Good Morning everyone,
Sorry that I have not sent anything for a couple of days because we have been very busy. I actually woke up early today so that I can catch up on my emails. We left Delhi in the morning of Sunday October 23. Sy, Dad and Mum the airport
is not the one we were at…they have a new domestic airport. I think it was getting built when we were last here. Actually, the Indian government built a whole bunch of new airports in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi etc in time for commonwealth games and they are very nice airports.
We had no issues at the airport, I was kept very busy trying to explain to the folks that we all need tags for our carry on and everything has to be stamped. The procedure is so confusing but the group was okay with all the red tape. When we got to the gate, we were told that the plane was late so we sat around and waited and finally arrived in Varanasi around two(ish). Instead of going to the hotel and checking in etc, we ended up going straight to Sarnath. We stopped at a local restaurant and made a stop at what I would call second class bathrooms. Some of the folks were not too happy, but then we all had “thumbs up” pop so everyone was all smiles.
In Sarnath, we ended up going to the museum and then the deer park. Larry really enjoyed the Buddha statue in the museum. We also went to the Buddha temple and I finally checked out the Bodhi tree on the side (for those that may not remember this is my third visit to Sarnath and didn’t make it to this tree). The tree is a gift from Sri Lanka to Sarnath – a twig from their Bodhi tree. Actually when Ashoka sent his son to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism, he went there with a twig of the original tree.
Anyways, back to the tour……we got to the Gateway hotel, checked in and then the group wanted to do the Ganga arthi from the boat. Anil and our local rep from Varanasi had arranged this, we quickly went down (took local cars) but it
took us a long time to get down because of the traffic. We had an ideal spot on a boat to watch the aarti; a very brief explanation of aarti is that this is the offering of song and lit lamps to one or more deities. The place was really packed due to Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights. As I sat on the boat, I kept looking at balcony where I sat with Mum and Dad and brother Shailesh last time we were all here and I must admit that I missed them all and had a couple of tears running down my cheeks. We had a nice supper in the Gateway Hotel and bed as we had to wake up at 4 a.m. to go for the morning ride. BTW, the previous evening after the aarti, we went over a bit of a boat ride and saw three/four bodies burning on the ghats (stairs leading down to a body of water, like the Ganges, or this may refer to areas along holy river-cities) which was sad to see, our group was very respectful about not taking pictures.
Monday, October 24, 2011
We woke up at 4 a.m. I must admit that Larry and I didn’t sleep too well. The assault on the senses from everything, the jet lag and the early mornings are taking a toll on us slightly. We drove down to ghats once more and went on the boat ride. I had explained on the bus about the river, and its significance…relating it to the Mother Earth/ Mother River in the aboriginal culture. Many of the group members wanted to do a memorial for their loved ones so we did a pooja from the boat. Lynn was very sad as she did this memorial for Al. It was so very sad…the sun was hazy but still Varanasi was in its utmost beauty.
We got off and walked along the paths and alleys for a while. A bit of a culture shock for most of the people as the dirt and rotting garbage is gross. I wish the Indian government would clean up that city as they get so many tourists and the mess is such a turn off. We returned to the hotel for a nice breakfast….the staff made me a dosa (a crispy, savoury pancake) special for us, as it is usually not on the menu. After breakfast, Larry and I went to the Mandir Palace. We did a small pooja (offering) of all the lingams (a representation of Shiva used for worship in temples) in this Mandir. Lynn and her niece Linda joined us. It was quiet and we didn’t have a poojari (temple priest) or any pooja offerings; these are traditional gifts of specific items like food, drink and flowers or everyday items that are offered to or symbolically offered to the deities. We had a bottle of water and some flowers. We made a dhanteras pooja for the first day of Diwali.
After checking out, we went to a silk factory. Funny thing is; it was next to the Raddison hotel and where Sy and I went last time. Many items were purchased at the silk factory by the group.
Our flight mid day was from Varanasi to Khajuraho. We landed and after check in went to the Western temples; this place is my favourite now – the temples are amazing. They have the reputation as the Kuma Sutra temples, but the
erotic statues really only represent 20% of the statues found there. The rest of the sculptures are amazing. Check them out on internet. Can’t take photos or describe them adequately. I came back to the hotel and had a shower as we were out
in 38 degree heat and fell asleep through dinner…
This morning, we check out soon and then we are off to the Eastern temples (check them out in a different light) and then on to Orchha, Jansi and then a train trip to Agra.
If I don’t get another chance, Happy Diwali to all!
Please let the parents (both sets) know that we are fine.
Love to all,