I headed back to my room and let the cool water pass over my feet; ah, it was relaxing after getting burnt by the hot ground. The folks in the trust advised me to take a package for Rs.700 that would cover Sarnath and 6 temples in Varanasi rather than doing a trip to Sarnath alone which would anyway be just as expensive.
Still like non-veg food?
Sarnath which was about 10kms away. Autos use shortcuts which are very bumpy and in some cases the main roads are also just as bad. You will get tossed up and down frequently so unless your back is in good shape don't do an auto travel. The driver flew through side streets; and when you least expect it, he would take a sharp turn into a lane that you would think can’t accommodate a two-wheeler! He sure was a professional because at no point in the journey did the vehicle touch any other object on the road. There was plenty of honking that was jarring to the ear.
Along the way there was only one meat shop that I saw; they had a stack of cages with helpless chicken imprisoned. I think that is one sight which would make a person give up enjoying non-veg food; the small birds, aware or unaware of their fate, were cackling; it was only a matter of time before they would be slaughtered. Uh, you feel sad for them when you think of whom they are going to get slaughtered for.
There were no skyscrapers to be seen in Varanasi; most buildings were only 3 floors high. The heat was blazing; it was 2pm. As the auto flew, hot gusts of wind hit my face. It burns your skin. Even my auto driver was wearing a towel covering his head and a part of his face. As he went over the bumps I wondered if he cared about his auto; there were so many stones of varying sizes that I would be worried about getting my vehicle punctured as well as damaging suspension. He didn't seem to care; he was racing along at top speed. Even though we were bumping, I dozed off!
The city of Sarnath
When I woke up I struggled to read the boards on shops - their address said Sarnath. Soon the auto halted under the shade of a tree. "Babuji, this is Sarnath. Go around and see what you want."
Before I could step out, one local guy came to me and said he will show me around the place. "Only Rs.50 sir. It will take one hour. I can give you detailed explanation for what you see."
"No, I don't need it."
"Without explanation you will simply see but not know what they are. I will tell importance of everything and history."
He pestered me a lot. "Rs.40 also is ok Sir."
After declining politely 10 times he finally backed off. First stop was the Deer park. Quotes by Buddha were written on boards. The park was well maintained. Trees in plenty, grass trimmed and place was clean. And there were a few couples enjoying their time - either the guy or the girl would be lying on the other person’s lap.
The first building in the park was a hall. It had a golden Buddha on one end. On the walls there were paintings of the life of Buddha; everything inside was beautiful - Buddha's birth, his leaving home, his famished state in the forest when a lady offered him food, his victory over Mara (desire) and his death. I've told this many times before - whenever you see the statue of Buddha in a quiet room, you kind of feel calm and relaxed. You feel like wanting to sit there in calmness beside the huge statue. Same was the case in Thailand, same the case in Canada and same the case in Sarnath. Sarnath is special in Buddhism because after Buddha’s enlightenment this was the first place where he delivered a lecture.
Next stop was the Archaeological museum; Rs.5 for the entrance ticket. Bags underwent an x-ray screening before you could drop them in the free locker facility. I had jumped into the museum at the right time; the museum was fully air conditioned and helped me beat the heat. Very well maintained again. And quite a good museum - well-kept exhibits and even some information about each of them. They had a few digital systems like ATM machines where you could read about each section of the gallery.
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