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The city known by numerous names situated at the bank of River Ganga, calls the world out with its ‘Banarasi Paan’, fine silk-sarees, the richness of nature and culture, and heritage of eras long. Responding to its call, here is a quick picture to the holy land of VARANASI a.k.a Banaras or Kashi.
“It was a new experience. So peaceful and such friendly people.
Met other travellers, talked to them. I found a group of musicians, practising flute there. Sat for one hour listening to them, it was extraordinarily beautiful.
The city is connected by rail, road and air to all the parts of the country. Choose your mode of commute according to your convenience. We will be starting our journey from Bangalore, and thus, shall travel via flight.
It is better to reach Varanasi either before evening(attend ganga aarti the same day) or at night ( all set for the sunset in the morning).Its a place you can travel with your family, and feel enlightened and pious.
For an enthralling experience, best visit Kashi in November/December.
As we reached Varanasi in the afternoon, after checking into the hotel, we decided to attend the Evening Aarti at the main ghat of Banaras which is located near the Vishwanath Temple (approximately 500 metres from the ghat, walkable, isn’t it?).
The Ganga Aarti’s starting time is approximately 06:45 p.m., although it actually starts at 07:00 p.m. It lasts for about 45 mins, and oh what an Aarti! You feel lost and devoted within only a few mins of standing there, either at the ghat, or in the boats by the waterside.
The devotees usually gather 90 mins in advance before the Aarti starts, after witnessing it, I know why. You must witness the beauty and sanctity of the Ganga Aarti at least once in your lifetime, and thus, must travel to Kashi.
Miss outs –
The day we arrived at Varanasi in November, there was a concert by Kailash Kher, yes the legendary singer, at Assi Ghat. Apparently we missed out on the show, as right after the Aarti, we head back to our hotel to get some sleep.
Only after a few hours of the glamorous evening, we would be heading to the Assi ghat in the morning, only to find it a lot more peaceful and happening in its own way.
Takeaway : It is a happening place.
A visit to ghats at 05:00 a.m. in the morning in the month of November is an incomparable experience.
An early-morning boat ride to witness the sunrise is one of the major attractions of Varanasi, as probably you must have seen in the famous bollywood movie ‘Laaga Chunari mein Daag”.
You indeed want to just fly off in the blue blue sky. The boat will make you traverse all the major ghats nearby, starting from Raj ghat, travelling to Dashashwamedh ghat, Manikarnika ghat, Harishchandra ghat, Shivala ghat, Assi ghat and some other major ghats.
The city is known to have 88 ghats in total.
Best way to explore Banaras is on foot. After the sunrise and a visit to the ghats, a travel to the Kashi Vishwanath temple or Golden temple is a must.
Being one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, it is one of the most beautiful temples in Varanasi. The temple is situated at an approximately 3 kms of distance from the Assi Ghat. Plan your commute accordingly.
You will also not want to miss out on the Banarasi Pan and Sarees (if applicable :P) while discovering the cultural richness of the city. You can also get pretty decent “jhumkas” here, just saying.
So, shop, walk, explore the lovely old city, as old as 3000 years to be specific.
After having an appetizing Varanasi breakfast, which shall undoubtedly include sizzling Jalebis, our journey advances to Sarnath, 10 kms from Varanasi.
Sarnath is where Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya.
When you come across layers of rocks structured in an organized manner as if are seats for individuals to watch an ancient show, you know you are at Dhamek Stupa, the exact place where the sermon commenced.
You shall also be able to see the remains of the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath, the same pillar on the National Emblem of India, yes. Do not forget to pay a visit to the Sarnath Deer Park (Archaeological and excavation area), and other Buddhism edifices.
Note : Filming is not allowed inside the Archaeological Museum.
At night time, get ready for a visit to the Manikarnika Ghat to witness hindu-cremation. It is the place where eternal flames keep burning to light the fire for the cremation of the bodies. It is believed that dead human’s soul finds salvation when cremated here.
Not to self :- Touts ask you for money to donate for cremation woods- don’t fall for this. Don’t photograph there, don’t entertain strangers.
Interesting fact: This ghat is one of the oldest ghat and people come to feel inner peace and to understand the cycle of life and death.
We attempted on making the third day filled with religious tours, mostly of the temples.
Starting with the Tulsi Manas Mandir which is a mesmerizing temple, with Ramcharitmanas written on some of its walls, we begin our peaceful journey.
Sankat Mochan Temple is one of the other important temples you would want to visit. The place was established by Tulsidas and is a Hanuman Temple, as is evident from the name.
Other famous temples you might want to visit are Bharat Mata Mandir, Shri Durga Temple, Baba Kaal Bhairav Temple etc.
The Mosque at the Panchganga ghat is also somewhere you might want to go.
So that is how we are done for the day, but quite not. Let yourself immerse in the sanctity of this place. Even if you are not religious, the city provides you with, what I might call ‘Holy peace’.
If you have more time, take a dive in river Ganga, finish the last sip of the amazing chai, drool over the jhumkas, oh the jhumkas! Also, don’t forget to visit the ghats for one last time.
Just with that want of being there, to be able to come back, to experience the warmth and beauty of the 3000 year old city, Banaras. Or would you still call it Varanasi?