Varanasi ( Kashi, Banaras): City Tour | Street food, Banarasi saree. EP 3


As we witnessed Banaras at close quarters…. …we realized that… …you don’t do sight-seeing in Banaras. Instead, you feel Banaras. It is very difficult to say how old a city is Varanasi (also known as Kashi & Banaras). American writer Mark Twain wrote in 1897, “Banaras is older than history… …older than tradition… …older even than legend and.. …looks twice as old as all of them put together. Namaskar! Welcome to the Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi. This is your host, Harish Bali. We started our morning… …at 5 am from Assi Ghat. We witnessed the Ganga Aarti. Watched the programme “Subah-e-Banaras”. It is 6.15 am now. We are standing at Dashashwamedh Ghat where…. …I can see a lot of people taking bath in the river Ganges. We will spend some time here and after that… …we will take a walk along the Ghats (river banks). We are standing outside the Manmandir Ghat right now. It is right next to the Dashashwamedh Ghat. To enjoy this view standing here at this moment… …is a very pleasant experience. As we talk of “Subah-e-Banaras”… …nothing doing. If you come to Banaras, you just have to come here at 4 or 5 am in the morning,… …let us go towards the Ghat now. To come to Dashashwamedh Ghat early in the morning,… …is a wonderful experience in itself. It feels like you have stepped through a portal into a historic age. We enjoyed boating in the morning… …as well as in the evening. I personally feel that… …one would enjoy the place in the morning more… …because of the sunrise… …especially the journey from the Assi Ghat to Manikarnika Ghat. We have hired a battery rickshaw to come to this place for our morning tea. Lakshmi Chai Wala, the shop is inside this lane. Host: “Sir, what will we get to eat with the tea?” Shopkeeper: “Sir, with tea, you will get Malai (cream) toast of Banaras, the best thing to eat.” Host: “Ok.” Host: “I’ve heard a lot about your Lakshmir Chai.” Shopkeeper: “Yes, of course!” Host: “When do you start in the morning? 5 AM?” Shopkeeper: “We start at 4.30 am.” Host: “4.30 am.” Shopkeeper: “Yes, we work 1 am in the night.” Host: “You work from 4.30 am to 1 am in the night!” Shopkeeper: “Yes, SIr!” HOst: “Great! So, one tea and malai toast for me!” Along with the kachori, this kind of bread and malai, is the popular breakfast of Banaras. It has been made even more beautiful by putting this sugar on top. Ummm! Absolutely fresh malai! I am enjoying it right from the first bite. Very good! The bread was roasted in a fire pit. Then it was topped with malai and sugar like this. What a combination it is! Thank you! To have my tea in a kullhad (mud cup) like this,… …in itself enhances… …experience. I mean you will enjoy the taste just by looking at it. Good combination! The tea is very, very strong in flavor! I mean the tea leaves have been boiled for quite some time. So, as they say,… …a tea that wakes you up,… …it has such a strong flavor. The tea leaves are very strong. It is a good combination with the mali toast. This is a good think about Banaras. You get a battery rickshaw to go to many places easily. After our morning tea, we came to the Gadolia Chowk. From there, we took a batter rickshaw again,… …to go to Tulsi Ghat right now. To visit an akhada. To learn professional wrestling,… …Akhada is a perfect place. Right now, we have come to visit a very old Akhada of Varanasi. Host: “Guruji, I’ve come for the first time to this Akhada.” Host: “How old is this Akhada?” Guruji: “This Akhada is older than 450 years.” Guruji: “In fact, this Akhada is older than even some of the oldest Akhadas in Varanasi.” Guruji: “And according to elders, this Akhada is as old as the Tulsi Bagh itself.” Host: “I am happy that I came here.” Host: “And to watch the kushti (wrestling) being practiced this morning.” Host: “Kushti goes on from 7.30 am to 9.30 am here?” Guruji: “Yes, till 9.30 am.” Host: “Till 9.30 am.” Host: “I know that I am not properly dressed but can I do this after taking off my shoes?” Guruji: “Yes, definitely.” Guruji: “Keep it like this.” Keep this on your shoulder. And push it back like this. Now bring it back here. Now hold it here. Now roll it slowly from right shoulder to the left one. From behind. (grunts) Like this! right! Foreigner: “It was very cool. I like this. Yeah!” Host: “So, you’re doing this for the first time or..” Foreigner: “For the first time, yeah. I’ve never done fighting before.” Host: “So, show us some muscles.” (laughter) Host: “Which country are you from?” Foreigner: “I am from Germany.” Host: “You speak English so well.” Foreigner: “Thank you Sir. You too!” (laughter) Host: “So nice! Foreigner: “It is an art form I think.” Host: “Yes it is.” Foreigner: ” Yes, because you can learn how you have to push the body down… …and how to. Its very cool.” Just next to the Akhada is the home of Sant Tulsidas. Sant Tulsidas spent most of his life,… …in Varanasi. Goswami Tulsi Das ji was a sincere devotee of Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman. He composed the lyrical story titled “Ramcharit Manas.” And he also wrote the Hanuman Chalisa. The Ramayana was first and foremost penned by Saint Valmiki. Just near the house of Tulsidas ji,… …is the Tulsi Ghat. Just inside the Manikarnika Dwar (doorway)… ..we reached in the Khoa Gali to eat Chhoti (small) kachori. In Banaras, you cannot even think of missing the breakfast of Kachori. Now this kachori is different, because they told me it has,… …potato stuffing inside, not dal stuffing. With chane ki sabzi,… …the taste is absolutely delicious. Alongwith the kachori. And the garnish of coriander and raw onions…. …kachori is absolutely crispy. As we move on, eating kachori in Banaras,… ..I am experiencing a different taste everywhere. Please give me a bowl, it is hot to carry. Hmm. Please give me some more sabzi. Thank you Sir!” Dhanyawaad! And please give me one dry kachori too. Dhanyawaad. Ahh! Wow! Wow! (laughter) It is very hot. No, it is ok. This is the kachori that I ordered. See it from inside. This potato stuffing. Absolutely light spices. And tasty! Overall, the taste of this kachori is very genuine. What I mean to say is that… …this kachori has all the qualities of a good kachori. And the best part is that Chane ki sabzi. It is a good marriage of flavors. Host: “Sir, please tell me about that mathhi you have.” Host: “Can I add that too to this?” Please give me a mathhi, crushed. And some more sabzi. Very simple taste… If you come to Banaras, don’t miss this taste. You will enjoy it very much. When you come to Banaras, you may have to decide,… …whether you want to stay in the Old City or the Cantonment area. We stayed in the Old City area. For the first 2 days, we stayed in Hotel Tridev. For double occupancy, we paid a tariff of Rs. 2600/- The Kal Bhairo Temple is at a walking distance from here. This area is very crowded. After two days, we shifted to Hotel Buddha, also within the old city. Tariff – Rs. 2600/- for double occupancy. The advantage of staying in the Old City – Easy accessibility,… The advantage of staying in the Cantonment – Peace Peaceful environment! But from Cantt, you will take 45-60 minutes to reach the Old City. Right now, we’ve come to the Lallapura area. Here, the weavers make the famous Banarasi Saree. So, here, I can hear the overbearing sound of a lot of power looms working inside these walls. So, weavers here use power looms as well as handlooms. So, I want to go inside a house and talk about the saree. Host: “Dada, you are making a Banarasi saree?” Dada: “Yes.” Host: “How much time does it take to make a pure silk saree by hand?” Dada: “A saree takes anywhere between a week to upto four weeks to make.” Host: “It depends on the design.” Dada: “It depends on the design.” Host: “Do other members of your family work with you too?” Dada: “Yes, my son works on a power loom… …and the women in the family work with Charkha (spinning wheel)… …to make this thread that you see. Host: “Okay. What do you do?” Man: “I run the power loom. He is my father.” Host: “You don’t work on the handloom?” Man: “I used to work on the handloom first. But I shifted to power loom because of more earnings.” This is why our children prefer to work with power loom, instead of handloom. Working on the power loom pays you more. This is a 100% silk chiffon thread. If you burn this, it smells like burning human hair. And this is made from the silkworm. And these threads I have in my hand,… …look like chiffon but it isn’t chiffon, it is polyester. And it would smell like burning plastic, if burnt. See I am burning it. This will go on turning into ash. See this ash! See it smells like plastic. A saree that takes 7-8 days to make on a handloom,… …the same saree, if made on a powerloom, as his son does,… …that saree can be made within 4-5 hours quite easily. So, the productivity of a handmade saree is just 10% of that of a saree made on a power