Varanasi on Voltarol (part 3)

Sunday 12th

Today was the best of days – we sat before the Bodhi Tree!

At 5am, as well as the usual call to prayer from the local minaret, we could hear drums and prayers from the nearby monastery – it being the full moon day.  We set off early and, after a short queue to look inside the Mahabodhi Temple, we sat by the Bodhi Tree for a while absorbing the sights and sounds of so many Buddhist practitioners in their acts of devotion; praying, prostrating and circumambulating.



After our own circumambulations, we found a quiet place facing the Temple to say our own prayers.  It felt very special.

This afternoon we visited a Sakya monastery, set in a shady garden and very beautiful.  It was good to sit in the shrine room and recite long life prayers for both the 41st and 42nd Sakya Trizin on the day the throne passed from father to son.


Two more temples completed our day.  The beautifully ornate Bhutanese Temple with its amazing sculptured wall paintings and next door, by contrast, the simplicity of the Japanese Temple.    V

Monday 13th

Today is Holi – the Hindu spring festival of colours.  Legend has it that Krishna, whose face was blue, worried that he wouldn’t be accepted by his love, Radha, because of his colour.  He mischievously coloured her face too so she would be less likely to refuse him.  This festival celebrates their love.

It started quietly as we spent time in the garden with the children, watching groups of musicians go past.  A couple of bands came down our path – one complete with a camel, horse and bags of colour which they applied liberally to our host Anuj’s face until he gave them money for ‘bang lassi’ to help them celebrate.  Bihar is a ‘dry’ state so this was presumably home made moonshine!

The children began their own Holi celebrations and we were soon covered in coloured powder and soaked in water.  They were eager to make us feel included and we were soon colouring as good as we got.  We had lots of fun and laughter but only Gill stayed for round two with the adults!

A festival of love, I think, sums up how I feel about India.    V

Tuesday 14th

Today was our last day in Bodhgaya so we went back to the Mahabodhi Temple for our final circumambulations and to sit a while by the lake.  The town was very quiet after yesterday’s Holi celebrations so we walked back to the Nyingma retreat centre we’d visited earlier in the week and, again, sat peacefully enjoying the beauty of the gardens.

As the mid day sun began to beat down we headed back to our guest house to pack for our early train to Varanasi tomorrow but, after a respite on the shady terrace with the grandmother of our host family, we ventured out again for a walk to the nearby Tergar Monastery.  Here we had our first proper coffee and chocolate biscuit since leaving Manchester(!) while we watched the young monks and nuns playing in the late afternoon sunshine.

We’ve had a wonderful week here at Tara Guest House.  They’ve made us feel like part of their vast extended family and we’ll be sad to say farewell!   S

Wednesday 15th

An early start today with a 5.30 breakfast and a wonderful Tara family farewell at home and the station to see us on our way to our next destination – Varanasi.  We shared our compartment with two young Indian girls, who enjoyed a game of snakes and ladders and questioned us politely about our trip.  Teenagers here are so well-behaved!

Our hotel is very comfortable and its location is ideal – just 50 metres from the ghats.  After unpacking, we spent some time ambling along the Ganges – so beautiful and quiet in the afternoon.  We hunted out a café recommended by my son, where we enjoyed much needed ‘lemon quenchers’ and rose lassi.  We’re going back tomorrow at 5.30 am to watch the sun rise over the Ghanges!    S


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