Varanasi Diaries from India: The city from and to eternity

“Enlightenment, and the death which comes before it, is the primary business of Varanasi.”
~Tahir Shah, Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Varanasi “The city of temples” is one of the oldest city in the world & is also known as the “Religious capital of India” situated on banks of Ganges. The city is chaotic but the moment you reach in old Kashi area, it’s amazing with the traces & glimpse of old era. Life & death is treated equally & is part of daily routine here. There is no cuisine which belongs to a dynasty or kingdom but has evolved over time at the streets, and yes it’s amazing & delicious.

Ghat Map

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Information

  • Varanasi Airport {Babatpur} is 22 kms from Varanasi railway station. It’s always better to book taxis here. To my surprise App based taxis are easily available here. During my stay here I didn’t have much cash available, so I used OLA to wander within the city.
  • Varanasi Railway Station is in the Cantonment area & there is another railway station which almost 16 KM’s away and is known as Mughal Sarai Junction. Both of these station are connected via Northern Eastern Railway.
  • NH2, NH7 & NH29 are the main National Highways connecting this place by road.
  • Try local dishes which are available near Ghats especially dairy items. You may fall in love with them. 🙂
  • Beware of people who try to cheat you, like any other city.
  • Varanasi City Guide , if somehow this link doesn’t work, it can be downloaded directly from this location.
  • Website & Facebook Page for people who are interested to know more about Varanasi.

Varanasi, Banaras and Kashi are the name of the same city, which is at the core of heart of every devout Hindu. This is considered to be the last stop for man’s soul before its release from the endless cycle of birth & death. This is the place where Gautama Buddha came 2,500 Years ago after gaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, & gave sermon to his five followers at the outskirts of the city at the deer park, which is today known as Sarnath. This was the foundation of a religion that has spread across the world.

The only time Ganges alters it’s flows to North is in Kashi. People try to capture the spiritual resonance of the city as Kashi is born in myths & lives on it’s legend. This city belongs to Lord Shiva (Baba) & you can feel it during your stay here. Shiva is not perfect, so as we. Shiva’s association with this place begins with his marriage with Parvathi. He is considered a supreme divine force here & this is evident from the fact that a Hanuman Temple has linga enshrined in it. Sacred Ganga is the soul of this city. It is considered as an eternal river of life & is a river of heaven.

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 “All the superior religions had their growth between the Ganga and the Euphrates.”
    – Swami Vivekananda

As you wander down the narrow lanes and riverside ghats, you will notice Shiva manifest everywhere. The chanting of RigVeda hymn and the Gayathri Mantra reverberates from several adjacent ghats. It doesn’t matter if we believe in the legends or not but the presence of a divine force is felt in the periphery of this ancient city. This is the place where Hindus come to die or to venerate their dead. This is the place where Hindu Scholars bloom & illuminate the seekers with their knowledge.

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If I have to suggest to travellers one thing, I would without a doubt would suggest to spend time at the ghats & listen to Ganga Arti, which takes place at every evening at the sunset. Famous Spot Dasashwamedh Ghat.

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Varanasi is also known as a grand cremation ground {mahashamshan}. Death is a constant, observable presence in the city. The fires on cremation ghats burned by the riverside at Manikarnika Ghat & chanting mantra will may confuse & disturb you a bit. But to touch the core of Varanasi, you have to move beyond this outward glimpses. If you want to understand the connection between life & death, this is the place to be Manikarnika Ghat.
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This place has something to offer to each one but & it totally depends on the seeker.

Sarnath 

Next place one should spent some time is Sarnath, it is 10 KM’s away from main city. Must see places are Deer park & Sarnath Museum. This place is beautifully maintained, managed and is my personal favourite. There are things in life which inspires you, for me this place is one of them. Here you can walk through amidst of Buddhism legacy & history.

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I wish I had more time to explore this city but time is something which never waits for anyone however this means I have another reason to go back to this city & experience the scintillating spiritual beauty this place has to offer.

12 Replies to “Varanasi Diaries from India: The city from and to eternity”

  1. I didn’t make it to Varanasi when I was in India but you definitely do make it look and sound like an incredible place!

  2. Sarnath looks very beautiful. I am really excited to travel to India in the next couple of years. The culture, history, and way of life has always had an allure to me. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Benares is indeed a place to be! With the thousands of years of history, it has seen everything.

    I’m sure there is something new to discover there everyday and some new story to listen to if you keep your eyes and ears open

  4. So much history to explore. Between the rituals and customs to the parks and museum. It looks like a place that would have something for every traveler. India really does seem to have some beautiful areas.

  5. Going to Manikarnika Ghat as seeing the cremation fires sounds like a really intense experience. It looks like quite the visual experience from the pictures. The deer park in Sarnath looks beautiful as well.

  6. Well Varanasi is famous for several reasons and one of them is Death tourism. Thanks Everyone for the positive feedback.

  7. The places all seem very spiritual and beautiful. I would definitely take your advise and go see the ghats and listen to Ganga Arti. To see the local people and their culture would be an interesting and unique experience.

  8. Such great descriptions of these very intriguing places. Thanks for providing your spin on the importance of the places, and how to best experience them

  9. is there really no cuisine from the dynasties of old? I wonder once you go back what you would find and what comparisons and food styles would emerge I feel like it’s a little research I might pursue lol because you get to see if historical events, movements and share chance cause an alter in cuisine culture

  10. I visited Varanasi a few years ago – indeed it’s a fascinating place unlike any in the world, especially Manikarnika Ghat. I spent a fair bit of time there and saw a cremation from start to finish. A little difficult to bear in parts but I tried to keep an open mind, as that’s what travel is all about. Thanks for bring back some of my memories

  11. Varanasi is extraordinary. It must be surreal to be standing there, observing life and death as it goes.

  12. Absolutely,but I always ponder, if Varanasi is older than tradition as said in Hindu Mythology, how this tradition got started? 🙂

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