As a child I was never fascinated with draping saaris. In fact I used to find it messy when my mom had to wear it the whole day. It’s not a comfortable outfit for me, and people who know me would have an idea that I generally prefer to wear comfortable clothes. But there was this one saari in particular that I always used to covet. My granny had gifted this beautiful bright yellow saari with black/brown embroidery on it to my eldest sister. My granny got it especially stitched for her as a wedding gift. And apparently, it took more than a month for it to be stitched. I had no understanding then, of the effort that goes into the making of saaris in general and that one in particular. It was only later that I got to know that it was called a Kantha saari!
Kantha is one of the oldest forms of embroidery that originated in India. Its origins can be supposedly traced back to the ancient pre-Vedic ages. ‘Kantha’ means ‘rags’ in Sanskrit, which reflects the fact that Kantha embroidery is made up of discarded or worn-out garments or clothes. A unique traditional art, Kantha work is a particular kind of embroidery done on old sarees, dhotis and other apparel. Women often use old saaris and other clothes, layering them with the Kantha stitch to make small blankets and bedspreads, for children. My mom made some kanthas for my newborn too. It is a popular art form practiced in Bengal, especially in Bolpur, and in Bihar. While it was developed mostly to make use of old and worn-out clothes, it began to be used as an embroidery pattern on saaris and other fabrics as well. It generally consists of a simple running stitch in the form of motifs such as animals, birds, flowers, simple geometrical shapes and scenes from everyday life. What caught my attention while I was reading about the art form is that it is a craft widely practiced by women in rural Bengal, and it knows no boundaries of class or status. Be it a woman in a small village or a rich landlady, both devote their skills and talents to use Kantha for their clothing, either out of need or just out of interest.
Ever since I was ok with the idea of draping a saari I wanted to get hold of my sister’s Kantha saari. I requested my sister if I could borrow it for a while and she happily obliged. Finally, one day I got a chance to wear it. It was an office Diwali celebration day where people had to wear ethnic wear. It was maybe not the right occasion to wear that saari but I couldn’t help myself. I definitely shone that day and won the best dressed female at office (Miss Phooljhari).
My love for Kantha did not end there. It has only grown with time. I had explicitly requested my mom to gift me a Kanthasaari whenever she wanted to gift me something. That occasion and the perfect kantha for me came in quite late! My mother had gifted me this saari on the occasion of my baby shower, which among Bengalis is popularly known as ‘shaad’. I had planned to wear it for my shaad which was scheduled for 15th August, 2019. However, my baby had other plans and decided to say hello to the world on that particular day. So I did not have a shaad and neither did I get to wear the saari. I waited for occasions after that to flaunt my Kantha saari but couldn’t manage one.
It was my bestie’s wedding last month and I decided to wear a bright pink silk saari for the occasion but then on that particular day something went wrong with the decided saari and I chose to wear the kantha instead. Incidentally, on the same day in a phone call with my mother, she reminded me to drape the Kantha saari. I was not sure if that was the right choice because it’s not the usual choice for people in North India to wear a Kantha during weddings. But I did, and I think I shone in my own way. The saari brought out the best in me because it’s a colorful kantha and an abstract one making it stand out. I felt beautiful wearing it finally!
That’s my Kantha story and I hope the story continues!
2020 has been quite a year for all of us! We have struggled in our own ways to keep things going. Tried hard not to become insane (most of us failed). But 2020 has also given us time to sit back and introspect. Introspection helped me get a fresh perspective about things I thought were very important. But I realised that actually it’s the little things that give you joy that are most important. This year, I tried to focus on doing things I have wanted to do for the longest time. Here are a few things I did (not intended to show off but maybe inspire or share some ideas for you to take up in case you are interested).
- I participated in a Dance movement therapy session. I have been a dancer all my life but had lost connection with the art form for two years now because of work pressures and life pressures. So I pushed myself to participate in this one and what a wonderful experience it was! It was a two-hour session with strangers and all of us were totally immersed in it. I got to move my body, feel my body and I got to remember that I am beautiful! Not a bad start at all.
