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As we approached Varanasi in our Toyota Corolla Altis, the spiritual and religious sentiments started looming over our heads. Entering the city, we crossed the Malviya Bridge, a double-decker bridge carrying a rail track on the lower deck and a road on the upper deck. It gives you an aerial view of the 87 Ganga Ghats that the city is popular for.
The city is pretty congested and full of electric and bicycle rickshaws catering to hordes of tourists that visit from across the globe. Next morning, we went to Manmandir Ghat, from where we fetched a boat ride. And as we stepped on to the ghat, the ancient charm blended with Hindu rituals that were being performed on the banks, left us awe-struck. It’s a beautiful sight, the morning sun, hundreds of colourful boats, chilly weather, and pujaris performing their daily rituals. Also, they say the holy Ganga water is self-cleansing. We also fed grains to the migratory Siberian birds, who escape the extreme cold of the Arctic during winter. It also helps the local economy as people buy food from the local vendors to feed the birds, which is an attraction, especially in winters.
In the evening, we attended the much talked about Ganga aarti, the largest of which takes place in Varanasi at the Dashaswamedh Ghat. While the aarti starts at 6pm, people hunt for a good spot right from 3pm, occupying boats, ghats and terraces of buildings nearby. The aarti is performed by around 8 Hindu priests, who all wear the same coloured dhoti, kurta and a towel across. It’s a magnificent event, as the priests light up large brass lamps and worship Goddess Ganga and Lord Shiva. It is a must-see event in Varanasi and its grandeur and spirituality inducing power can leave you speechless.
We’ve clocked a staggering 3500 km in our Toyota Corolla Altis so far but the journey is not over yet. We sent it off for half a day for its periodic servicing and the car has been returned to us all clean and shiny and the engine even sounds smoother than before. We’re headed to Allahabad next where we’ll conclude our drive. Stay tuned.