My mother and wife, Tania, had travelled to Prayagraj a few days ago. I took my train on the night of 25 November 2022. I reached there early in the morning of 26 November 2022. Unfortunately, my cousin suddenly felt sick on the evening of 25 November and had to be hospitalized. He was admitted to the ICU. He is better now.
On 27 November 2022, my mother, my aunt, Tania, and I left for Varanasi from Prayagraj by car. We had to leave later than we had originally planned since my mother fell sick and developed ear discharge along with earache. Symptoms reduced with medications, and we left for Varanasi.
While on the way we were revising our plans, when we realized that the plans to go to the market in Varanasi for shopping, had to be dropped because of mom’s condition, so started planning how the trip and the day can be made more memorable and exciting. Sonu Bhaiya (our car driver) suggested two options. 1) Sitamarhi or 2) Vindhyachal Temple. After some discussion, we opted for Sitamarhi.
Sita Samahit Sthal (Sitamarhi)
Sita Samahit Sthal (Sitamarhi), the holy place of Sitamarhi is situated between Prayagraj and Varanasi, near the national highway NH 2. It is said that this temple is the place where Sita went into the earth when she willed it while she was living with Valmiki Muni at his ashram (hermitage) in the forest of Sitamarhi. It was Valmiki Muni (Saint) who wrote Ramayana. On reaching Sitamarhi, we first went to the Valmiki Muni Ashram where Sita took refuge during her second exile. From there we went to the main Temple complex. There was one huge Hanuman Ji idol on a hill-type structure inside which the actual Temple was situated whose entrance was cave-like but when reached the centre it is kind of like a huge hall inside with the main temple inside.
I visited Sitamarhi more than 14 years ago, this area was not so developed then, and I could not recognize anything inside. There was a Shiv temple inside a cave. Then there was the Main temple at the same level there was Maa Sita Temple followed by below that in the lower level was a statue of Maa Sita getting inside the Earth. It was a very melancholic but beautiful depiction of that moment. Then next to the temple there is a hotel-cum-restaurant for people to stay and dine there. We had our lunch there. Only vegetarian dishes are served there, and the food was decent in taste. Adjacent to the temple there is a backwater pond of the river Ganga, where lotus is seen planted all over the lake blooming beautifully.
After spending about an hour, we continued on our journey towards Varanasi. It was a well-deserved detour which was very entertaining and exciting, especially for my wife who was visiting these parts of India for the first time. Eventually, we reached Varanasi and stayed at Hotel Hindustan International. We had an early dinner and also slept early as we had planned to visit Kashi Vishwanath temple at daybreak.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
I woke up around 4:00 and then woke up Tania. Then checked on the condition of my mom which was not good as she still had persistent thick ear discharge and earache. Thus, we decided that my mom would rest at home while my aunt, Tania and I would go for the darshan. We went by car since it is allowed near temple premises till 7:00 AM then it will be towed if found parked on road. Sonu bhaiya dropped us near gate no 4 for entry. We took prasad thali and went inside the gate. It was more than 14 years since I had been to Vishwanath Temple and was awed by the renovation of the Vishwanath temple premises. I remembered that there used to be a very stingy closed lane in those times to reach the temple. It used to be like a swarm of people just trying to fit inside a closed space. But now, it was a completely different story. It had huge gates with slopes leading into the temple premise.
We reached there by 5:10 AM but the line for Darshan had already reached the roads. It was Monday, so it was natural to have too many worshippers as Monday is considered auspicious for Lord Shiva worshipping and Kashi Vishwanath temple being Shiva temple it was expected. But as we proceeded in line slowly, I realized over time that the queue was extraordinarily long, greater than my expectations. Naturally, we waited for almost an hour and a half in the queue for us to reach the point where we could present our offerings to Lord Shiva at the garbhagriha.
I remembered earlier we were allowed to reach closer to the Shiva Linga and offer water/milk directly over the Linga, but now we are only allowed till the outer area of the garbhagriha, or the sanctum sanctorum and slopes have been made that reach the Linga and we can pour our offering on that slope for it to reach the Linga. Well, the implementation of the idea was very practical for controlling the crowd, but I felt this very mechanical and lost that touch and emotion when one could reach the Linga and worship. Too many mechanical innervations lessen the emotional satisfaction that one used to have. Although the rules and plans employed for crowd control seemed effective and well-organized.
After the darshan, we strolled around the inner campus of the temple. Then we went towards Gate No. 1 of the Vishwanath Temple. There is an entrance from the Ganga Ghat. The beauty was astounding. There we also saw the Kashi-Tamil Sangam tourism office and realised the reason for so much of the crowd comprising of Tamil people I noticed in the temple.
After that, we strolled around appreciating the premises, and then Sonu Bhaiya reminded us of the no-parking condition of the car. We soon left for the hotel after buying chana aloo sabji and hing kachori for breakfast. Mobile phone, camera are not allowed inside the temple complex and so I could not take photos of the newly renovated temple complex.
Random Walking Around
After breakfast, we took some rest for a while. Tania and others were feeling sleepy from waking up early in the morning, so I went out for the exploration of the city near where we were staying. I went to see a fighter jet statue at the Subroto Chowk near an air base in the cantonment area. It was awesome looking with the well-made replica of the fighter jets. Known as the ‘Father of the Indian Air Force’, Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee, was the first Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Indian Air Force.
From there I started walking back and, on the way, I noticed Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel’s Smarak, and couldn’t resist and had to enter. I entered the buildings and got to know about some parts of history from Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel’s life. This was exciting for me as I love exploring history.
In the evening we went on the famous Ganga River cruise, which I am writing about in my next post.
6 thoughts on “Road Trip: Prayagraj to Varanasi”
Nice post. Sitamarhi has changed a lot. I went there two decades ago when we drove down in our car to Allahabad from Ranchi. It was being developed then. I also wish to visit the post-renovation Kashi Vishwanath temple.
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Nice description. Sita Samahit Sthal is new for me. Thanks for sharing the details and photos. Yes, Kashi Vishwanath temple is now a grand place unlike the old one. Waiting for your story on Ganga river cruise and the Ganga Aarti.
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Nice travel story, Judha. Sita Samahit Sthal is a new info to me.
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