Banaras: Part 1

Two years back I almost missed this moment. I nearly didn’t make the trip. I was travelling from Delhi to Banaras and had a narrow escape from missing my train by a couple of minutes.DSC_0351

In between I travelled to a lot of places but Banaras has always been very special and close to my heart. The cultural capital of India is famous not only for its food, lanes, Ghats, Temples, and Museums but also for its rich contribution in the fields of music, art, dance and education.

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It is not unusual to wake up at an unearthly hour to the sounds of bells ringing on one side and the azaan on the other.

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Ganga Aarati on Dashashwamedh Ghat

Banaras envelopes the tourists in a visually marvelous atmosphere. The Ganga Aarti is the most famous ritual, performed every evening here. Being crowded with more photographers than worshippers it becomes the most recorded sights of Banaras but every time I came here it transcended all my previous experiences. The whole city looks absolutely spectacular ignited with lamps, the fragrance of incense and candle-lit flower bowls floating in the Ganges.

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I always loved spending time along the ghats and in the lanes to dive headlong into this city. People say that Banaras has more than 80 ghats and there is one famous ghat named “Assi”. Other major ghats are Dashashwamedh, Munshi, Kedar Ghat and Manikarnika, needless to say, is the most famous amongst all.

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Dashashwamedh Ghat is very close to Kashi Vishwanath Temple
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Munshi Ghat named after the Famous Indian Author Munshi Premchand. This site is also popular for Satyajit Ray’s film “Joy Baba Felunath”.
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Kedar Ghat

Manikarnika the bigger of two cremation ground where corpses are cremated on the banks of Ganga is always a major attraction for tourists and photographers. I personally do not prefer clicking a crematorium.

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Ratan: the Kewat (our rider). He doesn’t use a mobile phone. Ask for him on Kedar Ghat

Last time I missed the boat ride but this time, ‘Ratan-the Kewat’ became the story teller and he spoke about the history of these ghats and royals associated with them.

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In winters, the flock of migratory Siberian birds make it more beautiful.

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The extensive stretches of ghats enhance the river front with the number of shrines, temples and palaces built along.

Food
One of the most famous and crowded eatery in Vishwanath Galli. Known for its south Indian food. My personal favourite is “mendu Vada”.

Banaras is a foodie’s delight, with chaat, snacks and a million flavours on offer in pushcarts, street-side eateries. Do not forget to savour your taste buds with these during your stay:

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Banarasi Chat Corner near Sankatmochan Temple. A photo of Lt. Farukh Shaikh licking his finger can be seen here.
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The very Famous ‘Tamatar (Tomato) Chat’
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Pagal Sardar: Do not forget to taste the Rabri and heavenly lassi from him in Vishwanath Galli.
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This lassi is absolutely Heavenly.
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Malaiyo: A foam based dessert available at Pahalwan Singh’s in the market. Not Very tasty, though.

I personally feel that a stay in Banaras is a journey towards discovering the eternal bliss of mind and soul.

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Street Food @Haridwar

myphotostories100-front 2At first, I shared these photos and tagged them under the Food & Drinks section without a story. But, then I thought it might be a little unfair from my part if I do not share this incident on my little adventure to find the most sought-after mobile-kachori-dealer in Haridwar – Mr. Pawan Kashyap (see his photo below).

The hunt started when I read about him in a website – Best places to eat in Haridwar. On my 2nd day at Haridwar, I went to look for him in Gau Ghat but came to know that he runs his mobile cart only during the morning. The trek was planned from next day, so I decided to check him out once I descend back to Haridwar. However, when I reached Gau ghat at around 9 AM, he was nowhere. Some said that they have not seen him, some said that he’s done for the day and has gone back. I asked a few more and tried to follow his trail – with the hope that he might still have some leftovers. I passed a few alleys and after a while, when I was thinking that I won’t go beyond the next crossing, I saw him. And believe me, it was worth the quest – you need to taste it to savor – best I can do is to post a photo.

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While on my way back, I was intrigued by another cart – selling Kulcha-chaat. While I was looking the guy said very quietly and politely- “Ek khaa ke dekhiye, bahut hi achha banate hain” (Please try one, I make it really good), that I cannot resist. And what a taste !

Remember not to miss these street delicacies when you are in Haridwar next.

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Mojito and Ilish

myphotostories100-front 2“Pudina pachi na, dhone pata nebo?” (Mint leaves are not available, shall I buy coriander instead?)

I disconnected the phone without replying and rushed in, fuming literally. I cannot take it anymore and its getting on my nerves – these complexities and the arrogance of I-know-everything attitude in spite of repeated instructions is a real spoiler – this is a last final time – and I am done with it! My straight forward instructions, written down ingredients – all in vain, that means? Nobody had the generosity even to look at it – some people are just incorrigible!

I was ready to break loose but kept silent till the items from the bag were all taken out and lined up on the table –

Sugar
Lemon
Soda
White Rum

And yes, mint leaves (pudina)

So, we are having a mojito party with Ilish maach !

Since many of you, reading this blog, may not be interested to know how to fry ilish maach (hilsa), I am jumping straight on – how to make mojito. Those who might also be interested to know about the fried hilsa, I suggest google.

Mojito :

1. Make sugar syrup

2. Wash well and crush the mint leaves using a mortar and pestle – the small aluminum or stone one is preferred – keep some fresh leaves for garnishing

3. Mix 1 part sugar syrup, ½ part crushed pudina, 2 parts rum, 1 part club soda, 1 part water and crushed ice and shake it well. Pour in a glass and add lemon juice generously. Put a few fresh mint leaves on top – take a sip – if it tastes tasteless – add a little more of everything – and enjoy. It may not be perfect first time, but after you gulp down a glass or two, everything should start tasting better.

There is another easy way – you may skip sugar syrup and soda and instead use Limca – but I prefer the longer way – keeps me engaged and the follow up fights can be longer – the choice is yours.

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