In Varanasi, I walked around until I found a nice looking hotel with about 20 rooms. It was clean, with a white exterior and a few trees on the small property where it was located. The neighborhood was quiet with wide, clean, suburban streets that were not heavily used by commercial traffic. This neighborhood was almost completely residential. I knew this would be a good place to stay so I booked a room for a couple of nights. I planned to stay in Varanasi for only a short time because I had Vrindavan and Mathura in sight. In Varanasi, I mostly visited the Ganga River where so many bathing ghats exist. I was extremely entertained by watching the activities at the bathing ghats. I sat one morning and afternoon watching the treatment of bodies on the funeral pyres at Manikarnika Ghat. I watched as one body after another were placed on a pyre so prayer mantras could be chanted while the bodies were prepared to be cremated. I sat and watched as the pyres were set on fire then pushed off to float down river. I also sat at neighboring ghats like Jalasen Ghat to watch the ritual bathing and chanting that could be clearly heard from the top steps of the ghats. There is a lot of room for sitting because the steps are quite long, extending along the whole length of the ghats and there are often around ten steps. Besides visiting the ghats and the great temples that stand along the Ganga River, I spent a lot of time walking through the streets of Varanasi. During one walk, I was passing a narrow street with very tall buildings of apartments on both sides of it. All of a sudden, a great splash of water fell upon the street. Only a small amount of the water reached my legs. I looked up at the upper levels of the building I had just passed and there was a lady wearing a sari looking out of the window while holding a bucket. I glanced at her and continued on my walk.
During another walk, between the ghats along the river and the temples that number in the thousands, I saw a monk in a red robe sitting at the doorway of a temple entrance. As I was walking by, he beckoned for me to join him but I just smiled and continued walking. I thought maybe he would just ask me for a donation after telling me about his life in the temple. That was my suspicion so I kept walking. I eventually found that most people who approached me to converse with me actually just wanted to met me. I have a careful and suspicious mind and it takes some time for me to open up to others but I do.
Old Varanasi is a true maze of narrow streets and alleys. Many alleys are wide enough for only pedestrians and bicycles. Even so, there are food carts, flower carts, and small shops where colorful products like textiles, jewelry, and desserts are sold. There often are annoying obstacles that one must squeeze around like water puddles and cows. I saw many white cows with humps on the streets of India cities but I remember a big black cow or bull in one of those narrow alleys of Varanasi. When I first saw the big animal I had the impression that it was a bull because of its horns. I especially remember its large size because I had to stand next to the building on my left side and wait for the animal to meander past. That shows just how narrow many of the alleys are. I rather preferred walking through the narrow alleys because they were much quieter than the larger, overly crowded and extremely chaotic, noisy streets that have so much traffic that one can get headaches from the exhaust and extremely loud horns. On the larger streets, I constantly heard the extremely loud horns being used, often, for no apparent reason. There are temples everywhere in the vicinity of the river. Large, medium, and small temples everywhere you turn. The shrines are innumerable. They are on so many street corners that they were always catching my attention.
The Ganga River is beautiful and wide with people bathing or washing utensils and clothes at every streach. There are rowboats tied to stakes all along the river and people rowing boats everywhere. Devotional music can be heard along with the chanting that comes from the innumerable temples that I was walking past. Music is often heard from loud speakers. Flower pedals of many colors, mostly red, orange, and yellow pedals, are strewn on the roads and steps of the ghats. Chopping sounds are often heard which many times proved to be coconuts being opened or children playing games. Chousatti Ghat - men washing in the river completely covered in soap, Darbha Ghat - a boat with at least 20 people in it, dogs eating scraps of food from the sidewalks and roads. The dogs usually looked sickly and scared. Cows and water buffalos are also quite common and some people will feed them fruits and vegetables. I often saw people throwing food scraps on the street and cows would meander over and eat them. Tables with fresh cut watermelon and tiny fruit flies hovering above them were very common. The colors of India are incredible. Colors of the temple architecture, colors of the flowers, fruits, and vegetables, colors of the desserts, colors of the shrines with flower wreaths hanging on them, and the colors of the saris that the women are wearing overwhelmed my senses. India is a feast for the senses; the sights, sounds, aromas can be overpowering at times so I did tend to walk through the more narrow alleys. I just had to make sure I did not get lost and I had to watch out for buckets of water falling from upper level windows above the roadways. I did get lost a few times in the cities of India but I stayed dry. 😀