Sarnath – Varanasi

25 Mar



It is hot In India. It is the first time when I am now off season and I understand what means this heat. It kills your energy, man and beast, to the point that you don’t want to move. It is so hot that you drink bottle after bottle of water and never see a bathroom in the entire day and you drink more than half a bottle in one sip and you are constantly thirsty.

Your lips are dry and if you do not drink water for an hour you feel an organic sickness in your body that makes you leave anything you do and run for a bottle of cold water, the best medicine in this climate. And if you cannot get some at that moment you will drink even the warm water left over in your bottle, only water to be. The dogs are sleeping in the middle of the street such a deep sleep that last night in Bodh Gaya, a guy was moving his cyclo was going to run over a sleeping dog. In the last moment he carefully avoided the dog, its back wheel just touching the dog’s tail, but the dog did not move a muscle and continued to sleep. Maybe he was in deep meditation. Or maybe he was dead because I saw several dogs and cats dead in the streets and thrown in the garbage in the middle of the street. It is so hot that you cannot walk, barefoot obviously, in any temple outside, so you can visit only areas that have shade or dirt, because the marble or the stone is incinerating your feet. It does not matter that you got a new T shirt, it will be soaked in no time. It is so hot that you cannot eat during the day. You may feel a little hunger but the only thing you dream of is another bottle of cold water or a Fanta.

Somebody said that this is summer temperature, 42-43C, for the month of April but other said that it can be even hotter in May and June that are the summer vacation months for schools. To see dead animals decomposing is quite regular but some American guys were completely shocked to see a dead man in the street in Rishikesh covered in flies and people passing obliviously near the body with not a second view. But this is India where survival is key and people do not see the wholeness from the parts. We left in the morning at 6:00 am from Bodh Gaya with no looking back. It was very nice but we have to move. Today is my last car day in India, except the ride in Delhi, and I don’t regret a bit. It is hard to cover these long distances without a car if you are here for a short time. We drove on the highway in the early morning and we were able to reach Varanasi with no incidents around 11:00 am but we continued through Varanasi to Sarnath that is just about 10 km away that took us about an hour.

Sarnath is the place where is located the deer park where Lord Buddha had the first sermon, or how it is called the DharmaChakra, the Wheel of Law set in motion. He meditated and had his sermon in this park that used to be full of monasteries around 500AD but meanwhile went in disrepair and it was renovated recently. It contains an archeological area where it used to be a shrine, many monasteries and a huge unfinished stupa built by Emperor Ashoka. Also it exists a new temple on the place where Buddha taught the first sermon and near by a bodhi tree that grew from a sapling from the one in Bodh Gaya. I visited all of these and tried to sit a little under the Bodh tree but, like yesterday in Bodh Gaya, was so hot and unpleasant that I gave up soon. When I returned to the car I stopped at the museum and to a tanka store, where after not too much negotiations I got two Tibetan beautiful tankas from a very educated and pleasant guy. We left around 3:00 pm sarnath to visit BHU, Benares Hindu University and Birla temple that was inside. It is inside the city but quite far from the center, a green campus with multiple buildings. From there the driver called a mobile number I had from a guest house on the Ganges, Leela, and the owner came to pick me up from a specific point in town. I packed the stuff from the car trunk and gave the luggage to some boys from the hotel who came to help,

I tipped the driver, not knowing how much would be the correct and he asked for Rs 2000. It is much or little I have no clue. I got to Leela, walking on an alley that a number of cows called home and the amount of dung was dangerous in the night.  In the hotel I found out a dismal room with balcony to the Ganges but a kind of a prison cell with a fan on the ceiling. I regretted the choice but no other rooms were available and I had to give it a try for one night. The differences in hotel rooms can be night and day for prices 3-10 times higher. Actually when I asked the manager for the room price and he told me that the room is Rs 350 I knew that something is wrong. I left in the city, shooting a little on the ghats in the evening light and getting for the Puja with aarthi, that here happens as usual on the Ganges but it is more sparse than in other places. The music is not so good like in Haridwar but the show is impressive. Puja finished at 8pm and I went for the dinner, the only meal of the day because of the heat.


Aarthi in Varanasi

At dinner I met two nice guys from Sweden, Madeline and Simon, who were traveling to India since September with some pauses in Bangkok. After 6 months in India they were still in shock with the country, a reaction you can see in many travelers. As Madeline put it, it was no difference when they came from Stockholm to India and latter when they came from Bangkok. The shock was identical. And I know exactly what she meant, it is  a dual shock and most of the travelers feel this way. As a matter of fact if you enter Monalisa Cafe, full of foreigners and German cookies, you see on their faces the toll the trip is putting on them. I remember in 1994 on Koh Sarn Road in Bangkok, a totally different place than today, you could pick out from a crowd of travelers the ones who came from India after a longer stay…..We had a great conversation with the Swedes but this delayed my schedule and after the nightly phones I was kicked out from the Internet because of late hour and all stores were closing. So I went to the hotel, where to add insult to injury the power was off, and a limited battery power was on, and all I could get from a boy who was sleeping on the floor at the “reception”, in Hindi(!), was ” power off”. I was upset that I could not charge the batteries so I got into the tiny, prison type shower and when I was in the middle of the process the whole power, battery included turned off and I was left to sing in the dark. During my stumbling process to find a towel the power came fully on and it stayed all night, a night when I could not sleep too well because of the heat in my cell in which the small fan on the ceiling did not make a difference.

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Posted by on March 25, 2010 in Blog, India


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