After spending 12 glorious days in Uttarakhand (Nainital, Corbett, Mussoorie) I returned to home on 3rd June, 2017 and on the very next day i.e. 4th June, 2017 I left for my trip to Varanasi/Kashi/Banaras.
Varanasi is the oldest city and having more than 1000 temples and 60 ghats. Visiting Varanasi is quite an experience because Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings you ‘Moksha’/ it will liberate them from the cycle of birth & rebirth.
“Older than History, Older than Legend, Older even than tradition, And looks twice as old as all of them putting together”
Day 1 – Strolling around Streets
I reached to Varansi at around 12 P.M. and after having a good lunch at Makkhan Handi Restaurant (Hotel Tridev Inn) , At 2 P.M. I went to visit Kashi Vishwanath Old Temple/ Golden Temple. There are thousands of temples in Varanasi but among them Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the most worshiped one of Lord Shiva and one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India. Vishwanath means “Lord of the World”. The temple is located on the bank of holy Ganges river at chowk.
The narrow lane or gali approaching the temple is known as vishwanath gali and got to know that numerous rituals and Pooja/Aarti are performed there from the morning till the night and the timings are 2:30 AM till 11 PM throughout the day.
As I was on trip for 12 days previously , I was little tired and Varanasi was extremely hot in June so it made me to go back to the Hotel and have some rest.
On the way to Hotel, I went to eat Banarasi Paan. You will find tiny shops on the streets everywhere. But this shop is one of the oldest and even Indira Gandhi , Jawaharlal Nehru and Amitabh Bachchan have been to this place. As it was my first time trying Paan, I tried the special one with Silver coating and trust me it was the most yummiest. As I asked for the Special Pan it was for Rs. 40 rest it is for 10 Rs. And then returned to the Hotel.
Day 2 – The Ganga Aarti and Ghats
Next day morning, I woke up at 5 AM and decided to commence my ‘Ghat Exploration’ and witness morning sunrise at Assi Ghat adjoining by Ganga Mahal, Rewa and Tulsi Ghat. It’s good idea to hire a boat so I went for it. Assi Ghat is where the Ganges River meets Assi located at extreme southern and main ghats. After exploring Assi Ghat and asking few questions to locals over there I walked towards Dassaswamedh Ghat- the Top attraction of Varanasi. The Best way to understand the city is simply walk along the Ghat.
Dassaswamedh Ghat is the heart of the action and one of the oldest and holiest Ghat where the famous Ganga aarti takes place in the evening. All the Ghats are adjoining and you can walk from one to another very easily.
I walked towards Manikarnika Ghat – The Burning Ghat. I felt little disturbed while walking towards mainkarnika ghat which is very popular site of cremation where funeral pyres are never extinguished. But surprisingly the atmosphere was vibrant there. Death is taken as shedding of skin that is no longer necessary. Nearly 200 bodies are burned and their ashes are released into Ganges. Other burning Ghat is Harishchandra Ghat. After Visiting Ganga Ghat, Dassaswamedh Ghat , Manikarnika Ghat and Harishchandra Ghat I returned to the Hotel for Lunch and As I had very low battery in my camera, I went to Hotel for some time.
After having rest, I again came back to Dassaswamedh ghat to take a sunset boat ride in Ganges to witness a magical dewy glow of sunset. You will see Saffron clad Sadhus Smoking or Meditating or doing Yoga, Kids with their Mundan ceremony, people taking dip in river, locals washing their laundry over there. I went to the other side by Boat ride and guide explaining about the place and showing all the other Ghats i.e. Panchganga, Manmandir, Darbhanga, Lalita Ghat. And evening just after the sunset,
I saw a huge crowd gathering to perform & watch Pooja/Aarti where Hindu priests leads a ceremony of fire chanting and music praising river Ganges & Lord Shiva.
Just right before they perform Aarti, I saw Kangana Ranaut (Bollywood Actress) for the shoot of ‘Manikarnika – The Queen of Jhansi’.
Initially I did not know that she is the one taking dip with a heavy costume in the river and my boat was just 10 feet away from her but after watching people taking a lot of pictures then I got to know that there is Kangana Ranaut over there.
After watching this prestigious Ganga aarti, I went to market to check out some Banarasi Silk Saree for my mom and try out local street food Banarasi Chaat at Kashi chaat center , observed streets on the way and returned to Hotel.
Day 3 – Sarnath- City of Hope and Peace
I woke up at 6:00, had my breakfast and took a taxi for whole day starting from Ramnagar fort. On the other side of the river, there is 17th century palace, the home of Maharaja/King of Banaras. It was drizzling a little bit and I visited a beautiful museum and temple of Vedavyas over there.
Immediately after, I Ieft for Sarnath and many other temples on the way. I visited Annapurna Devi Temple, Shree Durga Temple, Hanuman Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple. Oh, so many temples I visited: d and also Bharat Kala Bhavan.
After having a lunch, went to Birla temple, trying lassi over there is must. Saw the architecture of Banaras Hindu University (BHU)
I moved further for Sarnath – The city of hope and peace. Observed the excavated remains of sarnath and Visited archaeological museum constructed in 1911 treasures the valuable findings of old city sarnath and moved further to Dhamek Stupa – the colossal stupa 143ft height with 93ft diameter was constructed by Ashok.
I went to Chinese monastery, Japanese Temple, Bodhi Gaya and Thai temple with Ashoka pillar in the entrance. Saw so many foreigners who were passionate about knowing the history of the place more than the country people.
At last I visited the place where the craft of weaving of Banarasi Silk sarees took place. These sarees are among the finest sarees in India and known for their golden and silver brocade and opulent embroidery. These sarees are famous since the ancient times for the cotton and silk. After buying 2-3 more sarees for my mom and aunt. I left the place to reach Hotel. It was probably 6:30 PM and I reached to hotel and had a nice dine at Makkhan Handi Restaurant again and My trip ended.
Things to remember while visiting Varanasi.
- Remember to be respectful while observing the funerals at Manikarnika Ghat. Do not take photos and do not make noise. (I saw so many people making noise and taking selfies there which is disrespectful)
- Small streets are easy to get lost in and can also be quite dirty with trash on the roads and spits of pan. I really suggest you to don’t take bath in the river. If you want to take bath in holy Ganges then Haridwar and Rishikesh are much cleaner and better
- You might find the fake holy men or sadhus claiming to show better places and ask you to go for puja/aartis which will purify your soul, they are going to cheat you and ask for money just for no reason and putting tilak on your forehead and if you deny, they will throw some really bad wishes to you.
- There are some guides who starts following you randomly and narrating the story of the place even if you don’t ask for. Later on they be rude and asking for money in wrong way. So better if you are not interested then be direct.
- Varanasi is very fascinating place but if you are a foreigner, new to India and have other plans to visit more places in India then I recommend to visit Varanasi towards the end of the trip if possible
Overall You will see so many tiny shops, Pan shops, silk saree shops, colorful bazaars and smoking sadhus on the streets. And All I can say about the place is ‘Tranquility, Culture, History ; All Rolled into one’ , That’s Varanasi for me.
State: Uttar Pradesh
How to Reach From Delhi: Flight, Train (Recommended). Bus journey is quite long if you are not from the neighboring states.
Where to Stay: Tridev Inn (luxurious; Little Expensive), Hotel Alka (on the Ghat; Fits in budget)
Where to Eat: Makkhan Handi Restaurant
Best time to visit: Winter or Rainy Season Recommended As summers are too hot in Varanasi