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Biking around Varanasi – Mirzapur and Vindhyachal

March 10, 2014

I am not a motorsport enthusiast. I mean I cannot make out one model from another. Yet, I have driven all my life. Lately I bought a Yamaha SZR (153cc). It’s not a monster. Yet has enough power to take you around. It’s comfortable to drive both in low and high gears. I was itching to ride around Varanasi. And then I ventured.

I had been to Vindhyachal some couple of decades ago along with my friends in a car. I wanted to ride out of Varanasi and Mirzapur and Vindhyachal were the obvious choice. Vindhyachal is a small town adjacent to Mirzapur. Development has ensured that it is populated all along Mirzapur to Vindhyachal which Google showed was some 29 km away but I never could make out when I exited Mirzapur and when I entered Vindhyachal. While Mirzapur is famous for carpets and durries Vindhychal is known for the Vindhvasini Devi temple which I wanted to visit as a pilgrim.

I started early, at around 8 AM. Getting out of Varanasi was a chore. The roads are not up to scratch. Once on the Varanasi-Allahabad highway,

Allahabad=Varanasi Highway

Allahabad=Varanasi Highway

I could raise the throttle. Yes, I was doing 80-90km/hr at times. The little baby was responding fabulously. But I guess I should not have taken the SRZ that far up, for the simple reason that on Indian roads anyone can appear at any time. It could be a puppy, a goat or people or a vehicle wanting to turn. I mean, it’s a tad crazy and it was just as crazy of me to accelerate beyond 70km/hr.

Once off the highway and on to the Mirzapur road the ride again became bumpy. The road was just as I remembered all those years ago when I last travelled here. They sell these pedas (round sweet made of flour and sugar) which are typical of the region. I stopped and had one. Way too sweet.

It was when I reached the bridge over the Ganges that I gasped in wonder. The majesty of the river took my breath away.

Majesty of the Ganga in Mirzapur. Photo from bridge over the river.

Majesty of the Ganga in Mirzapur. Photo from bridge over the river.

It had a turquoise blue hue, looked clean and life giving. The pictures along side are from the middle of the bridge and the bloody edifice wobbled every time a heavy vehicle passed. I hurriedly took the pictures and rode on.

Mirzapur town is well, just another small town in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. It is chaotic, with woeful roads and infrastructure and non-existent town planning. I know that Mirzapur is the centre of carpet industry and there must be opulence but I could see none. There is one landmark which is the Ghantagarh (Clock Tower).

Ghantaghar or Town Hall. Notice the European architecture

Ghantaghar or Town Hall. Notice the European architecture

But this is no clock tower but the Town Hall with Gothic architecture. A plaque clams that Maharaja Baneras built this. If indeed he did he must have got the masons and architects from Europe which seems unlikely. Chances are that the Europeans built the Ghantaghar and later Maharaja Baneras added a few touches and his name on the plaque. I say this because along the Town Hall that is the Ghantaghar is a small Gothic church
Church with Gothic architecture alongside the Ghantaghar

Church with Gothic architecture alongside the Ghantaghar

which has now been turned into a ‘Convent’ school. Of course there is no Convent there but just as well.

From the Town Hall I ventured to the much touted Pukkay Ghat. The Ganges was a sight to behold but the place reeked of human faeces. I wanted to sit around and enjoy the scene but the smell was so incessant and overpowering that I made a hasty exit. And they had these slogans written all around on the walls about keeping the Ganges clean! I must concede though that the Ganges in Mirzapur is much cleaner than in Varanasi or the Yamuna in Delhi (that is a joke!).

I was biking around the lanes and by-lanes of Mirzapur when I chanced upon this temple which has distinct South Indian architecture.

Temple with South Indian architecture in Mirzapur

Temple with South Indian architecture in Mirzapur

I thought I was in Madurai. It was just so beautiful and such a surprise. The oft repeated North-South divide is a sham. Remember the priests in Kedarnath and Badrinath come all the way from Kerala. There is only one India that is Bharat.

On my way to Vindyachal I came across these towers that were clearly military garrisons built by the Europeans. 082Mirzapur must have been a garrison town and the architecture of the Town Hall and the garrison towers had a synergy. It made sense and it told me I was exiting Mirzapur and was on my way to Vindyachal.

On reaching Vindhyachal the tourist in me took a back seat and the pilgrim in me took over. It never occurred to me that I should take my camera into the temple. Maybe I should have. What struck me about the Vindhvasini Devi temple again were the South Indian motifs that adorned the walls of the temple. It was amazing. A temple in North India with a very real South Indian architecture!

I did not stay at the Vindhvasini Temple for long. I took to the road and the journey back was uneventful. If I fancied myself as a roadie I must eat out at the highway. And so I did. The Mochu Dhaba beckoned and I stopped. They had clean steel plates and spoons. A plastic mug in front full of water to wash and to drink. The food was spicy and hot, the rotis fresh and buttery. I mean, there is a reason why the Big Mac has hardly any outlets on Indian highways. These dhabas that sell Indian food at rock bottom prices are just what a trucker wants. The meal with a small Coke cost me Rs 90 ($1.5). I am sure there are better dhabas on the way but Mochu is what I found and while I wasn’t impressed I won’t say I felt being let down. A basic fare and a filling meal. Just as well.

It was a pleasure riding around Varanasi. I did some 200km in half a day. I know it was hectic. I was back home by 2.30 in the afternoon. One can do 300km in a day without a sweat. The Yamaha SZR was comfortable and I did not feel tired after the journey. These are some small pleasures of life. The world is a beautiful place. Get on a bike and explore this wondrous world.

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