Holy madness that is...Benares

Call it Kashi, Varanasi or Benares all these names are the key to after life. This is believed to be the greatest ‘tirth’ or the crossing over from earth to heaven, for a Hindu. Benares is the oldest living city in the world and one has to leave behind one’s city attitude to take in this holy madness

No frowning or irritation allowed- get rid of your city attitude, I had to constantly remind myself so as to not ‘lose it’

The (a)incessant honking, every nano second by scooters, rickshaws, bikes, cars, jeeps, buses makes one feel Bombay is a veritable haven on not just the road transport mechanism but also on noise pollution it is probably the most silent city in India. (b)The splash of ‘paan’ on the streets and walls because they don’t chew their paans there, they keep it in the mouth for 2 hours or more, and relish the juices that collect and then, splash it outward when the mouth is full. (c) The manner in which every outsider is seen to be a total ignoramus and ‘educated’ about the Ganges is masha-allah too endearing. (d) The filth, the beggars, the touts, the greedy pundits, and the general madness many times had me see sawing between being amazed and wanting to run home (e) the humungous population in this tiny area of the ghats was difficult to deal with despite having lived in this country for years!!

Nothing prepares you for Benares honestly, I had read up a lot, asked friends more, and more, but the live experience is so very different from hearsay and second hand impressions, I almost feel Varanasi is a ‘concentrated’ India with all its colour and chaos. I think am still reeling with the onslaught on my senses, and in order to make some sense of all the jumbled up thoughts about Benares in my head, I need to step back a bit.


Mike said...

I was in varanasi last year and it was a lovely experience, yes at first it was very overwhelming and then I took it in my stride. The temples, the spirituality, the knowledge, the prayers all made me feel like I was ready to renunciate all to attain meaning in my life

I am back to the medical world I belong, but do remember all that I learnt in varansi including the namastaes

Have the Ganges cleaning process started yet?

Very nice blog, may come here frequently.

Sunil said...

You've written nothing about how you felt, spiritually, in Benaras. Or am I being too presumptuous? Did you feel something akin to a understanding, even if it cannot be articulated Benaras? I've never been to the city, but I'm determined day.

Mee said...

Mike- I know part cleaning of Ganges has begun but the process is taking too long. According to the locals till they don't get the right political leaders who are conscientious, Benares or Ganges is not going to look up soon. But they are all hopeful that soon some young leader will take over and make much needed ammends

Suni- I write my thoughts (at times) in installments because there is a lot to write, capture and illustrate - maybe my nxt post may capture what u r looking for, maybe not...

melinda said...

It musta been overwhelming, the first time - I felt like tat when I was in India Rajasthan during the festival. So many people so much is going on at the same time, you almost feel incapable of doing justice to your reason for being there:(
It happens! :(

abnormallu said...

Your description of all the places on your blog is so vivid. I would love to go to Varnasi some day, its really romanticised. I went to Haridwar many years ago. Navigating the hoardes was a nightmare and the water was thick with garlands and diyas and plastic.
A friend who went treking up to kunwari pass from Hrishikesh, last month, says that the river is much cleaner now at Haridwar.So there's hope for Varnasi.

Mee said...

Melinda- true!

Abnormallu- I guess. Tho the Haridwar I remember was much cleaner,But hey, thr is definite hope for Benares.

Ajeya said...

Must've been just so much to take in. Like an assault on your senses. The sights, sounds, smells... all of it. Crass and disgusting on the outside, yet there is a beauty in and through it. Somewhat like India herself.

Mee said...

Ajeya- so true! Gets overwhelming at times! Where do so many people come from, how do they live, earn, what spurs them on... U r right, India too is this

apple27_shan said...

Hii mee :)
though i've been to varanasi a zillion times, it was only last month when i had friends over from the US that i discovered the city. I took them to all the places i knew that were there n had not been to myself . Reading the beautiful way you've written about it sure gives me a sense of dejavu and i get an instant replay of the moments i spent there .
great job !
apple :)

gita said...

I saw a docu today on the Hindus here, very apt narration gotta give tat to Discovery!

Mee said...

Aplle- O how wish I knew, we would have planned our trip around those dates:)
Gits- yea:)