This is a continuation of my previous post Varanasi: A Visit to the Cultural Capital of India …
Second Day: Varanasi Sightseeing
The second day was reserved for sightseeing. In the morning we went to Kashi Viswanath temple for ‘puja’. It was a Monday and the alleys to the temple were stuffed with people, actually devotees, from all across India. Being a not-so-religious kind I chose to wait at a distance with all the mobile phones and cameras while my mother and aunt went inside. They don’t allow mobile phones and cameras inside. So, one way or the other I had to wait outside.
After lunch we set out for sightseeing in Varanasi. This time we didn’t take car from the hotel. We managed it with a local car rental agency and hired a Tata Sumo for the rest of the day at Rs. 800 (at the hotel desk, they asked for Rs. 2000). But I advise you should always start early for sightseeing.
Ram Nagar Fort
We started at 1:30 pm from the city and headed to Ram Nagar Fort, the palace of the ‘Maharaja’ (king) of Kashi (Benares).
Now the palace has been turned into a museum where you can see a historic collection of oriental and western artillery used in the 17th and 18th centuries; the cars and golden chariots used by the royal family; the silk robes and intricately designed silver dinnerware and decorative ceramics.
I liked the beautifully crafted chariot and was amazed by the size of a huge Cadillac. The ‘Rang Mahal’ (entertainment hall) has fascinating stained glass windows and doors to add more charm to its purpose, I guess.
From the fort we headed right to the holy shrine of ‘Sarnath’ where Lord Buddha is believed to preach his first sermon. Here, one thing I must mention that normally the sightseeing trips start with visiting temples in and around the city, then the university and then Ram Nagar fort to Sarnath which is about an hour journey from Varanasi. Since we started late we changed the itinerary starting with the distant fort and shrines and then coming back to the city.
Sarnath Temple was looking beautiful in the golden streaks of twilight sun.
The temple premises were clean and quiet with the typical characteristics of a Buddhist shrine. Serenity was prevalent in the atmosphere. But what disturbed my mind was the signboard right inside the temple “Rs 25 for Photography” while “photography prohibited’ was written outside. Commercialization has turned out to be an infectious disease!
Banaras Hindu University
Our next destination was BHU, Banaras Hindu University, one of the largests in India. The university has its own aerodrome, helipad and bus service. The buses start from the main gate and ply the sprawling 10 sq km campus dropping students at their respective department buildings. Unfortunately it was already dark and I couldn’t take pictures. You’ll like the beautiful Birla Temple situated inside the campus.
Back to the city, we visited temples of Gaudi (Durga Mandir), Hanuman Ji (Sankat mochan) and Annapurna.
The manager at car rental suggested for a day trip to Triveni Sangam, Allahabad which is about 3 hours drive from Varanasi. Unfortunately we were too short of time. Well… there is always a next time … :).
Continued… Part III: Exploring the Ghats