Dhamekha Stupa. Golden temple is a Jain temple.
This is my first entry as a travel blog and I thought that it would be best to start with my hometown Varanasi which I visited after two years in Dec. 2009. To my surprise I realized that I don't know the city well despite the fact that I grew up there. So I made it a point to explore the city which I left in July 2000. My parents live very close to Sarnath
(place where Buddha gave his first sermons), so it was obvious and convenient for me to pay a visit to the shrine. Buddha found his first five disciples here. The main temple opens early in the morning and then closes for about an hour around noon. The temple has a huge Golden Buddha sitting inside and the walls are covered with paintings.
There is quite a bit of open space around the temple and a small zoo behind it where you can find a few crocs basking in the Sun. From my personal experience I would say it is best to visit Sarnath on a working day because on Sundays and on other holidays in Dec. it gets flooded with people who come there to spend the whole day. Sarnath sees tourists that come from all parts of the globe but a significant chunk consists of South East Asians and SrilLankans. The best part of Sarnath is the archeological site and Dhamekha Stupa which is next to the temple but has a separate entry. This area opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. I with my friend Kunal went at around 3:30pm and stayed there till the end. When sunlight falls on the ruins in the late afternoon, all these ruins get immersed in a golden hue.
Kunal keenly observing the pillars.
We visited Sarnath on Dec. 27 and it was clear that monks from other places were congregating there for some festival. On the street we found several vendors selling beautiful models of Buddha, elephants, turtles etc. The biggest ones were modestly priced at around Rs. 1200 which is less than $30. I bought a small elephant and a turtle that cost me Rs.100. Smaller ones are easier to carry. I hope to include more details and information in my next write up and also try to be more systematic in presentation. Not to forget that I again fell in love with tea when served in those small cups made of clay, called kulhad
. I brought a few of them back to Evanston and served tea in them to some of my friends here.