Day 3 – Yoga, Meditation and Priest Training School
February 2, 2015 • Spiritual Adventures
Day 3 : February 1st
Some say that a visit to Varanasi is an experience of self-discovery and eternal oneness of body and soul. However this magical city affects you, it has been agreed that Varanasi offers everyone a unique and breathtaking experience.The past two days we spent fully immersed in that experience and taking in all of the wonderful sites that Varanasi has to offer. It has also been the perfect place to dive into our study of yoga and meditation.
We walked up and down The Ganga Ghats, which are stone steps leading down into the Ganges. These are the most popular pilgrimage spots in Varanasi. The sights, sounds and smells here are both shocking and overwhelming–there is no doubt they will live long in everyone’s memory after this trip is over. Varanasi has at least 84 ghats; the most noteworthy are Dasashwamedh, Manikarnika, and Harish Chandra (where Hindus cremate their dead).
One evening we took in a Ganga Aarti, which is an amazing highly choreographed ceremony, that takes place every sunset at holy Dasaswamedh Ghat. Though some consider it to be too showy and artificial, I think it’s definitely a must-see because of what it represents in a spiritual context. The aarti is performed on a stage by a group of young scholars, wearing in saffron colored robes. The blowing of a conch shell marks the beginning, followed with the waving of incense sticks in elaborate patterns, and circling of large lamps that radiate light into the night sky. We were all enchanted by the synchronized movements of the lamps with the lull of the rhythmic chants and clang of cymbals.
We navigated our way through the crowds to visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple, another must see stop in Varanasi. Kashi Vishwanath is one of the most famous Hindu temples, receiving around 3,000 visitors daily. The temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, devotional objects representing the god Shiva. The best part of the temple is the 15.5-meter high gold spire and gold dome. We all had to stop and take photos of the three beautiful, breath-taking domes each made up of pure gold—it was definitely a feast for our eyes.
We ventured through the labyrinth of narrow alleys and streets that make up Varanasi’s “Old City.” Though it can be disorienting, we were able to find a myriad of charming restaurants, fun roadside shops and intriguing Hindu temples. Varanasi is also renowned for its rich tapestry of music, arts, crafts and education, all of which we caught glimpses of along these crowded streets.
One of my favorite things to shop for while exploring the Old City is silk. Throughout India, Varanasi is known for it’s very fine silk and exquisite saris, which are usually saved for weddings and special occasions. For generations they have passed down their craft, hand-weaving silk on room-sized foot-powered looms. This high quality silk is made into the saris that most Indian girls dream of wearing on their wedding day and I always enjoy looking through these exquisite pieces of cloth.
We took two fantastic boat rides on the Ganges: one at dawn when the rays of the sun shimmered and danced across the sacred water and one at dusk to the opposite side of the river bank to take in the magnificent and historical architecture as the setting sun illuminated it. Accompanying those exquisite sites was the hazy smoke from cremation fires, the pungent smell of burning incense, and the sounds of hymns and chants make these boat rides feel like an other worldly experience. We all agreed that these experiences were a highlight of the trip thus far.
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