One of the most colourful and fascinating places on earth is Varanasi, India. Its the centre of various cultures and religious activities.
The beauty of Varanasi lies in ghats, the people, and its old narrow lanes that with a residential area older than one can think of. Watching the beautiful sunrise and sunset from a boat on the Ganges are the highlight, and facing the truth of life and death can be a very strong experience.
My experience of Varanasi is something that no picture or words can describe. As quoted by Mark Twain, “Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”
Top 5 things to explore
1. Boat Ride and Ganga Arti
Enjoy the spiritual charm by sitting in boats during the dawn and witness groups of priests and hundreds of people flock to the shoreline in boats for the regular Ganga Arti ritual. The priests face the river where the lamps are lit and circled around by the priests and other people. People praise Mother Ganga and its so engaging that you’ll want to revisit.
2. Kashi Vishwanath Temple
In the holy land of gods, the temples of Varanasi offer a close rendezvous with gods. The so-called City of Temple has a temple in every nook and corner. One of the most popular of the temples here is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple which is been dedicated to Lord Shiva. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples.
3. Sightseeing Tour of Sarnath
The holy site of Sarnath is located 12kms away from Varanasi. Gautama Buddha first explained the Dharma after his enlightenment at this place only. Sarnath has been formed as a place of pilgrimage, both for Buddhists from India and abroad. Near to this, there are six national temples of various Asian communities, including a Tibetan and Sri Lankan temple. The Archaeological Museum of Sarnath is worth travelling as there are treasures housed here.
4. Bath in the Ganges
The water of the river Ganges is sacred. The divine river offers salvation to everyone who dips in the water. Travellers from all over in the world no matter their age take a dip in the water to clear their sins and achieve moksha, freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Varanasi has more than 80 Ghats with stairs leading to the waters.
5. Exploring Ghats
Life here begins with the Ganga and dissolves in the river. The long string of ghats — from Assi ghat on one end of the city to Manikarnika on the other — defines Banaras. Every Ghat has a story behind it and it defines the treasure trove of stories. One such story about Manikarnika Ghat is – According to legends, Shiva, while taking a bath with Parvati at Manikarnika Ghat, lost his ring in the river and could not find it even after searching for hours. An angry Shiva, it is believed, cursed the ground at Manikarnika and said would never cool off — hence the round-the-clock cremations! At least 250 pyres are burnt every day at Manikarnika Ghat. It is the only place in the world where cremations take place 24*7.
Varanasi is a city full of history, traditions and religion and is a city that can’t be missed!