loom. Which also means high cost. Okay Sir, thank you. You showed us how you make a saree. And you also gave us a short demo. If you come to Varanasi and are interested in… ..watching the behind-the-scenes of the makings of a Banarasi Silk Saree,… …which according to me, you should definitely see… …It would be good experience, plus you will also get to see the life of the workers behind the scenes. How their life is. So you can visit here. Any weaver at his house. Dhanyawaad! We went to a Banarasi saree shop nearby. This gentleman is showing us some varieties. And after that he will also tell us about the cost. See, this is the starting range of Banarasi Silk Saree, it starts from Rs. 500 per piece. …And this saree was made on a power loom. And, here is another variety, within the range of Rs. 1500/-. This is not pure silk, it is mixed. If you want in pure silk, the starting range would be Rs. 5000/-. See, this is another mixed quality saree. This Banarasi saree is in the range of Rs. 4000/-. And this is another variety of pure silk saree. This is in the range of Rs. 12,000/-. Rs. 12,000 or so. This saree was made on power loom and this one on a handloom. This gentleman showed us a lot of saree varieties. Thanks for that. I will come again to you in another 6 months or a year,… …along with my wife. I will purchase a saree then. Please do come Sir. Dhanyawaad! There is a Jaipuria Guest House near the Godowlia Chowk. We are on the 2nd floor of that building. And we’ve ordered a Thali for ourselves. I can see a lot of things in front. The best part is that one, it has tawa chapati, my all-time favorite…. ..with that is Missi Roti. And I’ve been told that the food here is prepared over wood fire. The only thing is that they have fixed timings during which they entertain customers. Between 12-2 in the afternoon and 8-10 in the night. The Missi roti is delicious. Ummm! Yes, Papad! Definitely. Thank you! This dal is simple, yet delicious in taste. Absolutely no pepper or spices. And the taste that you expect from wood fire cooking… ..it is exactly that. The kadhi is a bit thick in consistency. Nice taste! Sir, tadka (tempering)! Hmm! Wow! What is there in this tempering? It has Jeera (cumin seeds), Heeng (asafoetida), red chili powder. It has Jeera, heeng, mirchi powder tempered in desi ghee. Wow! I was enjoying it as it is. This means double the flavors. Too good! So, I’ve had all the 3 dishes. Dal, kadhi, aloo-gobhi (potato-cauliflower) curry. All 3 dishes have one thing in common. Simple preparations, no heavy or strong spices. So, this means, food for people of all age groups. This is a curry made with palak (spinach) and soya. Everything is perfect! This is a crushed mixture, someone told me,… …that they add ghee to this choora (crushed mixture) and I would enjoy eating it. Just look at it. Ohhh! What a thing to eat! The main thing about this is its smokey flavor. I just remembered how they put a burning coal inside the dish. That imparts the smokey flavor. It is the first time I am experiencing this kind of a taste in my life. I am going to eat slowly now. After my meal, I will eat halwa, made with semolina, and served as a sweet dish. Sir rice! No, no rice, thank you! These people also serve rice with the meal. But I don’t want to have rice right now. To have this sooji ka halwa in my Thali is the perfect sweet dish for me. Very beautiful taste! Good! Bottomline – the papad choora, and dal with desi ghee in it. These are the top 2 tastes in this whole thali. Good that I enjoyed this. And the best part is that this food is not heavy on the stomach at all. This was because every dish in this thali was light on spices. Our Banaras trip would be incomplete,.. …if we don’t understand the music of Banaras here. I have with me Mr. Deobrat Mishra and Mr. Shrutisheer. Let us learn from them more about the music of Banaras. Namaskar, I am Deobrat Mishra. I am a Sitar player from Varanasi. My whole family is connected to music. We know it as the Banaras Gharana. The Banaras city is a thought,… …and in this thought, you have the music, Lord Shiva and Mother Ganga. So, I am presenting some music to you. (Music) Very beautiful! (Clapping) It actually feels like we got lost in this music. I am talking about myself Sir. Thank you! If you want to understand the music,… …you want to adopt it,… …you should definitely visit Kashi (Banaras) at least once. And once you listen to the music here, you will definitely attain the