- I went out for a walk. After the longest time I drove to Lodhi Garden with my son(!), walked around, enjoyed the sun, and clicked some beautiful pictures. Realized yet again that I have an eye for the right frame and I have not forgotten to drive! Being locked at home can make you forget the skills you have and what you enjoy doing.
- I painted a trunk. This trunk has a history. When I first came to Delhi in 2002 for my undergraduate studies, I had to stay in a PG (read pigeon hole) accommodation with absolutely no furniture. This trunk was my first buy in Delhi as a student. It has been with me ever since. Sometimes I used it as a cupboard, sometimes a book shelf, many a times as TV stand. Lately, it has been lying in our balcony. So, the other day, I was sipping some tea in the balcony and this idea of painting it popped up. Got some bright yellow colour and paint brush from the market and the next day I was on the job. What a satisfying experience it was! It just made me realise that there are so many things one can do while being at home.
- I painted bottles. I have always been fascinated with these beautiful wine bottles. I have always thought of picking one up and painting it. Please note, I have not learnt painting ever. Anyway, painting these bottles was more wishful thinking and was never a priority. But the whole trunk painting activity made me feel good and I thought of finally giving this a try. Painting these bottles gave me a lot of pleasure and made me feel that if I try, I can do anything!
- I cooked and enjoyed the process. During the lockdown I tried cooking a new dish every other day. The process was quite rejuvenating and the end results were mostly good. I realised that I have an intuitive skill when it comes to cooking. Many a times I surprised myself! Though I don’t get enough time these days, I still try and immerse myself in the process ones in a while.
- Made a dance video with my friends. Finally, followed my friend’s choreography and participated in a fun video. My son kept looking at me while I practiced the moves and it was such a delight seeing him making some sudden moves (he is just 15 months old).
These were the little things that helped me stay afloat. And, I continue to keep looking for these little joys and find my happy space! What about you?
In the beginning of 2019, my parents shifted base to Kolkata. Which meant selling off our house in Jamshedpur, the place which will always remain my home. This was a difficult decision but we had to play along because this was the best thing to do given that my parents are getting older.
So when my mother told me that we had some unfinished business to take care of in Jamshedpur, I immediately leapt at the idea.
Going back to Jamshedpur was quite important for me also because this time I had my yet-to-be-5 months old-son who accompanied us. Though he would not remember anything about this trip, it was important for me to take him to the place I called home.
My uncle came to pick us up from the railway station and during the drive he was updating us on the changes. I was already feeling like we don’t belong to the city anymore.
On the first day we finished the work for which we were visiting. The next day we decided to visit our home (which of course was not ours anymore). As soon as I asked the autowala to take a left turn to enter our lane my heart sunk. My head was flooded with many questions (where are we going to ask the autowala to stop? What would have happened to our house? How will I feel seeing our own house?). But I put my head to rest and tried keeping myself calm until I saw what has become of our house. It’s now a 4 storey house and almost nothing is similar to what we had left behind.
Labourers were still finishing the paint work. I gathered some courage and entered the premises and looked around to see if I can still find a corner which seemed familiar. I wanted to click a picture of my baby there. And I was lucky, the ground floor veranda was same. Clicked a quick picture. One of the labourers asked me if there is something he can help with, and with a heavy voice I said this was our home and we were just walking around. He smiled as I guess he understood.
We met the neighbours who greeted us well and we met ‘dai’. She was our house-help and has always been family. She was so happy to see us and my baby. We talked endlessly and it was finally time to say a final goodbye to the ‘bank colony’ (which is what our neighbourhood was referred as).
Jamshedpur is home because of our house and also because of my uncles and aunts. All of them made us feel special, treated us with good food and warmth.
I am writing this on our train journey back to Kolkata. Thinking about the whole trip and putting the memories in a pensieve (reference Harry Potter/Prof Dumbledore) for later while my baby is looking out of the window awestruck.
This was my baby’s first train journey and to the place which will always remain home!
