Yesterday was quite an interesting day, even though I was just wandering around this ancient city and acclimatizing myself to the heat. I got to see some old friends and meet some new ones. I think it is a good time of year to come to India as it is hot, but not crazy hot like it was two years ago when I came. Since I am here now, as it gets hotter, my body will be able to adjust with the increase rather than all at once.
It was pretty late by the time I got the post up as the internet was a bit slow where I am staying. I decided to have an early lunch and so went to this whole-in-the-wall “thali” place not far from me. 40 rupees for a full meal of veggies, rice, roti, dal and chutney. That’s less than 70 cents. Pretty darn cheap if you ask me. It wasn’t ready though so they suggested I visit a few temples in the surrounding area. I made the round and saw Durga Temple, Hanuman sankhat, Pancha mandir, Tulsi mandir, and the “Monkey Temple”.
Here is an illegal photo I took of the inside of Durga Temple. I have a special fondness for Durga who is the goddess of protection and guardianship. I said a special prayer to her to keep me safe over the course of the next three months in India and afterwards.
After I returned and ate the scrumdiddilyumptious thali, I decided to go for a walk down the ghats to my old stomping grounds. Everyday it is a blessing just to walk on these ancient docks next to the mighty Ganges. The featured picture above gives you a feeling of what I am talking about.
On the way, I found a new place to stay starting a few days from now. It’s called Kumiko House and is owned by an older Japanese lady with the name of, you guessed it, Kumiko. She was sweet and since I just spent six months in Japan I got to use a little bit of the Japanese I learned here. She laughed and smiled at my attempts. The rooms are serious, serious cheap and the dorm overlooks the Ganges. All for 100 rupees or $1.50 a night. Count me in.
The Ganges gets a bad rep.
The walk along the ghats was one he remembered well. The lack of shade along with the sun’s reflection off the stone created quite a hot noon day. Luckily the Ganges always welcomed swimmers. The key was to find a spot clear of debris. Since debris is pretty much everywhere, a lack of floating body parts would have to suffice.
He slowly removed his cloths and camel-leather satchel and placed them on the stairs leading into the water. Brahmins were already doing their daily dip on both sides of him.
The water was not cold, but also not warm. It was a perfect temperature. With no noticeable smell, it reminded him of the lakes and creeks at home, only wider and more heavily used. It was exactly what he needed. The Ganges gets a bad rep.
In the distance he could see his old friend, the Maha Naga Baba Raj Giri.
After a Brahmin man painted my forehead, I met up with an old friend and his revolving entourage of sadhus. Since Varanasi is the city of Shiva, chillums are a part and parcel of life here. After a while I headed for a very famous lassi shop and a very famous temple nearby. The Maha Naga Baba is in the left of the photo showing how to properly hit a chillum.
On the way to the temple I ran into an amazing sadhu snakecharmer who brought three friends with him everywhere he went. A black cobra, a brown cobra, and a crazy little orange snake with not much girth. And to think all I have to do is document my trip. He travels with snakes!
The lassi shop I went to is called “The Blue Lassi”. The temple is called “Sri Kashi Vishwanath”. It has an unbelievable amount of security to enter and I still don’t know why. Perhaps because it is decked out in gold plate? Needless to say I couldn’t take photos of the temple, but I got one of the lassi shop.
The Blue Lassi has some of the best lassis in Varanasi, but I must say never ever order the “maharaja” bhang lassi. It will knock your socks off in a hard way. Or at least that is what someone told me. 😉
On my way back towards Shivala Ghat, I noticed the enormous buildings that align the river and realized that they are why I wanted to come back here. For some reason, I just have never seen another place like Varanasi. It seems so simple and yet so unique. Kind of like an abandoned “King’s Landing” for any Game of Thrones fans out there.
Today, if my stomach is feeling up to it, I will check out of my guesthouse and explore this old maharaja’s abandoned estate before heading to Sarnath to serve one day at the vipassana center there. I will follow it up with a one day course which will help me “jumpstart” the old spiritual engine for this blogging journey.
I am going to do a little “parkour”-style mission to get into this place and will document how others can to. Something about meditating in ancient gazebos overlooking the Ganges just sounds damn good.
I’ll try to finish tomorrow’s article and schedule it to post the morning that I will be sitting the course, but it is not 100%. If not I’ll just do another two-day post in one.
List of daily expenses and donations for April 24th, 2015:
Total spent on travel: $0
Total spent on food: $2.38
Total spent on room: $3.95
Random: $ .40
Expense total: $6.73 + 24.25 divided by three days = $10.33 each day.
Donations given to random strangers in need = 85 Indian rupees = $1.35
Donations given to sadhus or holy men = 183 INR = $2.91
Donation total = $4.26 + $50.84 divided by three days = $18.37 each day
Expense account = $525.75 – 6.73 = $519.02 (Avg 10.33 each day will last 50 more days)
Donations account = $499.16 – 4.26 = $494.90 (Avg $18.37 each day will last 27 more days)
I just wanted to add a quick note about how I also do a meditation technique called “metta bhavana” after my main meditation three times daily for all the readers and donors of this blog. Spreading “metta” literally means spreading love and kindness to others. Although I wish it for all sentient beings, I especially wish it for the readers and donors of this blog 🙂
I hope everyone has a great weekend. Everything is going really well on this side. It is all quite a challenge, but one that I am sure that I can handle. Especially when I get into the right “mode” which I am in the process of easing into. Cheers!
Here is a link to the new “Dana (Donation) Page” – Click here.
New mantra up. Om Namo Narayana: Click here.