Varanasi: The Flashback

Varanasi, the place was on my travel list since 5 years and I was wondering when the D-day would arrive!

Lately, I have come to realize that things happen at the right opportune time!

So it did! November 2017 was the month I set foot in Varanasi with no expectations but a heart filled with enthusiasm to explore this intriguing place. And of course with the people I adore! 😉

The ride from Sunauli (Why sunauli- will get back to that probably in my next post on Annapurna Circuit) to Varanasi was quite interesting. My friend and me started early morning in the UPSRTC bus to reach Varanasi! From scenic paddy fields, mustard fields and farms galore the road took to small towns, cities and finally reached Varanasi. One can feel the chaos as soon as you hit the city center. We hired a auto-rickshaw to take us to our stay at Zostel.

It was 3pm when we reached and took some time to freshen up. We went on a stroll to explore the streets of Varanasi in the evening!

Our first pit-stop in Varanasi was at the local famous Chaat shop. We tried a variety of Chaats and of course ended with a sweet-meat! We were too tired to get on with our exploration that we took to the terrace at our stay indulging in a chat and then hit the sack after the long day!

Let me give you a glimpse of Varanasi!

So our stay was pretty close to Kashi Vishwanath temple, the main street and about 2-3 kms to the Ghats and of course the Ganges!

The streets were amazingly crowded! More than vehicles on the road, there were people and it was more difficult for the vehicles to meander through the crowd. But the two wheelers, auto-rickshaws, tuk-tuk, cycle-rickshaws and a zillion other variety of vehicles added of course to the rhythmic chaos! The street also had a good number of street vendors selling trinkets, fruits, neem twigs,chaats and what-nots! The main street leads one to the Ghats where certain rituals and ablutions take place. There along the Ghats runs Ganga with all exuberance and serenity! Along the main street the road leads to a lot of narrow alleys which house series of temples; big and small! Apart from that there are popular lassi spots, kullad chai addas, paan shops and of course the hot jalebis / samosas spots!

All in all an interesting place to explore.

Let me talk about the history and importance of Varanasi; It is a spiritual and a religious place for Hindus where one is believed to attain Liberation if one is cremated there after death!

Kashi, Benaras, Varanasi are some of the names it goes by! It is a revered city on the banks of Ganga in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is called Varanasi owing to the confluence of Varuna and Assi rivers! It is known as the ‘City of Lights’-Kashi(to shine)!

We were joined by two other friends the next morning and we got on a temple hopping spree!

Each and every temple had a certain vibration and of course different deities. Right from Kalabhairav temple to Sankat mochan Mahabali Hanuman temple to Devi temple to the main Kashi Vishwanath temple to Annapurna temple, each had its beauty and fervour! (PS: these are the few temple names I remember, we did a visit a few more maybe!)

Kashi Vishwanath temple, the main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a huge temple which houses smaller shrines and temples. The temple has withstood a lot of battles and rampage over 12th-18th Centuries owing to the Mughal attacks. The temple is beefed up with a lot of security personnel! The various smaller temples runs along the narrow alleys which is quite a meandering tour!

We were present for a couple of Aartis (rituals) at the Vishwanath temple and the energy of the chants, the mystical place, the awe-inspiring rishis were mind-blowing! I cannot put it into words but it was truly a remarkable experience!

Food and drinks are at its best out here in Varanasi. The evenings were spent in exploring and tasting the cuisine of Varanasi. Puri Bhaji, hot jalebis, Kachoris are the popular and tasty breakfast dishes. One can snack upon chaats, taste variety of lassis, kullad chai, hot-lemon teas and bhaang which is legal in the streets of Varanasi! Well, not to forget the Benarasi Paan!

One of the highlights of the place is obviously the Ganges.

She flows with all zest unperturbed about the life and death at her banks!

Sparkling her way through the lights of Sun and Moon!

Ready to sway by the flickering souls in the midst!

All set to trigger the divine you!

A boat ride takes one along the Ghats from one end to the other. It is a beautiful ride!

By the Ghats, Varanasi,ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
By the Ghats, Varanasi

The ghats / embankments along the Ganga are a place of rituals! Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghat are popular for cremation rituals.