We were heading towards Lodhi Garden, but then I suddenly remembered about the street art video I came across on YouTube recently (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYhPCRDgnzE). I have always liked the idea of street art. Had chanced upon a couple of them in Mumbai during one of my visits. Hence we took a detour and drove towards Lodhi Colony instead.
We drove through Meherchand market but couldn’t find any murals initially. We kept driving, got into lanes and finally found two pieces of wall art, one was being worked upon. Now that we had tasted blood we drove further, parked our car and then started exploring the neighborhood on foot.
Slowly the beautiful art work unfurled before us as we walked between Khanna and Meherchand markets in the lanes and by-lanes of Lodhi colony. To me, it seemed like we were in a wonderland where fictitious characters came to life!
I had seen the wall art showcasing a hawker selling balloons in the YouTube video so I kept insisting on walking until we find this particular artwork. And finally, we found it!
The Lodhi Art District, as the Lodhi Colony area called, is a project undertaken by St+art India (https://st-artindia.org/), an NGO established in 2014 by several artists. The first edition of the art festival took place in 2016 when more than 20 artists from India and from all over the world displayed their art on the walls of Lodhi Colony. This year the festival was called ‘Lodhi Art Festival’ and was scheduled between mid- January to mid- March.
The Lodhi Art District is an open exhibition of beautiful art work, a visual treat for all onlookers, passersby, photographers, tourists and the residents. Termed as India’s first open air art district, the best part of this place is its accessibility.
The Lodhi Art District has a mix of colorful and subtle art work, all of them a part of a narrative. There was a piece for every individual, something each one could relate to. I wished the artists were around so that I could talk to them and get to know more about their art. But it was also fun putting my imagination to work.
By the end of the tour I was reminded about Delhi’s beauty and charm!
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ― G.K. Chesterton
Thank God both my partner and I see what we see. I travel to make memories, rejuvenate and feed my inner soul!
Since we had to plan a quick trip for the weekend, most of the places in the ‘to cover’ list which were further away had to be crossed out. By the end, we were only left with Kishangarh (Pushkar and Ajmer). I have always wanted to experience the Pushkar fair. Since it happens every year around November, we were not too sure if we should plan a trip now in February. Nonetheless, we went ahead with our plans. And, we did not regret our decision!
Rajasthan, to me, is all about colours, vibrancy, music, forts, tales and the people! I have covered many parts of the region. Had done a family trip to Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur back in 2012. Had traveled to Udaipur on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Have visited Jaipur multiple times. Been to Bharatpur Sanctuary too. Kishangarh was my seventh destination within Rajasthan.
Kishangarh is a city in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan. The city also known as Marble City of India, is famous for a special kind of painting called ‘Bani Thani’. There are many tales about this style of painting which originated from Kishangarh. While there are quite a few things to see in Kishangarh, like the Kishangarh Fort, Nepheline Syenite, National Geological Monument, Nine Planets Temple, we decided to head straight to our stay (which was closer to Pushkar/Ajmer and around one hour away from the airport) as soon as we landed in Kishangarh. Before the Kishangarh airport was built, people had to travel to Pushkar and Ajmer by road which was time-consuming. People either directly traveled to Pushkar or flew to Jaipur and then traveled more than 100 kms to reach Pushkar/Ajmer.
We stayed at a beautiful ‘Ananta Spa and Resort’, which was surrounded by hills and hence had a picturesque view in the backdrop. We were quite happy with the place. The rooms were spacious, comfy and clean.
The next morning we set off for Pushkar city which was just 4 kms away from our resort. Pushkar is in the central part of Rajasthan and on the western side of the Aravalli Mountains. The city is known for its annual fair, which is the largest camel, horse and cattle fair in India and maybe the world. Every year traders, tourists, pilgrims and locals flock to the city in the month of October/November. Supposedly the Pushkar fair alone attracts over 200,000 visitors every year.
Pushkar is also famous for its temples. The most significant one in the city is the Temple of Lord Brahma. It is one of the very few existing temples dedicated to the Hindu creator, Lord Brahma in India and remains the most prominent among them. The Brahma Temple has many mythological tales about its origin. We heard a few interesting ones from the locals.
