Day 3 - Nov 8th (Contd..)
Almost 500 mtrs from Dasaswamedh Ghat one will find people asking you to hire their boats. It really becomes difficult to differentiate as to who is a tout and who is the actual boatman. We too faced the same situation but made it look like we are in control of the situation and knew what rate to give. The bargain started with Rs 60/- per head in shared boat. We insisted on a separate boat to which the price quoted was Rs 1500/-. Finally settled for Rs 800/- for a dedicated boat for 2 hours of Ghat darshan followed additionally by the Aarti. Whether its a good bargain or not, do not know but this is for information of future travelers.
The boat makes its way out of the traffic of "parked" (sorry anchored) boats.
Even as the still camera captures the mood, the movie captures the flow,
The boatman our guide
The Manmandir Ghat, which was built by the King of Rajasthan, and slightly resembling the Rajasthani architecture.
The famous Manikarnika Ghat, where they say the fire never stopped since ages. Mythology has it that Shiv and Parvati were bathing in this ghat when Parvati lost her ear ring and despite a thorough search they could not find it. Since then the Ghat has been cursed that no one from then on will ever bathe in that Ghat and it will only be lit with fire. But the positive side of it was that anyone who gets cremated in this Ghat receives eternal liberty and need NOT go through the process of rebirth again. That is why cremation of dead bodies in this Ghat is said to be of utmost importance. (The above information was told to me by my boatman and not any researched data. Any deviation anyone may please feel free to add or modify details)
The construction around the Ghat bore the brunt of the fumes and flames of the crematorium for ages and got blackened, the water flowing by the Ghat got littered, but all of them withstood the test of time
Two hotels / guest house stand side by side. The one on the left looked more upmarket than the right but was told that the highest priced room on the right side hotel was more than the left. Before coming I had enquired in both hotels but the problem was none had space to accommodate the Xylo.
Once again we cross Dasaswamedh Ghat, our destination being upto the Raja Harishchandra Ghat.
The Munshi Ghat appeared very neat and clean and the silk factory adjoining the ghat is where a whole lot of workers (was told mostly Muslims) create marvels working tirelessly for their daily living.
The Darbhanga Ghat, built by the ruler from Magadh (Bihar) was immortalised by the great Satyajit Ray when he shot "Joy Baba Felunath" the detective slick from the Feluda (played by Soumitra Chatterjee) series.
Shivers ran down my spine as I recollected the scenes of the Vajra
(the big boat) and imagined the villain (played by Utpal Dutt) coming down from it in the climax scene. Too bad that for me what was missing was Begum Akhtar's voice which Ray used so melodiously in such a serious scene.
On the sail to Raja Harishchandra Ghat we crossed a whole lot of other ghats but the Sun having already gone down the camera went into hibernation. But some Ghats which created a space in me were the Kedar Ghat which housed the Kedar and Badri style temples and is said that a visit here will save you the effort of going to Kedar Badri, the Chandal Ghat which was the house of the Chandal (supposedly Yamraja himself in disguise) who had employed Raja Harishchandra as his crematorium security guard and the Harishchandra Ghat iteslf which was the place where Harishchandra worked as the crematorium guard while on exile from Ayodhya. This is where his wife had come to perform the last rites of their son who died of a snake bite. But the dutiful Harishchandra didn't allow it till his wife paid for performing the rites.
Mythology may yet be an not proved story but in my younger days had read all these details in the Amar Chitra Katha series but standing in front of them they all seemed so very real.
We returned to Dasaswamedh Ghat in time for the Arati which again was a mind blowing experience. Made a poor attempt to capture the mood which was rich in spirituality and very low on mundaneness...
Returned to the Hotel in an auto rickshaw quite mesmerised with what Varanasi had on offer for us throughout the day. Had a quick dinner to rest our tired limbs for the next day.
After its rendezvous with the Ganga, the next day the Xylo had its date with the Yamuna....