The holy city: Varanasi
Welcome to the land of holy chants and positive vibes- Varanasi. This is the holiest city in India that lies along the banks of the Ganges River. It is considered the religious hub and the most sacred place for the Hindus. The water symbolises healing, the banks lead you to God, the chants widen your aura and overall the city brings you peace of mind.
The very thought of Varanasi brings the sound of water, calm sunsets, bells ringing, chanting of mantras and flashes of cameras to your mind. Everyone wants this to be captured and stored in memory for life because there is no other place like Varanasi in the world.
How to reach Varanasi?
By Flight: The Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport is at Varanasi. You could take a flight directly to Varanasi or to Kolkata from where you can take a train or Taxi.
By train: Varanasi has a railway station of its own. You could take a train from Kolkata (8 hours journey) or Delhi (10-12 hours journey).
By road: Buses run from the cities mentioned above to Varanasi. The journey isn’t too comfortable by bus. You could take taxis if you’re not on a super tight budget.
Packing tip: Although you can wear what you feel like in Varanasi, it is better you wear clothes that cover your legs fully or ethnic clothes to avoid unnecessary stares by the people there.
Where to go in the Holy City:
Kashi Vishwanath temple & the Gyan Vapi Well:
This temple is located in the heart of the city and is a major focus of faith to the devotees of Lord Shiva. They do not miss going to this ancient temple. The Gyan Vapi well is a sacred structure that is located in the premises of this temple. The water in this well is considered Holier than that of the River Ganga as it is not polluted by the travellers and pilgrims. The temple and the well were destructed by the Mughals, during the reign of Aurangazeb and the Gyan Vapi Mosque is now constructed here.
This is the most popular Ghat that holds its history to Lord Brahma & Lord Shiva. It was destructed and rebuilt three times in history. It is a spectacular Ghat that is definitely worth a visit.
This Ghat is located at the confluence of the two rivers Ganga and Assi which makes the place very beautiful. This is the cleanest Ghat in Varanasi.
This Ghat is popular for the water pool called Gauri Kund that is present here. The water of that pool is said to have healing properties and the worship here equalises to the worship at Kedarnath and hence its name.
This Ghat is named after the Queen of Jhansi who was born here. This is a major and most important cremation point. It is considered that if one is cremated here, he will ultimately break the cycle of birth and attain nirvana. It would be considerate of us not to create a noise here or go crazy with our photography cravings because we need to respect the fact that someone’s lost a dear soul and are grieving for it.
Banaras Hindu University:
This is the largest residential university in the continent. One who visits Varanasi should definitely have a glimpse of this age-old institution. Banaras is known for renowned poets and writers like Kabirdas and Jaishankar. It has been the birthplace of many literary legends of the country.
Bharat Mata Mandir:
This temple is located within the premises of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidhyapeeth. This temple has a map of undivided India carved out in marble. This temple is one of its kinds as it glorifies the country and not any religious practice. The country that is dearly called Bharat Mata (Mother India) is worshipped for all its glory, charm and more importantly for being our homeland.
Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum:
This museum is in the premises of the Banaras Hindu University and houses archaeological, paintings, art, fabric and literary content too. If you are interested in knowing the art and culture of the place, you would love to visit this museum.
This mosque was built by the Mughal Ruler Aurangazeb on the 100 ft. tall Bindu Madhav Temple. Therefore, the mosque has an architecture with a Hindu and Islamic blend. This is a rare finding and I’m sure you would want to see this.
Things not to miss out in Varanasi:
The sunrise at the river is bliss. You have to wake up early and get yourself a boat which doesn’t cost much. It is approximately Rs.250 for a person. Watching the sunrise while you are boating in the holy river is a feeling that cannot be described in words. I cannot say that it would be a quiet morning because the rituals by the river start very early in the morning but I can assure you that this kind of sunrise will not be witnessed elsewhere.
This is a huge event that happens every morning and night. The river banks are lit with diyas (lamps) and the temple bells gong loud in praises of God and the river. Many local inhabitants and devotees come every day for the aarti. The aarti is considered very important. This event should not be missed while you are at Varanasi.
Varanasi has a lot of Yoga Acharyas (Gurus) and if you are fond of exercise and yoga, you should meet them and learn from them. The experience of doing yoga by the river banks is unparalleled.
Street shopping and Street Food:
Vishwanath Gali in Varanasi is known for shopping and the street food that everyone drools over. The things that you can buy from Varanasi are the famous “Banaras ki saree”, decorative art, fabric, worship idols and malas (rosaries).
The things that you can eat at Banaras are Kachori Sabzi, Thandai, Tamatar Chat, Dahi Puri and of course Pan(betel leaf).
This is the drama of the life of Lord Ram that is enacted out for 10 days during the time of Dushera. This is very famous and people from around the country and world go to see it. If you want to see it too, plan your trip around that time of the year.
The stay options in Varanasi are not too expensive. If you are on a solo trip to this place or with backpackers, you can stay in hostels or Dharamshalas.
Although your travel at Varanasi might not be similar to travel elsewhere, it is a beautiful destination to be at. The lifestyle here is majorly in accordance with culture and religion. Travel to Varanasi will teach you to be smarter in dealing with scams by the local vendors, will teach you more about the history and of course culture and art.