Varanasi, India: Silk & Spirituality

Hi Blog!

Thanks for being patient with me as life is a little hectic around here! I’ve got one more India post in the works (Delhi!), and then I can’t wait to catch you up on everything from my gluten-free bread baking classes to ginormous salads to macaron successes (and grand disasters) and summer dinners with friends!

But for now, back to India.

Varanasi was one of my most favourite cities to visit in India. Not only is it the holiest city in India and the site of the river Ganges, but it’s where I had one of the best meals of my life — vegetarian tikki at a kebab restaurant!!

This is an aloo tikki — mashed potato, rolled into a ball, fried and served with the best condiments (sweet and sour brown tamarind sauce, savoury red tomato sauce, spicy mint and coriander green sauce, and a pile of raw onions and grilled veggies):

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And some of the best paneer (homemade cheese) I’ve ever had — grilled with coriander chutney:
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And my favourite dessert of the trip: kulfi (a pistachio and rosewater popsicle):
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The next morning we were treated to breakfast dosa (yay!), a fermented rice and lentil pancake served with a potato curry inside. This curry also had a whole bunch of veggies, including fennel. And oh, was it wonderful!
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Varanasi is also a site for Buddhist pilgrimages, as it is home to the Buddhist Temple: Mulagandha Kuty Vihara at Deer-Park Sarnath, where Buddha preached his first sermon.

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The temple is painted inside with gorgeous frescoes that show the life of Buddha, and the trials he went through before achieving enlightenment.
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I found the altar to be very beautiful, and loved seeing so many similarities between what we had seen throughout the Hindu temples compared to this Buddhist temple.

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Outside was a beautiful bell surrounded by the words of Buddha’s first sermon, inscribed into stone tiles in every language you could imagine.
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Nearby is the holy site, Sarnath, where they have a number of stupas (holy mounds), one of which housed Buddha’s remains.
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From spirituality to silk, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the gorgeous weaving they do in Varanasi.  They use these “modern” looms with punch cards to weave beautiful silk brocades:

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And the results are gorgeously cry-worthy.  (Don’t ask about the blue bedspread or the stack of silk/pashmina scarves that are now living with me!)

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Even with all of the gorgeous food, temples, and silks, the highlight of Varanasi for me was our trip down to the Ganges.  We traveled by rickshaw and passed by all of the vendors:

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And watched the night-time aarti (Hindu prayer ceremony) from a small rowboat boat on the river:

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We also got a sunrise boatride to see the ritual morning bathing in the Ganges:

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And one last temple before we left — the Mother India temple, which is associated with no religion, but is devoted to India itself:

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Inside, the entire floor was taken up by a stone map of India.

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It was a perfect way to leave Varanasi, remembering that people worship the country of India as much as they do their gods, monuments, and holy sites.

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Categories: Travel

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3 Comments on “Varanasi, India: Silk & Spirituality”

  1. fran
    June 2, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    beautiful photographs, thank you so much for sharing them…

  2. June 2, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Deep fried mashed potato, I think I might set up a shrine to that!! The colours in your pictures are just stunning, I wouldn’t be able to resist the silks either!! :D

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