Dasashwamedh Ghat is very popular for the Ganga Aarti which takes place in the evening twilight! There are 7 Rishis who perform the rituals facing Ganga! We sat on one of the boats and saw this beautiful array of lights, lamps and of course the 7 rishis perform synchronous rituals with the lamps. It was a sight to behold! The fervour of the place, the people in unison, serene Ganga, the rishis were magnetic and splendid! This is something that one shouldn’t miss if visiting Varanasi!

The Ghats are open 24*7 and the best time to visit is in the early mornings for the spectacular Sunrise and the evenings during the Sunsets and of course the Aarti!

Sunrise at Ganges, Varanasi, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Sunrise at Ganges, Varanasi
Sunset at the Ganges, Varanasi, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Sunset at the Ganges, Varanasi

One place which we considered our amazing serene hang-out was the Nepali temple in the Lalita Ghat. The temple is a replica of Pashupatinath temple, Nepal. It is made of wood, stone and terracota. It was built by the King of Nepal during his exile and was completed by his son. It took three decades to complete this beautiful structure and it is surrounded by tamarind and peepal trees which makes it all the more lovely!

Nepali temple, Lalita Ghat, Varanasi, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Nepali temple, Lalita Ghat, Varanasi

One can also visit Banaras Hindu University (BHU) which is the largest residential University in Asia!

All in all, Varanasi is a place of wonder. One has to visit it to experience the immense beauty and delve into this mystical abode!

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Trek to Kheerganga in the midst of Parvati Valley

Trek to Kheerganga in the midst of Parvati Valley

It has been a year already since the gorgeous Parvati valley happened to me. Situated in Himachal Pradesh, it is one of the beautiful valleys along the mighty Himalayas!

Parvati river along the Parvati Valley, Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Parvati river along the Parvati Valley, Kasol, Himachal Pradesh

The trip to Himachal Pradesh last year was an adventurous one in every way- a road trip across the state, stopping by the scenic woods at Dalhousie, soaking in the serenity at Parashar lake, hiking up the Dhauladhar ranges and Parvati valley with thoroughly enjoying the roar of Parvati across Kasol- ‘Amsterdam of India’, Manikaran and quaint Tosh.

The trek to Kheerganga which is at 9700 feet is a beautiful one. The trek starts from Barshaini, a small town near Manikaran in the Kullu district at a height of about 7200 feet.

The trek of 14 km starts near a hydel project at the confluence of Parvati and Tosh rivers. The trail passes through small villages and cafes.

Confluence of Parvati and Tosh rivers at Barshaini, Himachal Pradesh, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Confluence of Parvati and Tosh rivers at Barshaini, Himachal Pradesh

The vista opens upto the gorgeous Parvati valley lined with pine trees and one can hear the roar of Parvati all along the trail.

After a lemon drink at one of the cafes we( my friend and the guide) hit the trail with a zing of energy.

A lemon drink by the Parvati valley, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
A lemon drink by the Parvati valley

As I saw the last of the villages lined with wheat fields, the trail opened up to a small clearing which happened to be the Rudranag waterfall.

Rudranag waterfall, Kheerganga trail, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
Rudranag waterfall, Kheerganga trail

A small bridge ahead paved way to a steep trail. The woods were spooky yet beautiful. After trudging up the rocky spiral trail amidst the woods which had a fairy-tale wonder to it, we had reached the famous Kheerganga.

The roar of Parvati along the Kheerganga trail, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
The roar of Parvati along the Kheerganga trail

Kheerganga, is a spectacular meadow where Shiva- the Adiyogi happened to have meditated for about 3000 years. The meadow is surrounded by lush green and snow clad mountains.

The hot springs of Kheerganga are best known for their healing properties and there are two separate hot springs area for men and women.

Hot springs at Kheerganga, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
Hot springs at Kheerganga

After a trek of about 3-4 hrs one can relax in the spring and rejuvenate oneself. The meadow is a bit commercialized with camps, cafes and stays. It could turn off any trekker looking for a tranquil space in the mountains.

The camps and stays atop Kheerganga, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
The camps and stays atop Kheerganga

After spending the night in a tent, viewing the splendid mountains, we were off to Barshaini to head to Tosh. More on Tosh at Quaint little Tosh

The view of the mountains from Kheerganga, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
The view of the mountains from Kheerganga

The trail is absolutely beautiful lined with pine trees, serene captivating meadows and that makes this trek all the more worthwhile!

