Monday, March 10, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 4: Music in the lanes & ghats of the city

3rd March: Ganesh & Deepak left early for a visit to Kalbhairavi & Kashi Vishwanath temples while I got busy in getting the room cleaned , the beds done and leafed through the Afternoon Raga by Amit Chaudhuri.
They arrived soon after with hot Jilabis and Alu-Parathas for breakfast along with  scary tales of being whisked through the Vishwanath temple from one panda (temple-usherer) to another, losing money at every step for a darshan (holy sight) of the Shivlinga and apparent salvation thereafter.

Varanasi lane , near the temple
Spent the rest of the day walking around the labyrinthine lanes  of Varanasi in and around the temple complex. I stopped at a  tea shop right opposite a shop selling musical instruments. In it the young owner of the shop, also a Tabla (Indian percussion instrument) player, was jamming with a foreign percussionist. The sweet bols of the Tabla were the first strands of music for me in Varanasi.
A shop selling Banarasi Silk Saris at a temple-lane
Ganesh & Deepak were busy in selecting Banarasi silk Saris  from a shop at the temple lane. A couple of south Indian ladies hung around the shop, often goading buyers to look at saris that they wanted to find the actual worth of,  waiting eventually for the big deal that they can swing for themselves. People from all parts of India & the world were congregating around the Dosa shop run , ironically, by north-Indians (learnt later that got themselves handed over the ownership of the shop from erstwhile south Indian owners) while backpack-wearing local boys were whizzing through the same narrow alley on bikes , amazingly balanced.

Down the steps to the Ganges

Evening Twilight at the Ghats
Walking back to the  hotel at dusk, was stopped by the low buzz of horns blowing  at the ghat. Two musicians were playing on their horns (what looked like Bazookas), an extremely intense piece of fusion music.

One of the horns was smaller in length and had sharper tones while the other was at least 5 feet long and set up a buzz as if on an alap. The low frequency hums of the horns were enveloped by a melodic strain from the violin. When the sharp notes from the violin, stroked flowingly & passionately by the female violinist (not in the picture), joined the horns ; the sound of the fusion resonated across the ghat , reflecting from the sloping stone-slabs around. Spellbinding as the music was, I was stone-struck literally  for the entire duration of the piece played by the unknown & foreign street- musicians.


Walking through Bangali Tola

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