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.
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.
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.
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.
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.