travel

Varanasi

Last week I made a trip to Varanasi and it was overwhelming. The crowds, sights, and sounds are unique. It’s an experience you must have even if you live in India. There’s nowhere quite like Varanasi.

Varanasi is one of the holiest sites for Hindus. Millions of people come here every year to pray, cleanse themselves in the river and to pay tribute to departed loved ones. Every Hindu hopes to visit Varanasi at least once in their life time.

Sunrise over the Ganga at Varanasi – Photo by Dipanjan Saha from Pexels.com

What is Special About Varanasi?

You will go straight to Mount Kailash if you die here (the equivalent of heaven) according to legend. But you or a close relative may not have the privilege of dying here. Therefore, by doing the darpanam for our dearly departed in Varanasi, we give moksha to our loved ones as if they had their last rites in Varanasi. We offer prayers and have a dip in the waters of the holiest of rivers to Hindus the Ganga to wash away our sins.

The Kasi Viswanathan temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, He is considered the head of the holy Hindu Trinity. Here we know him as Visveshwara or Viswanatha.

We went into the temple at 4 pm and the crowd was building up. We waited in line only for 15 min with a cup of milk in hand. The nice aspect of temples in this area of India is that you can do the puja yourself. Therefore, we poured the milk on the Lingam. We then made way for the next eager devotee. Be careful of picket pockets and chain snatchers in this frenzied crowd.

Varanasi Ganga Aarti
Ganga Aarti in progress

You must experience the evening prayers to Mother Ganga – Ganga Arti. People jam into the ghat in the evening. The heat was overwhelming in mid-June. People poured in from 6 pm despite this heat to witness the ceremony. You can take a boat ride to view it from the waters also. It’s more comfortable than sitting on the hot stone steps crowded with people.

The Ganga Arti has been performed for hundreds of years

You get a special feeling when you think that the Ganga Arti has been done in this very spot for hundreds of years. It’s simply divine.

Shopping:

Treat yourself to fine silks, and luxurious cotton woven by the master weavers of Varanasi.

Silks are a famous part of Varanasi. The Benares saris both silk and cotton are world-famous. Brocade Benares saris are something every woman covets. So after your prayers are over, do visit the shopping area!

You can bargain here. Start by offering half of what the seller asks and work your way up to somewhere in the middle. Haggling is a serious business here. There are many fixed-price shops too where they will give you a small discount instead of bargaining if that isn’t your cup of tea.

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla.

16 thoughts on “Varanasi”

  1. I enjoyed reading about Varanasi. I’ve never been there though I have a Banarsi sari. The Ganga Arti is a sure highlight that I would love to attend some day. I also hear that the ghats are now very clean and well maintained.

    1. Everything about Varanasi is overwhelming Sonia. The ghats are a lot better now for sure and we humans also need to participate in keeping it clean right?!

  2. I have never been to Varanasi but my dad had been there in April last year after my mom expired. He found the whole experience of bathing the ganga and the aarti very calming and soothing. Your pictures are amazing and I would love to go here soon.

  3. Lovely write up, Brinda! Really enjoyed reading about the present day Varanasi….had been there…. seems like eons ago…can only remember the sweltering heat, the crowds and little else. God willing, will visit once again…. waiting for your next

  4. Similar to the mighty Himalayas Varanasi also has this breath taking quality. Blessed to have experienced it Brin.

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