Vibrant, Vigorous, Vivacious…. Varanasi!
Popularly known by its monikers “Kashi” and “Banaras”, Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world with a history that goes beyond 3000 years. It is situated on the western riverbank of the Ganges River in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh; believed to be an abode of Lord Shiva. It is popularly known as “The City of Lights” and “The Spiritual Capital of India”. It is considered a Holy City by the followers of religions like Hinduism and Jainism.
Being one of the shaktipeeth destinations out of the twelve in the country, Varanasi, the name itself speaks of a place that is sanctified, poignant, mystique and magnificent in culture and heritage. And to top it all, the city is home to eminent personalities and saints like Shankaracharaya, Mahavir, Gautama Buddha, Tulsi Das, Kabir, Patanjali and Ramanujan.
1. Take a Boat Ride and Bathe in The Sacred Ganges
Watching the Varanasi skyline from a boat-view is one of the most miraculous experiences one can witness. The warm sunrise over the peaceful river is not just a sight, but an experience altogether. Also, do not shy away from taking a bath in the sacrosanct river, which according to beliefs, cleanses the soul and purifies the person of all sins committed. It is considered an achievement of ultimate salvation and freedom from the cycles of birth and death.
2. Witness the splendid evening Aarti Ceremony
Every evening, the Dasawamedh Ghat of Varanasi elevates to a spectacular sight which becomes an experience of a lifetime for those who witness it. The huge brass lamps, the chanting of the saints, the beauty of the rituals, the faith of the crowds which gather – all of it makes for a grand and memorable evening.
3. MUST-DO: Visit the Ghats and the Local Markets:
Every ghat in Varanasi has its own history, significance and heritage. There are some Ghats dedicated to praying, some to bathing and some to cremation. Few famous Ghats of the region are Assi Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Tulsi Ghat and the Munshi Ghat.
The city is also home to boisterous and busy “bazaars”. Indigenous to Varanasi is the world-renowned “Banarasi Saree” and typical jewelry designs. The most famous markets of Varanasi are Godowlia, Chowk, Thatheri Bazaar and Vishwanath Lane.
4. MUST-DO: Indulge in Local Delicacies:
There is more to Varanasi than just what meets the eye. Varanasi is not only rich in spiritual traditions and beliefs, but has a rich heritage in terms of cuisine too. The food in Varanasi is influenced by the superior position it holds in Hindu Mythology as well as by the tastes and preferences of the thousands of visitors that pour into the city every day. Few of the must-haves are “Kachori-Subzi”, “Litti-Chokha”, “Malaiyo”, “Thandai” and the celebrated “Banarasi Paan”.
5. Temples, Forts and Other Sights in The Vicinity
While you are there, do not miss the opportunity to visit the local temples which are affiliated to Ancient Hindu mythology. The most famous of all temples is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. And if you are a Hanuman Bhakt, then the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is sure to give you the much needed peace and sanctity. The long-established customary yatra in Kashi is another do-not-miss which covers the main shrine, the Panchakoshi Temple alongside 107 other shrines in the fifty mile path.
Varanasi is a merger of the Physical and Divine Worlds. “Colorful” and “Celestial” are the adjectives that best define the magic of this haven. The meandering country roads, the century-old nostalgia, the tryst with divinity… all make the heart implore – Let there be several Varanasi’s!
With an igniting passion for travel, Rohit has always been on a travel spree. He is a lover of cultures, languages, food, oceans and the heritage of India. His travel stories, shared at transindiatravels.com, give a deeper insight to every traveler’s requisites before they embark on exploring a new destination.