Varanasi & Pune
Edward Reib's "Travels" Part 7
Premiered: 16th April 2021
Filmed: May/June 2018
Part 7 opens in Varanasi, with Uma Mohan singing Shiva Tandava Stotram as we visit Durgakund Temple, then Tulasi Manas Mandir, where the white marble is engraved with written passages and scenes from Ramcharitmanas, an epic Hindi poem based on the ancient Sanskrit Ramayana. Briefly, you can see me standing in front of it with three Australians, fellow travellers, and our guide.
The drum-machine, using the term loosely, takes over the soundtrack for a time. Uma returns as we depart toward the Ghats, and Ganga ("The Ganges"). On the way, we stop for Bhang Lassi (Marijuana.. Yogurt?) at a local place, admire the graffiti, and meet a couple of Japanese fellow travellers.
The lassi kicks in as we explore the Ghats, and later on the boat. A Brazilian and a Chilean join our posse. I bought a small candle, for purpose of floating on the surface of the water after sunset. Then, after sunset, we and many other boats gather at Dashashwamedh Ghat for the daily performance of Ganga Aarti, and we and everyone else there let our candles float away down the sacred river.
In the morning, the song changes to 心無罣礙 梵文唱誦-輕快版 by 黃慧音 (more commonly known as "Om Mani Padme Hum" by Imee Ooi). This is because we have arrived in Saranath, the third of the four great Buddhist Pilgrimage sites, though for me it was the second. The soundtrack is briefly hijacked by a machine that makes sugarcane juice.
After Imee returns, we see that I took a picture of a big reddish thing that looked important behind a fence. I later found out that, yes, it was important. It was Dhamekh Stupa, built on the very spot where, it is said, the Buddha gave the first sermon to his first five disciples, after attaining enlightenment.
Suddenly, we are on a small airplane and Manoj Mishra is singing Shendur Lal Chadhayo as we stop at Kolkata airport and finally arrive at Pune where, evidently, Jesus, Tacos, and stick figure families making love are popular.
By way of a large pile of turmeric, we find ourselves at Jejuri Temple, where everything is covered in turmeric. Yogesh, Govind, and ol' what's-his-name teach me to respond to "Yelkot Yelkot!" with "Jai Malhar!"
Next, Govind and I visit the Parvati Temple while Ganesh Raja Sampoorna Aarti plays in the background, and we take note of the artwork referencing various of her stories. Then, appropriately to the tune of Cheb I Sabbah's modern rendition of the ancient "Radhe Krishna" chant, we visit the ISKCON in Pune. It's not the same without Priyal. There is a cute boat, though.
The next day, we go to a lake somewhere and have a relaxing time.
Then, we visit one of the most ancient Buddhist Pilgrimage sites in the world. The Bedse Caves are a group of Buddhist rock-cut monuments in Maval Taluka, originally built under command of King Ashoka in the 1st century BCE, complete with the very same original Pillar of Ashoka that was seen in the opening of Part 6. While we are there, I take the opportunity to sit in lotus position in one of the monk cells, though admittedly only for a moment while Yogesh snaps a photo, so I can't honestly say that I "meditated" there.
In the final moments of the video, you see me posing with Dr. Yogesh Wankede flanking the sign for his business, Jeevak Ayurveda & Holistic Center.
Click to Watch Part 7 "Varanasi & Pune" on Youtube