Varanasi, erstwhile Kashi and Banaras, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and indeed the oldest in India. People often refer to Varanasi as “the city of temples”, “the city of learning”, “the holy city of India”, “the religious capital of India”, “the city of lights”, and of course “the oldest living city on earth”.
WHAT MAKES THIS CITY SOO SPECIAL?
Varanasi is a very intense place with tons of things to see and do (mostly, for the first time). One of the must-do’s is the boat ride on the River Ganga. You can take a stroll along the ghats in the morning, to experience the most amazing sunrise (it really is breathtaking!), and see the locals do their morning rituals (bathing, shaving, brushing their teeth, performing puja (praying ritual) and cremation, not to forget)
Lining the Ganges are up to 80 bathing Ghats, and several are the aforementioned burning Ghats. Some, also call it, the city of dead. This is place where millions of Pilgrims come here to wash away their sins, yards from sewage drains, people ashes, litter and the bodies of children and priests who are not to be cremated. For Hindus, it is believed that the death at Varanasi brings salvation.
The city is a religious pilgrimage for Hindu’s all over India. Spirituality runs throughout India. You can’t go anywhere without noticing it. Yet, I must mention the city is filthy, impoverished and in some places really does smell. The combination of litter, cow and goat dung (with some human), urine and, toxic leakages further down the river make for one hell of a smell.
Reading all this does creates a pretty grim image about the holy city but it creates a very vibrant and colourful atmosphere and was certainly intriguing to watch, particularly from the river and at the nightly Aarti ceremonies. The buildings, the saris and shawls, and the markets create a blast of colour. The atmosphere is such that it gets into your nerves and you starts to gets into the feel of this old but exotic city.
As Mark Twain once said: “Banaras is older than tradition, older even than legend, and twice as old as both of them put together.”
Varanasi is one place where one could actually experience the perfect balance between their ancient and modern civilizations.
Every Ghat in Varanasi has its own unique story to tell. GO! LISTEN!!
And that was Varanasi: ‘Very interesting’ to say the least.