Tulsi Manas Temple
[ Tulsi Manas Temple ]
Built in 1964, dediated to Lord Rama, it is located a few meters ahead of the Durga temple. A magnificient structure of white marble surrounded by beautiful lush green gardens, it is believed to be built at the same place where saint-poet Tulsidas lived and wrote the famous Indian epic, Ram Charit Manas, the Hindi version of the Ramayana. I saw that the walls of the temple were carved with verses and scenes from the Ram Charit Manas, though I couldn’t understand much of it, still it was really very enchanting. On the first floor there was an interesting show depicting scenes from the lives of various Gods and Saints of India.
The Sankat Mochan temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is also founded by seer Tulsidas.
Saint Kabir Das
[ Lake where child Kabir was found ]
The story goes that he was actually the son of a Brahmin widow who abandoned him and that he was found by a Muslim weaver named Niru and his wife Neema floating on a Lotus leaf in a lake known as LaherTalav. They gave him the name Kabir. Kabir literally means “the great one” and Das means “servant”. As he was found here, this place came to be known as Kabir Janmasthali (Kabir Prackatya Sthal) or the birthplace of Kabir. Situated in the heart of Varanasi, when I visited the place the temple was under construction and the lake was devoid of any water. Now, a large hall has been built by his followers, and the place is being used for various religious discourses. They are planning to build a big temple cum ashram honoring Him.
[ Sant Kabir Birthplace – Lahertara ]
I recollected this wonderful play on the life and teachings of Sant KabirDas by Shekhar Sen that I had seen along with my father some years back. True to his name, he was a great man and a servant to mankind. He was strictly against any form of idol worship, casteism, rituals followed blindly in the name of religion, discrimination on the grounds of wealth or religion. He believed in the principle of ‘God is present within every human soul’. He did not care about the consequences and said what he saw, what he felt was true due to which he had to face the wrath of both the Hindu and Muslim communities. Total self surrender to God and love to all irrespective of the caste, creed or race formed the basis of his philosophies and preaching’s made immortal in the very famous ‘Kabir Dohe’ (two line Hindi couplets).
Truly, his sayings continue to confound us and teach us to live our lives in the correct manner. If you ask me, who is the most famous personality of Benaras – living or dead… Then, my reply would be, it is undoubtedly this Great Man!!
[ Sant Ravidas Park ]
He is also known as Sant Raidas. We visited the Ravidas park dedicated to him. There is a grand memorial devoted to him in the centre of the park. The park itself is huge with green lawns and many different types of colorful flowers adorning them. He taught that one is distinguished not by one's caste, creed or gender but by one's actions and that every person has the right to worship God and read holy texts. The queen of Chittorgarh, the famous Krishna Bhakt MeeraBai, is said to have been his disciple. It is also believed that he was the disciple of Guru Ramananda, the one who also taught Kabir.
[ A photo of Mata Anandmayi at her ashram ]
We visited the Mata Anandmayi Ashram situated in Bhadeni, very near to the Assi ghat. A well known Bengali female saint and a great spiritual leader of the modern era, she devoted her entire life for the selfless service and encouraged others to do the same. She was believed to be the incarnation of Godess Kali. The ashram is very beautiful situated on the banks of the river Ganga.
[ Kaviraj Ji stayed in this room at the ashram ]
A sanskrit scholar and philosopher, Pandit Gopinath Kaviraj Ji was the direct disciple of Vishuddhanand Paramhansa and an ardent devotee of Mata Anandmayi. He lived at the Mata Anandmayi Ashram from 1970-1976. He had the privilege of being in the presence of many renowned saints and holy men. He has compiled his experiences of the time spent with them in a series of books named Sadhu Darshan Satprasang.