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Kasi Yatra - A Travelogue - Part 1- The Planning

I wanted to write about my Kasi (Varanasi/Benares) trip as soon as we returned to Bangalore on Jan 27. But some how I just couldn't sit at the computer and start the typing.Every time I tried, I ended up reading some blogs or visiting new sites on the Internet. May be one should coin a term for procrastinating a blog post. How about blognertia ? Hmm..doesn't sound right. Please let me know if you can think of any better terms.

Now, before the blognertia bug bites me again, let me get into the details of the Kasi trip we did in January 2008. This is going to be a long post, so may be I will split it into a few posts of manageable size.

This trip to Kasi has been in our plans for a long time now. Almost a decade, really. We wanted it to be a family trip.But every year, one of us three brothers had some urgent issues to tackle, and when all of us were ready, it was either my mom or dad, who were busy with something else. Finally, my younger brother just went ahead and started the planning, and the rest of us joined in.

We first checked the possibility of flights and realized that for each individual the return fare from Bangalore to Varanasi (via Delhi- there are no direct flights) would cost approx. 17,000. For a group of 8 adults and 2 children, it was coming to nearly Rs.150,000. That kinda ruled it out for us.My parents would never accept such a high price tag, even if we IT kids could afford it.It had to be the train journey. More over, the women in the family wanted to make lots of food items that we could consume on the long train journey.Fond memories of the Shirdi train trip a couple of years back was invoked, and so we decided to do it by train. Cool !

Well, there are no direct trains from Bangalore to Varanasi. ( Varanasi is the actual name of this holiest of holy towns; its also known as Benares, and referred to as Kasi, in Indian mythology). The totally user-unfriendly web site of Indian Railways, finally informed us that we could catch a train from Tirupati or Chennai or Hyderabad. Consider this, there are only two direct trains that travel from South India towards Varanasi/Patna route.

We decided on boarding the Ernakulam-Patna Express from Tirupati. This train takes only 41 hours to reach Varanasi, whereas the other one takes 8-10 hours more, I believe. The train starts at Tirupati at noon every Sunday(its a once a week train, btw), and reaches Varanasi in the early hours of Tuesday. So, we have to spend the whole of Sunday and Monday on the train.

We (my family and Sankar the younger brother) live in Bangalore, while our Parents live in our hometown Kadapa. My elder brother and his family also stay in Kadapa. (More about Kadapa in the near future.Watch this blog !). Kadapa is 3 hrs by road or train from Tirupati, and 6 hrs by road from Bangalore. (There are no trains between Bangalore and Kadapa- for that matter there are no trains between Bangalore and many other towns. But thats Karnataka for you, very inadequately connected with the rest of the country).

The tickets have been booked, the bosses have been informed, and the leave applied for, has been granted. One of my colleagues quipped when he heard that I am taking 2 weeks off and going to Varanasi (instead of say, Malaysia or Thailand I suppose): "Oh, already washing off all your sins ! Good, you can come back and commit more."

For those of you unaware of Kasi, it is located on the banks of river Ganga (or Ganges). You can read about the credibility of Ganga in washing away your sins, and more about Kasi, from the Web site of UP Tourism. Suffice it to say, a Kasi trip is considered a must for every believing Hindu.

The travel date was Sunday, January 13. Sankar and I wanted to leave from Kadapa on Jan 12 evening, spend the night at some hotel in Tirupati, get up lesiurely in the morning, go for a darshan at Govindaraja Swamy Temple, and then board the Varanasi train. But the rest of the family overruled us, and instead it was decided that we would all start early in the morning on Jan 13 from Kadapa, reach Tirupati by 10.30 AM, do the darshan of Govindaraja and then board the train. 'It will be very difficult to get good lodging in Tirupati in January (as it is Pongal/Sankranthi season), and we any way have to travel for 2 days. Why add another day to the journey?"

Yes, Tirupati is probably the second holiest town in India, and in fact, makes more money than any other religious centre in the World, with the possible exception of Vatican City. Here's the link for those of you who've never heard of Tirupati or heard of it, but have not been there. Take it from me - its a MUST VISIT, if you want to see the unique combination of commerce, religion, devotion, power politics, and total humility of the Indian experience. Most of these holy places, in my opinion, tell us a lot about what is great about India, and also what is so mind-boggling about the cynical apathy of Indians towards 'good governance', 'protection of heritage' etc., we all assembled in Kadapa by Jan 12. By the time Sankar and I reached home, preparations were in full swing.

My next post will describe these preparations, and also, how we almost missed the Varanasi train, but eventually had a good time on the train. And yea, will try to add some visuals as well.


Rajesh said…

Great blog...very interesting stuff. I came across it when I saw your profile on LinkedIn. I would love to know more about Kasi since I want to take my parents there as well.

Best wishes,

Rajesh Venkateswaran
Kumar Narasimha said…
Thanks, Rajesh.

Will do 3 more posts (hopefully by this weekend) covering the entire journey.

Seeta said…
May be you should accompany few pics with your blog, so that we could actually see Kasi trip through your eyes :)
Kumar Narasimha said…
Yes, definitely Seeta.My next posts about this trip will have pictures. Thanks.
neysamy said…
Very nice.Please visit mt Varanasi,Bhubaneswar,Gaya & allahabad travelogue in
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Hank Freid said…
yes i agree with your comments that we should plan our tour, because we avoid many unknown problems, if we have planned our tour. However here you can get reliable travel guide to make your travel more enjoyable
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