ultimate happiness in life. Thank you so much! Thank you! Thank you! In this trip, we also have to go to Prayag Raj (older name Allahabad). In the coming 1-2 days, we will have to leave early in the morning. We will go to Prayagraj and will be back to Varanasi by evening or late evening. Till now, I’ve noticed in Varanasi,… …that maximum food joints are within the Old City area. You cannot ignore Lassi when it comes to the most popular food items in Banaras. We’ve reached to have a glass of lassi,… …and I can see lassi being prepared for us. Absolutely refreshing taste! If it is scorching heat outside and one gets to drink a kullhad of this lassi,… …or 2-3 glasses of this lassi, that would be enough to keep you cool for a couple of hours. What I mean to say is you will be cool inside. One good thing that they’ve done is that the curd is cold, which means no need for ice. So, the lassi is naturally cold, not because of ice. There is a seating space inside the shop. Though, I am drinking my lassi outside the shop and, along with that,… …I am enjoying the view of Banarasi lanes too. Plus the traffic on the road. Good experience! They have sprinkled a little rose water on the top, which is enhancing the flavor. Rest the curd is of good quality too. We’ve come to the Nariyal Bazaar to eat chaat at the shop of Dinanath. And I’ve ordered for myself a chaat, which I had no idea about before coming here. I was watching it being prepared over the tawa (griddle). Choora-Matar chaat! Poha is known as Choora here. Okay! So, this chat is prepared with a bit of garam masala too. I have not had this chaat before today. I can also see some dry fruits over it, which include Cashew nuts and Raisins. It is a great thing to eat! The taste of garam masala is delicious. I’ve had 3-4 spoonfuls back to back. First thing’s first! Poha (easier to pronounce) for me,… ..poha with matar is something we usually eat for breakfast. But the flavor of garam masala, topped with the tanginess of lemon juice,… And above all, for dry fruit, there was raisins and cashew nuts. Combined together, this dish is a game of full taste. I couldn’t even imagine that I would get to eat these ingredients in Banaras in the chaat form. Very tasty! I have to admit, I enjoyed it. I was discussing with him about what more I could eat. Tomato chaat, dahi-poori, all that is there. So, I recalled about palak-chaat. Well, I have already had it here but I wanted to try it again. So, to show it clearly, they’ve given me a palak leaf pakora here. It is this type of pakora, that is used in this chaat. Please take it back Sir. Thank you! Just as I pushed my spoon here,… …I felt the crispiness of the pakora in the first push itself. It is a great concept! I don’t think you would get to eat Palak chaat anywhere else other than Banaras! This package is really good! By package I mean the pakora, curd, sweet chutney and the fresh coriander on top. it is great! The sweetness of the sweet chutney… …works wonders with the crispiness of the palak pakora. You guys are doing a great job Sir! I was not aware that Banaras has so many varieties of chaat. After coming here, I can see a lot of varieties and also people enjoying their chaat tremendously. To walk on the Ghat early in the morning,… …after that Akhada visit, roaming around the whole day, eating,… …and to end our day journey here. We did all this. With the help of Mr. Kunal! He organizes walks in the city under the name of “Experience Varanasi.” These walks include temple visit, music, food, and a lot more. So, he helped us to create our own itinerary as well as how to execute the same. Thank you once again! Please tell me your views about this episode. As always, I shall wait for your comments. That’s it! Thanks for your time! I hope it doesn’t fall on my head! Ohh God! Early morning ghat visit,… ..after that Akhada visit,… Roaming for the whole day, eating, etc. And to come here and.. ..to end our day journey at this chaat shop was a… …very pleasant experience. Host: “Where do you live?” Man: “Banaras.” Host: “Please come. Will you have some chaat?” Host: “I am not joking. I am asking you seriously.” Man: “The chat of this place is very famous.” Host: “Come on buddy, have some chaat. It is on us.” Host: “Come one have some.” Man: “Sorry,I can’t. I have some work to do.” Host: “I thought you are standing next to us to eat chaat.” Man: “This place is famous for its chaat.”

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