Days: 15 to 17 of GIRT tour  

Agra > Kanpur > Varanasi > Sarnath > Varanasi 


Agra Fort

 

 




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Driving on the new 4-lane divided highway ... in UP:

Driving on the 4-lane "divided" highway (part of the new Golden Quadrilatereal project) from Agra to Kanpur we witnessed some crazy UP Bhayyas on Cycles / Tractors / 2-wheelers / Lorries / Tempos / Bullock Carts etc. on the wrong side of the highway, going the wrong direction! 

They were coming at us on the right-most fast-lane of the highway! First we thought, they were too lazy to go around and do a U-turn ...  But No, this seems to be a whimsical "habit" here in UP. We passed hundreds of such vehicles this way today! They just suddenly appear in front of you, in your lane, when you are speeding along at a nice 80-90 kmph. They appear stoically calm and unfazed; while we in the car were scared out of our wits!

Varanasi

 

Daswamedha Ghat

 

Vishwanath Temple - Entrance

 

Dad ducks his son into the Ganges!

And the Kid comes out crying!!

Boat ride on the Ganges

 

Musnhi Ghat

Dharbhanga Ghat

 

 

Our Boatman on the Ganga

Sarnath 

 

 A visitor monk gets photographed

 Bodhi tree at Mulgandha Kuti Vihar

Prayer wheels at Kuti Vihar

 

The 34M high Dhamekh Stupa dating to 500 AD;  marks the spot where Buddha originally preached

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BTW: I must mention that "Nar-Indra Guest House" opposite Main Rail Station at Varanasi, turned out to be the best "Value for Money" hotel of our entire trip! It had 24 hour running Hot-water and a Central Heating (surprised to see a budget hotel in India with central heating). It had 1-day laundry service that worked with very reasonable rates.  Nar Indra room-rate was Rs.425 for Double Room ... but with single occupancy the rate came down to Rs 375. Clean fresh linen and a pretty OK restauarant. A cup of tea I ordered from my room at 5:00 AM came in 5-minutes flat! 







28th Dec 07 > Day-15 : Agra to Kanpur - 304 Km 

We checked out of Hotel Prakash at 7:00AM and planned to leave for Kanpur directly after seeing Agra Fort. We saw our tyre puncture, just as we left the hotel and fortunately a puncture repair shop was nearby (though this one in UP, was not as fast or efficient as the guy at Sukhi, Punjab.... in fact, even a bit rude as he refused to double-check the leak he repaired, in the water tub!). We entered Agra fort at 8:00AM and it proved to be quite a worthewhile & interesting place to see, over the next 2 hours. Some of the Agra Fort pictures are displayed below and in left margin:

Agra Fort ............... as seen from the road outside 

This is the Fort-Palace balcony from where  Shah Jahan gazed at Taj Mahal across the Yamuna river (see pic below) when he was impriosned here by his son Aurangzeb, till he died in 1666 and was buried at Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal as seen from Agra Fort ...  in the morning mist over Yamuna

After seeing the Agra Fort we had a breakfast of Puri-Alu-Thali at Sri-Ram's. We are now getting to see some really backward and dirty places of India!  Agra city traffic was crazy; with autos-rickshaws grid-locking the chowks & major road junctions, with plain dumb stupidity! We finally left Agra at 10:30am, headed for Kanpur on NH-2. 

We reached Kanpur at 4:00PM. Kanpur is just a night stop for us .. no sight-seeing is planned here [unless I decide to go see a School, that I attended way back in 1958-59 St. Aloysius! That was 50 years ago when I was 9 yrs old! ....  BTW: I had seen a India - Australia Test Match, back in 58-59 in Green Park, Kanpur ... the one in which Jassu Patel took 9 wickets, in one innings, if my memory serves me right!! ]. We checked into Sanjay Guest House (opp Natraj Cinema in Govindnagar area)  and get a double room for Rs 500 each. We relax for the rest of the day except for evening visit to a broadband cybercafe nearby.

29th Dec 07 > Day-16 : Kanpur to Varanasi - 334 Kms 

We left Kanpur early at 6:30AM. We had to go a long way to go alongside the elevated NH-2 before we could get on to it. NHAI has built a 25KM long elevated highway right thru the heart of Kanpur, bye-passing  most of the congested areas. Amazing engineering feat!! Excellent thinking, not to provide too many local entry/exits on the skyway; thus prevenying the local slow-moving traffic from using the NH-2 for local city trips!

Picture left: As we drive along the lane just below and left of the long wall of elevated highway on our right. You can see the sun rising in the East up ahead on a cold, misty, wintery Kanpur morning.


Picture right: After driving quite some distance and nearing the end of Kanpur (!) we finally managed to get an entry-merger to the elevated 4-lane NH-2.


We drove steadily through the day passing many UP towns: Fatehpur, Khaga, Allahabad and reached Varanasi at 3:00PM. Most of the route was the new 4-lane Golden-Quad (really good!) but some parts, particularly near Allahabad, were clearly the old GT Road of paved stones (perhaps still the same stones that were laid by Sher Shah Suri when he orginally built this road.  Opposite the Varanasi's Main Railway station we found a Hotel Nar-Indra ....  at Rs 425/- per day for DBL room; with a car parking yard in front. In Varanasi we plan to stay two nights and do all sight-seeing tomorrow.

30th Dec 07 > Day-17 : Varanasi & Sarnath - Local Sighseeing 

After breakfast in the morning we took a cycle rickshaw and hopped off at Kashi Vishwanath or Golden Temple. This temple dedicated to Vishveswara i.e. Shiva as the Lord of the Universe. The Temple built in 1776, is located in some narrow lane of the old city, near the Ghats area. At the shoe-sho we engaged a local "Pujari" to escort as on quick guided tour inside the temple. This worked out well as the Pujari seemed yto know most his way around well there and we got a fairly good Darshan of this ancient an dimportant Hindu temple. Pictures are not allowed; took just one at the street entrance to the temple, guarded by armed security.

The Boat ride on the Ganga, past the many Ghats there, was really tranquil and worth the slow paced ride. The Boat-man gave us great running commentary of the history & other stories of the various ghats and their significance. We also saw a few funeral pyres on the Manikarni Ghat. Some  pictures of the Ghats and other Boats :

 Dasaswamedha and Ahilyabai Ghats .... at Varanasi

Ferry boat crossing over to some mudbank islands - so people can bathe in the holy Ganges in some privacy away from the crowded ghats

The sandbar island, where people go to bathe .. away from the Ghats

After the boat ride on the Ganges, we got back to Hotel Nar-Indra for a Thali lunch in their restaurant, which was pretty good. Then at 1:30PM we left in the car for Sarnath; which is some 10Kms northeast of Varanasi. Sarnath is the place where Budhha came to after achieving Enlightenment at Bodhgaya. At Sarnath he preached his message of Middle-way to achieve Nirvana. Sarnath was at its peak in 5th century AD.

Buddha preaching to his 5 disciples .. Mulgandha Kuti Vihar, at Sarnath

 

After Sarnath visit we were back in Hotel by 4:00PM. That evening I just roamed around the crowded streets of Varanasi, to soak in the atmosphere of this Holy Town. Plenty of crowd and foreignors on the streets here.