Varanasi is an old city: ancient, rather. The two river-arteries that run through the body of the city have been in their place since time immemorial. Well, at least one of them had always been there, as it defines the city: the river whose name is known to all, the river goddess and Mother Ganga. The other river-artery that runs parallel to that first one is the network of galis that some have called labyrinthine. The two rivers are the opposite of each other, as far as their navigability is concerned. Gangaji is the one central referent to which all urban wanderers return when they lose path. It’s like Kasi itself: in the system, yet out of it. Any part of the old city can be easily reached ascending from the ghats without losing one’s way, and never vice versa.
The galis of Kasi, i.e. the old city of Varanasi, are ideal for dérive. In fact, they create situations ideal for map-less strolling sans any well defined purpose, where the journey is its own reward. Instead of following a formulaic walking process, one may just stroll as the moment dictates. And trust me, the moment does play an active agency in taking one towards unknown and unseen parts of one’s own city, specially when the city is Varanasi, the time is around eight (your pick, a.m. or p.m.), and one is some where in a gali near Vishwanath Temple.
There are those who love crowds, and those who flee from it. There are those who like galis lined with shops selling a never exhausting variety of things and then, there are those who like the more silent backwaterish galis. Kasi has something for them all, and more. For those who like plans and blue prints, here’s a sample blue print:
Start from Kedar Ghat at around eight.
Climb the stairs and reach the gali that runs parallel to Gangaji.
Go straight till the place where you find the first little stone temple.
Turn left a few metres after that and go with the gali.
Turn right at the crossing, where the gali ends at a flight of stairs.
Go straight till you find another little stone temple.
Turn right from there and ascend the slope till a very narrow gali from the right meets this one.
Turn right and walk up to the next temple.
Turn right just as the gali reaches the temple and go straight where the narrow lane takes you.
Reach any ghat at the end of the gali and return to Kedar Ghat.
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