Benares was not a disappointment. It justified its reputation as a curiosity. It is on high ground, and overhangs a grand curve of the Ganges. It is a vast mass of building, compactly crusting a hill, and is cloven in all directions by an intricate confusion of cracks which stand for streets. Tall, slim minarets and beflagged temple-spires rise out of it and give it picturesqueness, viewed from the river. The city is as busy as an ant-hill, and the hurly-burly of human life swarming along the web of narrow streets reminds one of the ants. - Mark Twain
Days passed by and I was nearing the end of my journey to the sacred city of Lord Shiva, Varanasi… The second last day of my trip – I decided to dedicate to the 2 very famous ‘To do things’ in Varanasi - The Boat Ride along the Ganga and the Ganga Arti.
In the morning, excitedly, I along with my family, set out for the boat ride and reached Dashashwamedh Ghat. This ghat being one of the largest, there were a number of different types of boats (manually oared or motored, personal or shared) adorning the ghat. I would definitely recommend a simple manually oared personal boat since it moves slowly and, kind of, complements the ride on the serenely flowing river. The prices for these boat rides are highly negotiable. So, if you are in Varanasi and thinking of taking a boat ride, bargain hard or you might just end up paying almost 4-5 times of the regular fare.
Starting from the initial quote of Rs. 440, after haggling with a number of different boatmen, we finally settled for Rs. 120 (4 persons/hr) which included a tour of the Ganges from the Harischandra Ghat to the Manikarnika Ghat and the back at the starting point i.e. Dashashwamedh Ghat.
The best time to take the boat ride is at dawn when the temples at the river front are bathed in a lovely hue of orange and the ghats are just beginning to bustle with various activities and rituals. However, that day the sun was in no mood to peek out from behind the dense cloud cover. The prevailing foggy and hazy conditions (we had visited in January), nevertheless, were just adding to the entire mystical aura associated with Varanasi.
This fascinating journey is very difficult to be described in words… So feel the cool breeze and step on to this virtual boat. As I relive those fantastic memories through photographs, let us together enjoy this wonderful boat ride along the river Ganges…
[ Boats lined up at the Dashashwamedh Ghat ]
[ Starting our Boat ride ]
[ Our Boatman - Chungeri Kaka ]
[ Ghats buzzing with morning activities ]
[ Kedar Ghat with the Kedareshwar Temple ]
[ One of the burning Ghats - Harishchandra Ghat ]
[ A group enjoying the boat ride ]
[ Raja Ghat- Now used for washing purposes ]
[ A panoramic view of the Ghats ]
[ Funeral pyres burning at the sacred Manikarnika Ghat ]
[ Seagulls.. seagulls..everywhere ]
[ Incredible boat ride comes to an end at the Dashaswamedh Ghat ]
As I stepped out of the boat, I found myself laden with the rich history of the beautiful Ghats (already described in my previous post here) and some marvelous moments etched in my memory to treasure for the rest of my life.
In the evening, we were unable to attend the Ganga Arti of Varanasi due to the ill health of my brother. The following day we left ISKCON (where I stayed) and headed back home...
Here I am today, sitting comfortably within the confines of my living room in Mumbai busy publishing posts. It’s been 3 months since I bid adieu to the religious capital of India – Varanasi. But frankly speaking, I feel the city never left me… the earthly abode of Lord Shiva – the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the magic of the sacred river- The Ganga, the land of Gautam Buddha – Sarnath or the so very unique festival of Magh Mela (Mini Kumbh Mela) in Allahabad… I am already craving to be a part of this magical experience called The Kashi Yatra all over again!!!