Uttar Pradesh November 2011

A trip to one's childhood. Everyone cherishes that. So this trip was the most eagerly waited one for me right from the time I decided to get married. I would take my wife down the memory lanes of my childhood and show her where I lived, played, studied, went around spending my free time. It is a trip to Renukoot, Sonebhadra, Uttar Pradesh

A chance came up when my dearest friend Amritanshu decided on his marriage dates. He hails from a place called Chunar which is in the Mirzapur district, next to Sonebhadra. The itinerary was charted out for November 18th to 22nd 2011.

After much deliberations and yeses and nos, it was decided that my parents would come to Varanasi directly from Kerala and we (me and Sreelatha) will go from Delhi. Leave from work is generally a problem in Indian IT companies but prayers from all well wishers made that an easy affair.

All set. Bags packed (at the last moment) and off we leave by Shiv Ganga Express from New Delhi station on a Friday evening. Mid-november, winter does not set in so severely in India. Delhi had a very pleasant climate in the day time and little chill in the evenings (pleasant by all means as compared to "Dilli ki Sardi").

We got our first shock jolt (later ones would be aptly termed as shocks) of our trip. As we wake up in the morning, there was fog outside and the train crawling through the dense white cloud. We realized that the train is running late. 3hrs.. 4hrs.. 5hrs.. A phone call to dad confirmed that we are not the only ones. Their train from Madras is also late by 3hrs. They reached Varanasi at around 9AM and checked in to Hotel Nar-Indra near the Cantt Railway Station. We reached at half past noon and walked over to the hotel.

The next little jolt was the hotel room itself. Rs 850 for this ordinary second class room!! I remembered Nar-Indra to be a nice looking hotel with posh AC rooms (some 15 yrs back). Anyways we had plans to be there only while dreaming so it was adjustable.

Got fresh, had lunch (that was almost same as 15yrs back) and we set off for sightseeing in Varanasi.

A holy town. Major sightseeing spots - Ganga Ghats, Kashi Viswanath temple, Vishalakshi temple, Annapurneshwari temple, Sankat Mochan temple, Birla Mandir in BHU campus, Tulsi Manas Mandir. And there are more hundreds of temples if one wishes to embark on a pilgrimage. We were not on that. So we restricted ourselves to the above mentioned list.

We reached Kashi Viswanath temple at around 3.30PM. This temple has a speciality. Of course many of you might have heard about how Aurangzeb (Mughal ruler) destroyed the original temple and built a mosque at that place and how a new temple was constructed next to the mosque and how the place is now like a fortress with hundreds of policemen (after the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya). Another interesting fact is that in this temple, each visitor is a pujari (priest). You go inside with milk and flowers and do puja on the shiv lingam, the main idol of the temple. Luckily we were there at a good time and there was only small crowd.

As we got out from Viswanath temple and quickly made visits to the Vishalakshi temple and Annapurneshwari temple, it was ideal time to head to the Ghats. The magnificent Ganga seems at its best during dawn and dusk. The sun slanting across the pristine waters giving a golden glow to the flowing river.


Latha is always fascinated by the idea of boating on any water body. And the wide river and many boats on the ghats excited her. In dilemma. Should we spend half an hr on boating or should we head towards Neeraj bhaiya's (a colleague of my dad) house and then to other temples on our list?

Choice was tough. But prayers show you the right way. Little disappointed by not seeing enthusiasm in others' eyes for a boat trip, Latha descended the ghats to touch the Ganga and sprinkle some holy water on thy body to wash away all the sins. As she cleansed, her father-in-law agreed to a boat ride along the ghats. Latha couldnt hide the happiness and sparkle in her eyes, which gave me immense sense of satisfaction, I wouldnt have to hear complaints :-)

The boat was rowed manually. It was slow and took us along the ghats - Kedar ghat, Hanuman ghat, Mushi ghat, Harishchandra ghat, Manikarnika ghat and many more. Each ghat would have its own story and its kind of visitors. Kedar ghat is a hub of tamilian pilgrims with a whole host of vaadhyaars dotting the by-lanes doing all the veda karmas for the departed. Harishchandra ghat is the place for the recently departed souls. Here the bodies are exhumed. We saw a couple of burning pyres. It reminds oneself of the ultimate destiny. We also saw a Japanese ghat. Forgot the name. :-)

 It was getting darker and colder as we finished our boat ride. The Dasaswamedh ghat was lit up for the evening "Ganga Aaarti". But we dint have time to cover that today. We moved on. Rest of the day was not much eventful. We covered Sankat Mochan temple, Birla Mandir, Tulsi manas mandir (this temple has robotic shows but that was closed by the time we reached). After the pilgrimage, we headed towards Kerala Cafe, our very old destination. I remember it as a small room with few tables and benches. Now it is a full fledged hotel. But the food almost the same.

A fruitful day recollecting many places that I had visited 10 yrs back. Tomorrow we are going to head to Renukoot.

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