Varanasi, the place was on my travel list since 5 years and I was wondering when the D-day would arrive!
Lately, I have come to realize that things happen at the right opportune time!
So it did! November 2017 was the month I set foot in Varanasi with no expectations but a heart filled with enthusiasm to explore this intriguing place. And of course with the people I adore! 😉
The ride from Sunauli (Why sunauli- read the post on Annapurna Circuit out here- Annapurna Circuit Trek) to Varanasi was quite interesting. My friend and me started early morning in the UPSRTC bus to reach Varanasi! From scenic paddy fields, mustard fields and farms galore the road took to small towns, cities and finally reached Varanasi. One can feel the chaos as soon as you hit the city center. We hired a auto-rickshaw to take us to our stay at Zostel.
It was 3pm when we reached and took some time to freshen up. We went on a stroll to explore the streets of Varanasi in the evening!
Our first pit-stop in Varanasi was at the local famous Chaat shop. We tried a variety of Chaats and of course ended with a sweet-meat! We were too tired to get on with our exploration that we took to the terrace at our stay indulging in a chat and then hit the sack after the long day!
Let me give you a glimpse of Varanasi!
So our stay was pretty close to Kashi Vishwanath temple, the main street and about 2-3 kms to the Ghats and of course the Ganges!
The streets were amazingly crowded! More than vehicles on the road, there were people and it was more difficult for the vehicles to meander through the crowd. But the two wheelers, auto-rickshaws, tuk-tuk, cycle-rickshaws and a zillion other variety of vehicles added of course to the rhythmic chaos! The street also had a good number of street vendors selling trinkets, fruits, neem twigs,chaats and what-nots! The main street leads one to the Ghats where certain rituals and ablutions take place. There along the Ghats runs Ganga with all exuberance and serenity! Along the main street the road leads to a lot of narrow alleys which house series of temples; big and small! Apart from that there are popular lassi spots, kullad chai addas, paan shops and of course the hot jalebis / samosas spots!
All in all an interesting place to explore.
Let me talk about the history and importance of Varanasi; It is a spiritual and a religious place for Hindus where one is believed to attain Liberation if one is cremated there after death!
Kashi, Benaras, Varanasi are some of the names it goes by! It is a revered city on the banks of Ganga in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is called Varanasi owing to the confluence of Varuna and Assi rivers! It is known as the ‘City of Lights’-Kashi(to shine)!
We were joined by two other friends the next morning and we got on a temple hopping spree!
Each and every temple had a certain vibration and of course different deities. Right from Kalabhairav temple to Sankat mochan Mahabali Hanuman temple to Devi temple to the main Kashi Vishwanath temple to Annapurna temple, each had its beauty and fervour! (PS: these are the few temple names I remember, we did a visit a few more maybe!)
Kashi Vishwanath temple, the main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a huge temple which houses smaller shrines and temples. The temple has withstood a lot of battles and rampage over 12th-18th Centuries owing to the Mughal attacks. The temple is beefed up with a lot of security personnel! The various smaller temples runs along the narrow alleys which is quite a meandering tour!
We were present for a couple of Aartis (rituals) at the Vishwanath temple and the energy of the chants, the mystical place, the awe-inspiring rishis were mind-blowing! I cannot put it into words but it was truly a remarkable experience!
Food and drinks are at its best out here in Varanasi. The evenings were spent in exploring and tasting the cuisine of Varanasi. Puri Bhaji, hot jalebis, Kachoris are the popular and tasty breakfast dishes. One can snack upon chaats, taste variety of lassis, kullad chai, hot-lemon teas and bhaang which is legal in the streets of Varanasi! Well, not to forget the Benarasi Paan!
One of the highlights of the place is obviously the Ganges.
She flows with all zest unperturbed about the life and death at her banks!
Sparkling her way through the lights of Sun and Moon!
Ready to sway by the flickering souls in the midst!
All set to trigger the divine you!
A boat ride takes one along the Ghats from one end to the other. It is a beautiful ride!
The ghats / embankments along the Ganga are a place of rituals! Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghat are popular for cremation rituals.
Dasashwamedh Ghat is very popular for the Ganga Aarti which takes place in the evening twilight! There are 7 Rishis who perform the rituals facing Ganga! We sat on one of the boats and saw this beautiful array of lights, lamps and of course the 7 rishis perform synchronous rituals with the lamps. It was a sight to behold! The fervour of the place, the people in unison, serene Ganga, the rishis were magnetic and splendid! This is something that one shouldn’t miss if visiting Varanasi!
The Ghats are open 24*7 and the best time to visit is in the early mornings for the spectacular Sunrise and the evenings during the Sunsets and of course the Aarti!
One place which we considered our amazing serene hang-out was the Nepali temple in the Lalita Ghat. The temple is a replica of Pashupatinath temple, Nepal. It is made of wood, stone and terracota. It was built by the King of Nepal during his exile and was completed by his son. It took three decades to complete this beautiful structure and it is surrounded by tamarind and peepal trees which makes it all the more lovely!
One can also visit Banaras Hindu University (BHU) which is the largest residential University in Asia!
All in all, Varanasi is a place of wonder. One has to visit it to experience the immense beauty and delve into this mystical abode!