An American in Varanasi

    Spotlight Audio 13/2022
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    To find out more about Varanasi, Spotlight talked to Jeremy Oltmann. The American travel guide and yoga teacher has lived in Varanasi for more than 20 years. He runs “Varanasi Walks”, which introduces tourists to unusual sights and experiences in the city. In the first part of the interview, Oltmann talks about the best things to do in the city.​

    If someone’s coming to Varanasi for the first time, most likely they won’t want to go off the beaten track (ifml.)abseits vom Rummel​off the beaten track, in my opinion. Because sometimes we think, “Oh, taking a boat ride on the Ganga at sunrise or sunset, everyone does that. So why should I do that?” Because it’s fantastic, that’s why you should do it! So, I would say that normal things that people would do here like going for a sunrise boat ride, seeing the rituals, seeing the sunrise, boating along the riverside in the early morning hours, or taking an evening boat in the night, seeing the fires of the cremation groundEinäscherungsplatz​cremation ground and the Ganga Aarti, those are very common things to do, but you really shouldn’t miss it.​

    ​Oltmann also has suggestions for a more unusual adventure in Varanasi. By the way, the city has many names, and is also commonly known as Banaras.​

    ​When I think of offbeat things, some people don’t realize that the Maharaja of Banaras, his palace is on the other side of the river. So, it takes a little effort to go there. You either have to rent a car or get in an auto rickshaw and cross the river on the highway or on the smaller motorablebefahrbar​motorable road that goes just near to our city. And beyond his palace is a fantastic temple that his forefatherVorfahr​forefathers made – I consider it the most beautiful temple in Varanasi – it’s called Sumuru Devi Durga Temple. And if you want an offbeatunkonventionell​offbeat adventure, I would say to grabsich schnappen​grab an auto rickshaw and try to get over to the Ramnagar – the maharaja’s town – go to the palace and the museum there if you like, but get that rickshaw to take you to the Sumuru Devi Durga Temple.​

    What’s his favourite time of the day in Varanasi?​

    ​You know, there’s a saying, Subah e Banaras, Shaam e Awadh”: “The mornings are for Varansi, the evenings are for Lucknow”. Because Lucknow is a place of music and dance, so the evenings work there in the capital city [of Uttar Pradesh]. But Varanasi is a place of spirituality, so the sunrise is critically importantvon zentraler Bedeutung​critically important to the normal comings and goings of Banaras residents. Quite often, local women are out on the riverside, to do worshipbeten​doing worship together, after some type of activities in the house. And it’s a time for them to gather with other women and talk to each other and be away from traditional man situations, telling them what to do. Now all these traditional patriarchal systems are changing, but traditionally in India, a woman would be cooking in the home and the man would be working outside, Again, this is changing a lot. But in a traditional, conservative city like Varanasi, these are the spaces where women go to enjoy time together. And consequently, it’s a fantastic time for anybody to go. So I often get up at 4.30 / 5.00 in the morning, take my motorcycle over to Assi Ghat and watch the sunrise and have a chaischwarzer Tee mit Gewürzenchai or tea afterwards.​

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