Next, we visited the Savitri Mata temple. This temple is located at the top of the Ratnagiri Hill and is dedicated to Savitri, the wife of Lord Brahma. One would need to use either the cable car or the steps to reach the temple. You get a beautiful view of the city from the hill. There is an interesting mythological story behind its origin. It goes like – once, Lord Brahma was performing a yagna on the bank of the Pushkar Lake where the presence of his wife (Savitri) was required. But because she was late in arriving, Brahma married another girl (Gayatri) to complete this ritual on time. When Savitri arrived, she was upset to see someone else in her place and in her anger she cursed everyone present there. Later, she went to the Ratnagiri hills to atone for her deeds. The temple was hence constructed in her remembrance.
Next on our list was the beautiful Pushkar Lake, one of the most prominent spots of pilgrimage. The beauty of the lake is because of the ghats surrounding it. There is a total of 52 ghats around the lake. Out of the 52 ghats used by pilgrims to take a holy dip, 10 important ghats on the periphery of the lake, have supposedly been declared as ‘Monuments of National Importance’. It was a beautiful experience to witness the serene, calm atmosphere at the lake, with devotees offering prayers, taking holy dips, birds silently making their way in the stunning blue and bright sky.
We then headed back to our resort and decided to relax for the rest of the day but only after we had our share of mouth-watering Rajasthani food. We were quite ambitious and thought we had the appetite to devour a whole Rajasthani thali. But we were wrong! The most common Rajasthani food are ‘Besan Gatte ki Sabji’, ‘Daal Bati Churma’, ‘Laal Maas’, ‘Rajasthani Kadhi’, ‘Ker Sangri’ and our thaali had it all and more!!!
On the last day, we checked out and headed to Ajmer, one of the oldest cities in Rajasthan. Ajmer is famously known for the ‘Ajmer Dargah’, the Mayo College and its lakes. We stopped at the Ana Sagar Lake which is spread over 13 kms and is the biggest in the city. The lake is surrounded by hills which makes it visually attractive.
On our way to the airport, we stopped over at the Nareli Jain Temple. It is a complex comprising of 14 temples built recently. It is known for its architecture and intricate stone carvings which gives it both a traditional yet contemporary look.
Though Pushkar and Ajmer are mostly destinations for pilgrims, I think it has something for all travelers. I am not a very religious person but what my grandmother once told me made a difference. I remember I used to make faces whenever she asked us to accompany her to the temples. But one day she told me that I need not visit the temples for any religious sentiment but may visit it for its tales, architecture, views etc. That definitely made sense to me!
Trips which are not planned are the best because the whole process then becomes about discovering!! And, we just went with the flow – booked our tickets last minute, booked a hotel a week before leaving and we were all set…to visit Kerala (Kochi)! Honestly, we were a little unsure if we should visit Kochi after the devastating floods but, we were pleasantly surprised to see the city so alive!! By the end of the trip we were quite happy with our decision.
Cochin, another name for Kochi means “like-China”. When the Chinese migrated there in the 14th century, they thought that the region resembled China and therefore they named it Cochin. We were quite intrigued by the history of this city. It was invaded time and again by the Portuguese, then by the Dutch and finally by the British. It was not just the invaders, but because the city was an important spice trading center, it was also often visited by the Arabs, the Jews and the Chinese. The city thus has had an influence of many cultures.
We arrived at Kochi on a Saturday morning and took a cab directly from the airport to Fort Kochi (which was 1.5 hours away from the Kochi airport). Infact, we were ferried to Fort Kochi while we were in the cab. This was quite fascinating! The name ‘Fort Kochi’ is derived from ‘Fort Emmanuel’ which was the first Portuguese fort built in Asia in that area. But we could hardly see any remains of the Fort now.
We stayed at the Towerhouse (a Neemrana property) located at the Vasco da Gama (Fort Kochi) square and that’s where you get the best view of the famous Chinese nets that were introduced during the 14th century. After settling down, we picked up the map and zeroed down on places we wanted to visit. Though local transport was easily available, we decided to walk around Fort Kochi. The weather was lovely and every place we wanted to visit was approximately 1-2 kms away.
