Travelogue: Durga and Tulsi Manas Mandir in Varanasi
Varanasi, which is also known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi is one of the holiest cities in India and is located on the banks of Mother Ganga in Uttar Pradesh.
On our first day in this holy city we went to visit the Durga Temple at Durga Kund. Upon arrival, there was an irregular sound of loud bells ringing because each person rings a bell upon entering the temple. To the side of the entrance, a group of devotees could be seen performing a homa at the havan kund.
Shree Maa, Swamiji and the group were allowed inside the main area to perform a short puja to the radiant image of Durga. Shree Maa offered a beautiful red sari to the Divine Mother and the priests took the cloth and hung it around Durga Maa. Mother Durga was delighted to accept their offering.
Afterwards we made our way to a covered area nearby the main temple to recite the Lalita Trishati in honor of the Divine Mother.
Instantaneously, a huge group gathered around to enjoy the power of the mantras and the company of saints.
Being in close proximity to Shree Maa and Swamiji while they are chanting makes the mantras alive with energy. The combination of being with these holy saints in this sacred city compounded the energy. As we listened to their recitation of the Lalita Trishati, we could hear the life and meaning in the mantras.
Varanasi is a city packed with temples on every block and the Tulsi Mandir was a short walk away. The group enjoyed walking the streets of Varanasi from the Durga Temple to Tulsi Manas Mandir.
The Tulsi Manas Mandir, which is a temple dedicated to Lord Ram, is a huge building with marble walls inside. What makes this temple so amazing is that the entire epic of the Ramayana is written in engraved letters upon the walls of the temple!
The temple had several beautiful murtis of Sri Ram, Sita Devi, Lakshmana and Lord Hanuman as well. Shree Maa and Swamiji made offerings to the deities.
Then, the pujari presented a flower garland to Swamiji, but Swamiji took the mala off and, reciting the mantra, offered it to Shree Maa instead. We all laughed at Swamiji’s playfulness.
The pujari, not giving up hope, took a second flower mala and attempted again to put it on Swamiji. Swamiji took it in his hands and again offered it to his beloved Mother, Shree Maa.
This time the pujari was successful as Swamiji wore the mala himself. It was such a humorous scene to watch Swamiji play around and exhibit his humbleness. Equally entertaining was watching this persistent pujari!
The group then sat down to the side to recite stotrams from the Hanuman Puja. As we chanted the Hanuman Chalisa everyone clapped in rhythm. The sound of the singing and clapping echoed beautifully throughout the large temple building.
Next, we sang the Samkata Mochana Hanuman Ashtakam. At the end of the Ashtakem, Swamiji began joyfully singing, “Who in the world doesn’t know that monkey whose name removes all difficulties!” Everyone was soon singing along!
Right after our chanting, the evening arati began. Shree Maa stood up and danced with glee and the group followed. It was a night to remember in our first day in Varanasi.