Varanasi – Photo Journal
Varanasi is the soul of spiritual India and one of the oldest living cities in the world. It embodies the brilliance of human existence and co-existence. Where else can one witness contrasting religions co-existing, Varanasi – the capital of Hinduism is home to an equally large population of Muslim weavers producing the highly coveted Indian fabric called Banarasi fabric or Banarasi sarees. Where else could one possibly witness the burning of dead bodies by the ghats of Ganges. A Hindu saint, a Muslim weaver and a stray dog can be seen sitting beside each other on the ghats with silent harmony, such is the spirit of Varanasi where each human being is equal just as nature would wish for it to be!
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One would either absolutely love the complex organised chaos of Varanasi or totally hate it. The essence of this city will rip your soul, the raw scenes of the bodies burning on the ghats will churn your brains inside out and compel you to re think about life and your existence. I have shared a few random photos from my time in Varanasi, it is better seen than spoken about!
Preparation for the Evening Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. The famous evening aarti takes place on this ghat only starting at around 6:45pm every evening, essentially it is a form of worshiping the Ganges.
Many vendors can be seen selling flowers and diyas on the ghats, a diya along with flowers is usually sold for Rs 10, it is holy to light the diya and set the leaf bowls afloat on the Ganges hoping it will fulfill whatever one has wished for which lighting the diya.
The evening aarti in progress, its a magical and soulful experience t witness 7 pandits performing the evening aarti, all in sync with each other. The atmosphere is electrying with holy chants and the harmony of all the people there clapping together in tune with the chants.
Watch the Aarti:
Varanasi illuminates the moment the sun goes down, starting with the evening aarti and hundreds of diyas afloat, Ganges turns into a dancing beauty shimmering through out. The best way to indulge in this time is by a boat ride which will take you along the ghats. The boat men are usually well versed with the history of the ghats and double hat as a guide as well. For foreigners, my tip is do not settle for anything more than Rs 300 for a boat ride on the Ganges.
Manikarnika Ghat is one of the most famous Ghats is Varanasi, it is believed and it is true as well that the fire of this ghat never goes down, there is some human dead body being burnt here throughout the year. It is a unique, life changing and a raw experience to witness performance of Hindu burial rituals in such close proximity.
At Manikarnika Ghat, clicked from the boat.
Varanasi is equally calming in the morning, the air is fresh and it is beautiful to watch the locals offering prayers in the Ganges and taking a holy dip. At Dashashwamedh Ghat in the morning, the boats are parked by the ghats awaiting to take tourists on boat rides.
From the boat:
This below is the backside of Brijrama Palace, said to one of the oldest landmarks of the city perched on Darbhanga Ghat, the palace which is now one of the most expensive hotels in Varanasi at approx. Rs 25,000 per night dates back to 1812. It also has one of the oldest elevators installed in India in 1915.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most important and oldest temples in India with a dome still made of gold. Although photography is not allowed in the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple. There is now a newly built Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the sprawling Benaras University.
Chaotic street traffic of Varanasi – Nothing can get more thrilling than this, not even a good roller coaster ride :
Any trip to Varanasi is incomplete without indulging on the super delicious food on offer. Below is a drooling Maharaja thali, although this one is vegetarian, still it is one of the best thalis I have ever had at Kaiser Palace – Hotel Surya.
Do not, I repeat do not miss out on having the utterly rich and yummy milk based desserts and drinks, such Kulfi, Lassi, Rabri, Dahi and many more.
The best way to end a delicious meal is by buying yourself a what they popularly call in India ‘masala’ a form of digestive that can be found in several forms such a tiny bullets or flavoured or softened betelnuts, etc. Buying some as a souvenir is always a great idea.
Last but not the least, interested in shopping or not, it is still worth visiting the local shops in dingy alleys selling stunning intricately woven Banarasi fabric and sarees.
Subtle and pain staking process of weaving a Banarasi saree:
My experience of visiting Varanasi was like a roller coaster ride – thrilling, sometimes a bit scary, mentally and emotionally consuming and definitely one that I will never miss for anything else.