Since it was a three days trip we decided to stay in Kochi and not venture elsewhere. People advised us to travel to Munnar, Alleppey, etc but we decided not to. There is a lot you can do in Kochi.
So here is my take on what you should not miss during a visit to Kochi:
- Trying the local food and cafes – We tried a variety of food during our stay and everything was just perfect. We tried the fish wrapped in banana leaf with rice at a local restaurant at Fort Kochi. We tried some lip smacking biryani at Kayees Rahmathullah near Mattacherry area. Kashi Art Café (at Fort Kochi) had a great vibe. As you enter you will find a lot of interesting artefacts. On another day we discovered this small but cozy café named Fusion Bay, which served local food. We were so hungry and ended up finishing everything we ordered. We left the place with a big smile. This place is a must visit!
- Visiting the Kerala Kathakali centre – if you want to get introduced to Kathakali as a dance form (an important part of Kerala culture) then this place is a must visit. It was a great experience for us. The intricate make-up was done right in front of us. We were also given a translation of the story which was presented that night and it helped us understand and enjoy the performance better. It was an overwhelming experience!
- Taking the ferry ride/boat jetty to Ernakulam – Although it was a nightmare because we had to stand in a long queue for almost 1.5 hours to buy the tickets, by the end of the ride I realized it was all worth it. The sunset, the waves, the glimpse of the INS ‘Vikramaditya’ made it worthwhile. It was all so serene.
- Indulge in some shopping – Since Kochi has been at the center of Indian spice trade, spice shopping is a must!! We bought some very aromatic spices from the local spice market at whole sale price. Most of the spices are grown in Kerala so there is no way you can miss the spice shops. We also picked up some Kerala cotton sarees from Jayalakshmi (located at MG road in Ernakulam).
- Witnessing fishermen at work – While walking around the streets, we also spent some time watching fishermen at work. They were using the Chinese fishing nets for fishing.
- Getting to know the city by visiting the museums – There are quite a few museums in the city. We visited three –
- The Mattancherry Palace (which is also a museum) – The Palace was built and gifted by the Portuguese to the king of Cochin around 1555. The Dutch carried out some expansions and renovations in the palace in 1663, and thereafter it was popularly called the Dutch Palace. This was the best museum because it had a lot to offer- information about the history of Kerala and its people, wildlife, culture, handloom, architecture and murals.
- Indo-Portuguese museum – located inside the Bishop house. We got to see some old maps of Kerala which is of historical and geographical importance. This museum also showcased the Portuguese influence on the city.
- Indian Naval Maritime museum – As we entered the gate, a gentleman told us that two sturdy bunkers to store arms and ammunition (built by the British) were after many years converted into this museum . While this museum showcased a lot of information about the Indian navy, do not miss the documentaries screened inside. You get to learn a lot about the Indian navy’s glorious past.
- Visiting churches, synagogue, beaches – During our stay we also visited many other touristy places. I’m listing down some of the names here.
- Cherai Beach located on the northern tip of the Vypin island
- Paradesi Synagogue
- Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica – The Dutch invaded and conquered Cochin in 1663. All Catholic buildings were supposedly destroyed but the St. Francis Church and the Cathedral were spared. The Dutch made the cathedral their arms storehouse. Later it fell into the hands of the British who demolished it when they took over Cochin in 1795. One of the decorative granite pillars of the destroyed Cathedral is still kept as a monument at the Basilica premises.
- St. Francis Church – The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this church but after fourteen years his remains were removed to Lisbon.
- Jewish cemetery and Dutch cemetery – Although you won’t be able to enter the cemeteries but you can definitely get a glimpse from outside.
- Try getting an Ayurvedic healing massage – During my search for good Spas I came across some names which might be useful to you – The Fort Ayurveda spa, at the Fort House hotel in Fort Kochi, Ayurville, Agastya Ayurveda Massage and Wellness Center on Princess Street. I did not try any of them so please do your research well before going for a massage.
