Day 17: March 20th, 2018. The holy city of Varanasi, India.
Arrived on the overnight sleeper train from Delhi to Varanasi and was greeted by our driver Deepak and tour guide Sunil.
Ate lunch at the Royal Family Restaurant- had the veg chow mein,Kesari Malai Kofta (saffron cottage cheese dumplings with dry fruits), and Stuffed Kulcha.
Varanasi is also known as kashi and Benares/ Banaras. Two rivers varuni and assi to form Varanasi.It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and known for being a Hindu and Jain pilgrimage site, musical center, and for their Benares silk. It has settlements dating back from 11th century AD.
The city has 3.5 million people live in the city with 60% Buddhists and 30% Muslim and the rest mix of religions such as Jainism, Shik, etc.
Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi brings nirvana and so they make the trip to the city when they realize that they are close to death. People are also cremated here and floated in the ganges river. The also hold a Ganga Aarti at sunset.
We stopped by a thai buddhist temple area with buddha statues.
We also explored Sarnath and visited a museum with archaeological artifacts and where we met Martin, a guy who lives in the bay area and who we met at burning man 2018. We also saw the site where Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment at bodh gaya. An off spring of original bodhi tree was there. It was at Sarnarth that Lord Buddha preached his first sermon, sanctified as Maha Dharma Chakra Parivartan- the wheel of law set in motion. It is also where he met his first 5 disciples.
Several buddhist monks from asian countries and Sri Lanka were there meditating and chanting.
We stopped by a shop where they make them and also sell silk goods including scarves, duvet covers, etc. Varanasi is known for it’s Banarasi Silk.We learned that 1 silk saari takes 28 days to make by one person and the fabric is 6 meters long.
We ate dinner Taste King Family Restaurant and had a Masala dosa ( savory crepe like with filling) and vegetable Uttapam ( kind of like a pizza). Both tasty.