.
The another great thing in Kasi is Bhang, which mean Marijuana or Ganja. It was sold by government bhang shop. It is legal there. People calling it as Drink of Shiva. I also saw a picture of shiva smoking Ganja. You cannot see this form of Shiva anywhere in India except in Kasi (I think so). Hotel manager adviced me not to take the Ganja as the government will sell the original only on the day of Shivarathiri celebration. But I found it on the normal day. It is in wet ball form and I think it can be eatable by mixing it in our food or drinks. I bought one and I eat it straight, just as it without mixing with any other food.
It was a great experience for me as this was my first experience having Marijuana. I felt it gave me great pleasure, peace of mind and concentration even at smallest thing and smallest sound. Lot of philosophical thoughts are keep appeared in mind :-). Everyday I felt like I floating at the streets of Kasi :-).
Actually, I accidentally found this shop when I lost in the street maze and stumble and struggled to find my way back – almost a half day. But the shop owner/worked revealed a great secrete how to back hotel. He asked me “always be conscious on your way”, thats how its sound in his half Hindi and English. I was confused cause it sound like philosophy for me and definitely not the answer for my current situation. But then I realised that every street to particular destination was build on specific stones. If you follow the same stones which you found at your destination, you won’t lost. You may come across with more than 10 streets and junctions, but you have to do is just follow your path. Wow, even the street of Kasi teach me a philosophy, spiritual and live. 🙂 Ha ha, who legally restricted the Marijuana everywhere? :-).
Yogis in Kasi consume Ganja for the purpose of meditation and it is legal in Varanasi, yet I dont see many customer in that shop. Just 1 or 2. It was strange. In India, alchohol shops are usually crowded but bhang shop which selling for just Rs 10 for 1 ball not getting any attention from Indian people. 🙂
Malaysia should legalize Ganja to safe people from heavy depression and stress cause in daily life by the goverment. I also think that the psyciatrict service provided in Malaysia is not developed at all and Doctors always prescribing some kind of shit in the name of medication and treatment. Instead of letting these stupid professional taking advantage in our own life, lets legalize Ganja, so we can find our own destiny, happiness and peace. But of course you need a spiritual awareness as well. Otherwise Marijuana can be an addictive drug for you.
Anyway lets back to Varanasi.It is strange place with strange cultures even majority of Hindu believer not accepted and not aware of it at all.
I found a ashram of Baba Keenaram. Baba Keenaram known as a founder of Aghora ritual tradition which is a kind of post mortem ritual or cannabilism ritual perform by Aghori. You can read more about it in wikipedia. I think it is the most darkest place I ever found in my travels. The followers believe that Baba Kinnaram is the reincarnation of Shiva however the major Saivishm followers not accepting this believe under Saivism or under school of Advaitha.
I saw undressed women and even dead body on ganges. It was a big cultural shock for me.
Further when recalled back the ritual i did in Ganges , including bath in Ganges, i can say that it is my worst experience as I bath on the river which used to be a place to throw the dead one. However my hotel manager told the body maybe from flood victim as he confirmed that no one throwing dead people bodies in ganges.
Kasi Viswanath, Sankat Mochan, Durga Temple and Tulsi Manas temples are famous ancient temples, I paid my respect. People also doing a ritual call Tharpan in the bank of the Ganges. It is merely a ritual of giving respect to our ancestors and for those who past away in our blood line. Hindu believes this ritual can free the soul those deceased. I did that as I were informed that the ritual can be perfoms only for 15 days in a year and this year it is on 18th September till 4th October. As I was there on this time, I performed this ritual.
We have to be smart and conscious all the time otherwise, people in Temples or those who guiding us the steps for any ritual will charge huge amount. Instead of charging Rs 100 they will try charge Rs 10,000 or even more. So we have to be very very careful all the ways.
I didnt took much money, no phone connection, no TV except my iPod. I spent all the days in Kasi without any conscious about my family, friends and my future. It is different kind of world without stress and temptation of routine life.
I feel that everyone at least once in their life time should visit Kasi without any expectation, any planning, money, phone or any other gadgets. Surrender your self completely to this land of Shiva. You will be bless with peace and new hopes in life.
All the photos by Agilan Lechaman