- Visit Spice bazaar on Broadway. Broadway is opposite to marine drive (Ernakulam). Though you will find spice market in Fort Kochi area, those might be expensive. Jew town also has a Spice market.
- Do go for the ferry/jetty rides but to avoid long queues make sure that it’s not a national holiday or during peak hours when people use ferries to commute the most!
I have visited Goa eight times in all. This may not be a big deal for many but I also know people who have never been to Goa. So this post is an attempt to help them make a plan. Goa is beautiful in every season so you need not wait for a December. I have been there in winter, summer, spring and monsoon!
I am a beach person and hence visiting Goa has become almost like a yearly ritual for me. I feel a connection with the ocean. The vastness of an ocean amazes and scares me at the same time. It amazes me to witness that at one moment the waves are wild and the next moment it’s all calm. It gives you many life lessons.
My first ever visit to the city was in 1999. This was during a school excursion when we were visiting Mumbai, Pune, Lonavla and Goa. This was also my first ever trip with my school friends and my memories are still very fresh. This trip was during the new year’s eve of the millennium year. It seemed as if everybody was in Goa to celebrate the New Year. It was over-crowded. It was supposed to be fun but I hated Goa then and only because of the crowd. During that visit, I tried ‘feni’ (a local drink made of cashew); again I hated it because I tried it neat. It was quite bitter in taste. We visited the ‘Basilica of Bom Jesus’, a beautiful church which is a UNESCO listed world heritage site. It is located in old Goa and holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier (one of the greatest Roman Catholic missionaries of modern times who was instrumental in the establishment of Christianity in India).
I left Goa that year to not return ever, but who knew that from the next visit it would become a ritual?
The next visit was an offsite trip arranged by an organization I worked with in 2010. Employees from across India came to Goa for this trip. Day time was dedicated to presentations, case studies, learnings and conversations. Evenings were reserved only for fun! During this visit I started exploring Goa in its real sense. We visited shacks at the Anjuna beach and Baga beach. We tried sea food and drinks. By the end of the trip I had bonded well with my colleagues across India and with GOA!
In 2011, I returned with my school friends. This was a fun trip. I drove the scooty for the very first time. Exploring Goa on a scooty is the best thing to do. Every lane has shops which offers scooties on rent. Just make sure you carry your driving license with you. Other than scooties you also get four wheelers on rent. It’s not a great idea to hire taxis (with drivers) as it’s costlier and you are dependent on them. I tried the local curry dish ‘Vindaloo’. It’s quite popular and you can find both veg and non-veg variants.
2014 onwards I visited Goa every year with friends. And with each year I have realized that my bond with Goa has deepened. That year I visited Goa with 20 friends and it was one hell of a trip! We stayed near Candolim beach in North Goa. We visited Fort Aguada (popularized by the movie ‘Dil Chahta Hai’). This Portuguese fort was built in 1612 to guard the city from the Dutch and the Marathas. The fort also has a light house standing tall. Entry is free of cost and you should try to visit it in the morning to avoid the heat during the day.
During a few of my visits, I also went to the Saturday night bazaar (flea market) in Arpora. You will find all kinds of things in this night market (it starts at around 6 pm and is open all through the night) from food to clothes to live music. We also went to Curlies which is a popular shack on Anjuna beach. Aviation enthusiasts should definitely visit the Naval aviation museum. Its located quite close to the airport and showcases a collection of vintage and current aircraft. You can also buy some souvenirs for friends and family back home.
By the end of these trips, I have realized that there is something for everyone in Goa! You can plan a trip to just party in Goa, try club hopping, or you could opt to beach hop, or you could just go there for a relaxing weekend and, take walks in the lanes, eat yummy food and drink to your heart’s content. I am sure nobody has ever come back from Goa without having a good time!
suddymoody recommendations and facts:
- When in Goa try fish and pork dishes
- Do try the grilled/masala king fish
- Trying Port wine is a must
- Visit Curlies at Anjuna beach before the sunset. You will get to witness a beautiful view of the sunset on your approach to Curlies
- Stay in North Goa if it’s your first visit. That’s where all the action is (if action is your thing J)
- Don’t drink and drive! Rules have become stricter – but not just because of rules, na?
