A PILGRIMAGE TO VARANASI
Our pilgrimage to the sacred place;
Due to the divine grace .
A city by the name Varanasi;
So named due to the rivers Varuna and Assi.
Also known as kashi or Kasi;
Famous for the sarees Banarasi.
A spiritually desired place for salvation;
For every Hindu soul a destination.
Situated on the Gangetic plain;
Belonging to the Uttar Pradesh terrain.
Kasi Viswanathar in the jothirling form;
With his blessings the devotees reform.
Had Darshan of Lord Shiva in the morning;
Attended the Ganga aarthi in the evening.
Prayed for the lords blessings in plentiful;
And returned home thankful.
THE TOUR PLAN
It was in April 2023, me and my husband , had the great opportunity of travelling to Jamshedpur for the convocation ceremony (PGDM) of our younger son. The convocation was on 4th evening at XLRI. Since we were travelling all the way to Jamshedpur we thought that we should visit the nearby places of interest and did the ground work for the same. Some of my friends suggested that we should not miss this opportunity and should make it to Baba Baidyanath Dham, the shiva temple in Deogarh ( Jarkhand ) . I was curious about this temple and place, thus started gathering information online. Baba Baidyanath Dham was a jothirlinga temple . Due to its distant location many south Indians were unaware of this temple and its fame. I was excited and added this temple in our tour plan. Deogarh was almost 8 hours journey from Jamshedpur by train. We decided that we would make it to Gaya and Varanasi also after visiting Deogarh. Our train tickets were booked well in advance.
As per our planned programme we reached Jamshedpur on April 4th in the afternoon attended the convocation in the evening and thought that we would leave for Baba Baidyanath Dham the next morning (5th), but to our dismay we received the message(sms) conveying that our train to Jasidih station in Deogarh stood cancelled . Not wanting to give up ,we thought that we would travel on 6th morning and booked the train tickets once again. But once again received the same disappointing message stating that the train stood cancelled.
The saying that "Man proposes and God disposes" is very true .Now having no other choice we had to alter our travel plan . As our return tickets were already booked from Varanasi , we decided that we will travel to Gaya directly and since we had more days at our disposal we alternatively included Rajgir and Bodh gaya in our tour itinerary .
RAJGIR,GAYA and BODH GAYA
We left for Gaya on April 5th in the evening. We reached Gaya on 6th morning, checked into a hotel and after freshening up hired a cab and left for Rajgir . First we visited the path carved through a ridge of hills by Dashrath Manjhi (known as Mountain Man ) by using only a hammer and a chisel. Strolling on the chiselled road we were wonderstruck . Then visited the Vishwa Shanti Stupa. Later at Rajgir’s nature safari we enjoyed walking over the glass bridge and also on the suspension bridge which was swaying in the air. After lunch made it to Nalanda . The ruins of the ancient residential university in Nalanda is an architectural and historical marvel. Later visited the Swarna Bhandar man-made caves and also the hot springs . At the end of the day visited the Jal mandir, the jain temple at Pawapuri . This temple located in the middle of a lake is a prominent holy place near Nalanda. Later in the evening retired to our room for the night’s stay.
The next morning after the darshan of Vishnu pad and sita kund , we went to the Mahabodhi temple, the Buddhist pilgrimage site in Bodh Gaya . After offering our prayers in the temple ,we went around the temple and sat in a corner near the sacred Bodhi tree and meditated for a few minutes.We visited a few monasteries and went to the Jagannath mandir which was near the Mahabodhi temple. We were exhausted and feeling hungry. On seeing a vendor selling wood apple juice , I chose to have a glass of it. It was for the first time that I had this juice . It was very delicious. In the afternoon we boarded the train for Varanasi at around 2.45 pm.
