Varanasi is a city where air is thick with history and traditions govern the way of life. Varanasi is the city we picture when we think about the ancient cities of India – women draped in thick vibrant silks, carrying flowers towards temples while hundreds of priests roam the river banks, flooded with rickety sampans. Hinduism’s sacred city is burgeoning with colours at every step of the way, rivalled only by Jaipur.
Thousands flock to the river Ganges each year to immerse themselves in the waters, praying for repentance and washing away their sins. Deeply personal rituals that are conducted at every step of the way mark life and death- usually accompanied by fervent prayers, ringing bells, brightly-coloured offerings and the smell of ashes. The magic of Varanasi overwhelms the senses with how much it has to offer.
For the adventurous, the strong-willed and the curious, Varanasi might just be India’s best stop.
Head over to a ghat (riverfront steps) at the break of dawn and witness the mesmerising sight of a river doused in mellow light being approached by pilgrims. Hear them chanting in low murmurs for their morning prayers, before bathing in the river. Mingle with a motley group of people who sit at the riverside for a variety of reasons- yoga, prayers, meditation, photography and so much more. Amongst them you may find some who are occupants of the death hotel.
The ‘galis’ and sights of the Old City are best explored on-foot and they are hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city. Embark on a cultural trail through the city and look out for amazing architecture and temples peppered all over.
Temples get incredibly crowded – filled with devotees and tourists. While there to admire the remarkable devotion displayed, be respectful of the dress code. To uncover even more about this city’s history take a trip out to Sarnath Museum to discover artefacts dating back to the 3rd century BCE.
The city of Varanasi should be on the itineraries of those who are planning to visit India. With its incredible sights, rich display of devotion to Hinduism and interesting locals, Varanasi gives you an insight into India’s history in a present day setting.