- The cashews there are not cheap but of good quality. You can take some home for your friends and family
- Vagator and Arambol beaches are beautiful
- Shacks on the beaches can charge you more but it’s worth it because of the view
- You can try the Goan pork sausages. You will find it in the bigger departmental stores if you want to carry some home
- For good food you can visit Fisherman’s cove and Fat fish
- You will find many vegetarian restaurants too
- Goa airport also serves as military airbase (air station of the Indian Navy)
Banaras (now known as Varanasi) as a city, although a little congested, is quite mystical. I visited the city in February, 2017 and was quite charmed by its beauty. Here is why…
The city supposedly has 88 ghats (an area with steps which lead to a river bank) all situated next to each other on the banks of the river Ganga. Each one of them has a history and mythical tales related to it.
My parents and I reached Banaras on a Friday afternoon and then visited the Dashashwamedha Ghat (the main ghat in Banaras) to experience the evening aarti. Though the aarti usually starts at around 6.45 every evening (it also depends on the time of sunset), one should ideally reach there at least half an hour earlier to ensure a comfortable spot to get a closer view of the mesmerizing aarti. You can also opt for a boat ride half an hour before the rituals start to get a glimpse of the neighboring ghats and to witness the aarti (which usually lasts for around 45 minutes) from the boat. The view is exhilarating. We were so charmed by the evening aarti that we decided to attend the morning (before sunrise) aarti too the very next day. And I’m so glad we decided to do so. The ghat got its name ‘Assi’ (as in the number 80 in Hindi) as it is the 80th ghat in Banaras. When we reached at 5 in the morning, we saw a smaller crowd (in comparison to the evening aarti crowd) and we were mighty pleased. We got the best views and could move around easily to click pictures.
What we did next was the highlight of the trip – we decided to go for a boat ride! We settled for a one hour ride starting from Assi Ghat to Dashashwamedha Ghat. On our way there we crossed many other ghats. Our boatman was quite chatty and shared with us a lot of information. We crossed the Chet Singh Ghat which looked like a fort. It looked quite different from the other ghats we crossed. We could see the sunrise from the boat and the view was heavenly!
After the boat ride we got down at the Dashashwamedha Ghat and headed for the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The narrow lanes at the Ghat led us to the temple. The darshan took us around 40 minutes as there were quite a few devotees waiting for their turn. We went back to our hotel to catch up on some sleep after a consuming morning.
Now that we were done with the major sight-seeing (we also visited Sarnath and Banaras Hindu University the next day), it was time for shopping for the much-popular Banarasi sarees and duppattas. While we did a lot of window shopping in the main market areas, our driver took us to this industrial area where there were many wholesalers selling Banarasi duppattas and sarees where there was a lot more variety and cheaper options. You may want to bargain at some of these places. I also checked with the shopkeepers if we can visit the factory, and much to my delight, we were taken to one of them! Artisans sat there patiently working on the sarees.
After the half day indulgence in shopping we left for Delhi!
Suddymoody quick facts:
- Banarasi sarees are obviously made in Banaras. Banarasi sarees are made with a lot of silk and heaps of skill. But these days you can also find Banarasi embroidery on other fabrics too. It’s about the style of weaving. So don’t be surprised next time if the shopkeeper shows off an Organza Banarasi saari.
- Depending on the intricacy, one Banarasi saari may take an artisan almost 15 days to a month at least to complete.
- A Bengali bride generally wears a red/maroon Banarasi saari on the day of the wedding.
- You will find that a lot of people in Banaras are Bengalis or can speak Bengali. Supposedly the city is also known as a mini-Bengal.
- Masaan – a Bollywood movie (released in 2015) which received international appreciation too was based and shot in Banaras. The movie captures the city’s essence beautifully.
- Do try the street food and famous Banarasi paan.
- Banaras has also been a home to many widows who have been abandoned by their families. They come to the Holy city to attain moksha (or because they have nowhere else to go). Most of them are left to beg for their daily food.