Varanasi being one of the oldest cities , is an important place for pilgrimage . This is the place where the rivers Varuna and Asi join the Ganges.We reached Varanasi Junction at around 7.45 pm .The travel time from Gaya to Varanasi was almost 4.30 hrs. Most of the co -passengers in our compartment were senior citizens. They were natives of Tamil Nadu and were on a group travel . We exchanged pleasant conversation with each other in Tamil and the journey was very lively. One among them, Mr. Chakravarthy , who was a native of Tamil nadu currently settled in Kasi , enquired us about our destination, purpose and duration of our travel. We told him that we were going to Varanasi for the jothirlinga darshan and would be staying there for two days. Mr. Chakravarthy asked us about our stay and accommodation arrangements . We told him that we were planning to stay in a hotel near the Varanasi station. Mr.Chakravathy suggested that it would be advisable to stay closer to the temple and the ghats , and advised us to go to the jungamvadi circle which was near the temple. So we decided the same and on reaching the station at around 8 pm, we left for Jungamvadi circle. We reached Jungamvadi around 9 pm and started to look out for an accommodation in the nearby lanes . Little did we realize that we were going to have a tough time in getting one, as the number of pilgrims were more due to the long weekend. There was a negative response from all hotels as the rooms were occupied. We were mentally and physically exhausted , and decided that we would look out for an accomodation near the railway station. So we were walking towards the Jungamwadi circle to hire a vehicle to the station. It was almost 10 pm . To our surprise we saw Mr.Charavarthy walking towards us . With revival of hope we expressed our difficult situation to him . Seeing our plight Mr.Chakravarthy ( an angel in disguise ) asked us to wait near a shop and alongwith his friend started to search for an accommodation. But the situation was bleak and he returned with disappointment and said there was no possibility of getting one. He asked us to stay in his house which was nearby and suggested that we can look out for an accomodation in the morning . We didn’t not want to trouble him anymore ; it was almost 11.00 pm. We thanked him for his courtesy and said that we would prefer staying near the station. Seeing our reluctance to stay at his place , he decided to give one last try . With the guidance from a nearby shopkeeper finally he was able to find a rooming house. A house in which the owners were renting out the rooms . Though small it was a good and a neat accommodation. We saw a few other tourists enquiring for an accomodation in despair. We were very lucky to get our room, as it was the last one available in the nearby and would have missed it even if we were late by a few minutes. More than us Mr. Chakravarthy was very happy . I thanked God for such wonderful helping souls . After the check in formalities , had a cup of hot tea served by the house owner with hospitality and retired to our room to catch up on some sleep calling it a day.
The next morning we left around 7 'o' clock in the morning , for the temple to have darshan of Kasi Viswanathar . When we reached the lane to the temple , we found that the number of devotees waiting in line for darshan were quite a lot. The queue was extending from the temple to the nearby lanes .We stood in the line of devotees which was moving in a snail pace . After a few minutes we thought that we would buy the sugam darshan tickets for a quick darshan and went to the counter for the same. But due to the excess number of devotees all the tickets were soldout. Having no other option , we were back to our position in the queue . Around 11.15 am , we had darshan of Kasi viswanathar. It was a wonderful darshan which was worth the wait . After having darshan of the other deities in the temple complex, we went to Annapurani temple and then to Visalakshi temple which were located in the nearby lanes.
The day was quite hot , we were tired and hungry ,so we went to a shop selling lassi to appease our hunger. The taste of the lassi served in the pottery cups was refreshing . Not able to resist the thick and creamy yogurt I had two cups . After having a small meal,we were back to our room.
In the evening at around 6.00 pm we went to the Dashashwamedh Ghat for the Ganga aarti, which is performed every evening after sunset. We were quite early to the the place where the Ganga aarthi was performed inorder to be seated in a convenient place to have a closer and clear view of the aarthi.The place was filled with number of tourists and pilgrims. We were amazed to see the devotees occupying the boats also to have a view of the Aarti from the river banks. The experience was so enchanting and it was truly a divine treat to view the arthi performed by the priests. We dispersed after the aarthi and were back to our room after dinner.
The next day we started early in the morning for a for a boat ride. We hired a boat and the boat man( Nandlal) ferried us across the river showing us the various ghats like Manikarnika ghat, Harichandra ghat etc and explained their significance. On returning from the boat ride we went to the Kala Bairav temple. Later in the evening we left for our home town praying to the lord,that we should be blessed to make it again to this holy and sacred place. And also prayed that I should get an opportunity to make it to Baba Baidyanath Dham in Deogarh.