My top 5 precious moments in Varanasi
A hub for traditions of pilgrimage, death, and mourning in the Hindu world. Varanasi is a city situated on the Ganges River in northern India.
Below are my top 5 precious moments in Varanasi:
How I came to have such a deep and abiding love for India is something that many people fail to grasp. In short, it’s probably because my mother has spent a lot of time there. Because I’ve always loved their movies and writings. General speaking, I have always been fascinated by Indian culture. From the vibrant colours of saris and cityscapes to the intricate designs on handmade furniture.
Nonetheless, I planned our trip to India, I had to end with Varanasi. Whereas, for me, it was important to see how The Ganges worked. The Ganges is the longest and most sacred river in India. Flowing from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.
Here are my top precious moments in Varanasi.
THE BOAT RIDE
After much anticipation and excitement, we arrived in Varanasi in the late afternoon. We walked towards the Ganges, where we met Manoosh, a very enthusiastic character. Who latched onto us and rowed us along the Ganges making sure we stopped at all the Ghats. We huddled together and were simply gob smacked at what we saw. In truth, it took a long time for it all to sink in.
The river was full of many boats, tourists and locals. It took about an hour to get to the top and about 2 hours getting back just after sunset. He was incredibly fit and rowed us with such pride showing off his beautiful tour. At this time, I felt I needed to pinch myself, it was undoubtedly the best chaos I had ever seen.
Varanasi is full of incredible people. Varanasi has numerous other names apart from Banaras and Kashi. Top names popular among people are Sudarsana, Brahma Vardha, Mahasmasana, Ramya, and others. Varanasi is the birthplace of three main religions of India: Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Such warm, beautiful kind caring people. We saw many guru’s, many religious traditions and sermons. It was a busy, loud joyous place. Music, singing and every night at a certain time we witnessed the ‘Ganga Aarti Ceremony’.
From your wooden boat bopping in the Ganges. You can view the banks of the burning ghat in the oldest of India’s cities. For us, Westerners, it seems absolutely shocking to around a maze of funeral pyres hissing.
Steaming and spitting orange embers into a dark night. Smoke everywhere and the noise of the bells vibrating loud in your ears. The wave of furnace-like heat consuming everything in its reach, you realize how incredibly jarring the ritual of death is. In detail, the body is covered in Marigolds, brightly coloured fabric and its places on a stack of wood.
Where it is set alight. Importantly, the family and friends sit alongside the body as it burns. Until the very end. With the intention. Importantly,Until all that is left is the ashes. The ashes are collected, and a ceremony is performed where it is given to the Ganges. Without a doubt, really quite profound to watch and digest.
The lively atmosphere of the Dasaswamedh Ghat makes it one of the best places to visit in Varanasi. From the flower sellers touting bright blossoms, boat operators hawking rides along the Ganges River, and sadhus (holy men) with face paint.
Indeed, spending hours watching people in this area during the day, is insightful. Firstly, the Hindu priests put on the Ganga Aarti every night at the Dasaswamedh Ghat. Starting at around 7pm. Secondly, wrapped in colourful robes, the priests spread out plates of flower petals and other offerings.
It should be noted, thousands of tourists gather to watch the priest’s chant. While they wave tiered plates of sandalwood-scented incense in intricate patterns for about 45 minutes. Finally, this is It’s an extravagant sight and one of the top things to do experience here.
Along the narrow streets of Varanasi, you will find many traditional shops, selling incense, lovely bright coloured fabrics, flowers and of course that Sweet Shop! In addition, you are able to taste so many delicious sugary sweet desserts and celebratory trays of coloured Indian delights. Ksheer Sagar, Mahmoorganj Road is famous for sweets. Varanasi is a hotspot for foods and offers some of the most delicious items to its visitors.
Indeed, it’s important to have an open mind. Be prepared with you visit Varanasi. Comfortable shoes, hand sanitizer, Vicks to put on your nose, to hide the very many smells.
A deep understanding that this is not a European first world country. First and foremost, it’s an exciting, adventurous and beautiful.