Tadiandamol: Home is where the Mountains are…

Tadiandamol: Home is where the Mountains are…

A good conversation on travel kinda ends up in going for one. Well got to be lucky in a way! Thanks to my fellow travelers.

Tadiandamol was just that, a plan made in a jiffy and lo and behold we were at the cosy coffee estates of Coorg in no time.

After an overnight bus ride from Bangalore to Virajpet, we were ushered by the chill air of the mountains. Our next stop was to Kabbinakad via Napoklu. We got a ride, after a wait of two hours, through beautiful estates and climb up the scenic mountains..

The path leading to Honey Valley, Coorg, Shwetha Krish
The path leading to Honey Valley, Coorg

Our home for the next three days was at Honey valley, at about 4250 feet which turned out to be an haven nestled in the lush coffee estates and forests. The Jeep ride from Kabbinakad to the homestay is an adventurous ride as it takes one through bumpy, slushy and steep curvy paths.

Cottage at Honey Valley, Coorg, Shwetha KRish
Cottage at Honey Valley, Coorg

A light breakfast energized us in no time and, we enjoyed the serene place with just about doing nothing. We strolled a bit along the estate. We found flora, frogs, butterflies and of course 3-4 dogs who were constant companions throughout our stay.

As it rained, we took to the confines of a small balcony facing the mountains and then made to the comforts of our bed. The day ended with card games, chatter with the rains playing a splendid tune.

The next day was slated for our much awaited Tadiandamol trek.

Tadiandamol(Big mountain) is the highest mountain in Coorg at about 5740 ft. It is a part of the Western Ghats range and is the fourth highest mountain in Karnataka state.

Owing to the rains and wild elephants, we had to take on an alternate route much before the Forest Guest house. As we hiked through the forests and winding paths, it felt as if we were the only four on the trail. After 2 kms, we hit upon views which were mesmerizing. The trail through the lush green grasslands were picture perfect. Not to forget the picturesque trail through the thick forests for about a mile. The weather was chill and it was drizzling. Thanks to that we weren’t that exhausted.

The trail, Tadiandamol,Coorg,Shwetha Krish
The trail, Tadiandamol,Coorg

The hike up the last mile was sheer beautiful. With rolling hills all around and the puffy clouds making their way on a beat, made the climb all the more worthwhile. We stayed at the peak for about two hours. We were lucky enough to see the vast greenlands, beautiful valleys, thick forests and curvy ridges when the clouds unveiled the canvas!

The trail ahead-Tadiandamol,coorg, ShwethaKrish
The trail ahead-Tadiandamol trek,coorg

The feeling of being one with nature is quite unexplainable till date. The silence of the mountains, a gusty tune of the winds, the whispers of the grasslands is just too divine.

After a hearty meal, we headed back to the base camp. Just as we got into our Jeep the clouds gave way for a heavy downpour. We paid a visit to the Nalknad Palace, which happened to be hidden between the mountains. It is a very old palace built in 1792 AD and was the last refuge of the Kodagu kings.

We ended our day relaxing, singing and enjoying the rains.

My companion while doing Yoga, Honey Valley Shwetha Krish
My companion while doing Yoga, Honey Valley

Honey Valley estate is very beautiful and obviously away from the humdrum of the city. It was the first homestay in Coorg and started its services way back in 1994. It is surrounded by coffee estates all around along with pepper and cardamom trees. The homestay and the surrounding area is just warmly splendid. One take a peaceful stroll or meditate(which is what we did) or just about enjoy the natural setting.

Honey valley homestay, Coorg, Shwetha Krish
Honey valley homestay, Coorg

After a lovely short stay we left the beautiful Honey Valley estate the next day only to drive back to the city but with renewed energy.

The article is also published on Shwetha Krish Website

Info:

  • Honey Valley is near to Kabbinakad which can be reached by Virajpet via Napoklu. Link: Honey Valley Coorg
  • Bangalore to Virajpet is about 270 kms and has numerous bus services from Bangalore.
  • Tadiandamol is a beginner’s trek, fitness is any day required. Leeches are galore in the monsoon months from June-August. One can wear leech socks or carry enough salt.
  • A guide is needed when one takes the route through the forests especially during the monsoons as wild elephants may meet you on the way.
  • The trail starting from the Forest Guest house is pretty comfortable and can be done without a guide’s assistance.