Colors, Chaos and Culture: 5 reasons to visit Varanasi immediately!
Some people need no reason to travel and there are some whose decisions depend on that one reason for the desire to travel. A trip to an exotic overseas destination is met with high expectations and bucket loads of joy. On the contrary, a domestic trip to equally attractive destinations within India requires a ton of coaxing. After a splendid travel year in 2016, I wanted to wind down the year with a visit to a colorful city.Varanasi was on my list ever since I saw some awe-inspiring pics floating on my Instagram feed and it was difficult to scroll away without a pause. If you are an Instagram addict like me, you can vouch that you would have also double tapped the scenic shots of colourful Ghats, dramatic moving stills of Ganga Aarti and serene boat rides. This vibrant, cultural city offers much more than what is publicized. As I said earlier, some people need a bit of persuading to travel domestically; here I list down 5 major reasons why one should visit the world’s oldest city “Varanasi”
The food is definitely the
primary reason to visit Varanasi. The tiny by lanes of the markets near the Ghats,
Vishwanath temple & Gadaulia chowk serve some lip smackingly amazing food. The
moment I set foot into Varanasi, the food lover within me picked up a lens and
a few currency notes and wandered off to explore the food circuit. I strongly
believe in the hindi phrase “bhukke pait bhajjan na hoye” (“an empty sack
cannot stand upright”).
Before I headed towards
the Ghats to immerse myself in all the positive, cultural vibes, I halted at a
local eatery; Kashi Chaat Bhandar. The
sight of hot steaming samosas being fried and the mouth-watering aromas wafting
in the air provide a real test of tolerance. Priced economically, the chaat and
desserts here are a steal. Merriment of sorts, I will remember how consecutive
plates were wiped clean while onlookers and by-passers stared in amazement.Varanasi has fed me one of the yummiest Aaloo Puri. Every morning, for breakfast, I would trust my food instincts to follow the aroma of hot puris flying out of the karhais in the streets. I happened to land at Sunil Jalpan, a store located in the centre of the market and a day later at Madhur Milan Café for Aaloo Kadoo Puri. Priced at a mere Rs 24 per plate this one would invoke that “Jeevan Safal” feeling. One of the food specialties you should not miss when in Varanasi is “Malaiyu”; a creamy cloud of sweetness prepared using churned milk and overnight dewdrops and sprayed with saffron, pistachios and mawa. Available only during the chilly winters in Varanasi, do try it out and thank me later.
Varanasi is a mysterious
city and its historic mysteries unfold only once if you take the time to park
yourself calmly along the steps of the Ghats and have conversation with the
aged locals or guides who share the many incidents and historical past of this city.
It is convenient to google everything these days but the sheer joy of hearing
stories from locals enhances the overall experience.
The city is stretched between
two rivers, Varuna & Assi (80 Ghat) and hence the name “Varanasi” has been derived from these
water bodies. Varanasi, Benaras or ancient Kashi, is one of the oldest living cities on earth. It is a popular
belief among Hindus that death in the city will bring Moksha or Salvation;
one of the reasons for millions visiting here every year. The city holds more
history than what can be contained in literature. The more you learn the more
you will yearn.
3. The Ghats:
The city is known for its colourful,
ritualistic Ghats, each with their own story to tell. It was just about noon
when I decided to go for a boat ride along the Ghats. The sun sparkled on
the water where couple of boats sailed surrounded by flocks of seagulls. Ghats
looked spectacular from the other side, colorful facades across the sacred
Ganges was a tranquil view.
The boatman ferrying us
around was kind enough to share some stories of these Ghats. Dashwamedh Ghats
was recommended to witness Ganga Aarti while an interesting fact about Manikarnika Ghat, as claimed by our humble boatman, was that the cremation fire has been
burning there for thousands of years without ever being put out. Throngs of
people, from different parts of the country, mourning their loved ones opt to
perform the final rites here with the hope of attaining Salvation or Moksha for
the dead. Photography at this Ghat is strictly prohibited although I had
clicked a certain frame before I was informed. Tears of joy, weeping emotions,
blissful attainment and a sea of colours, these Ghats have it all.
The atmosphere of this city is
ever humming and yet so peaceful. The day begins before sunrise; Saffron draped
Sadhus congregating around the Ghats, devotees taking a dip in the holy water,
fitness enthusiasts performing the “Surya Namaskar”, tourists soaking in the
early morning vibes and common sightings of couples posing for pre-wedding
An early morning snail-paced stroll at the Ghats is the best way to
immerse in these holy surroundings; just standing still and watch the world
move by. On few days, the sun does not appear from behind the foggy skies until
noon, to which one sadhu claimed “Aaj Bhagwan naaraz hai, itne din se prakat
nahi hue”. For those of you who love Indian culture and also those who have
never truly experienced it, Varanasi is the perfect place for both, to familiarise
oneself and discover interesting cultural facts. As beautiful as this place can
be, it requires you to be street smart. A sadhu tried to trick me into parting
with a large denomination note for a “teeka” and supposedly good mantras that
would change my fortune. Sigh!
Varanasi will leave
you amazed and provide a new experience every time. One such mesmerising experience
is the Grand Ganga Aarti. Ganga Aarti is performed at sunrise and sunset daily
at Dasaswamedh Ghat & Assi Ghat. It is one of the oldest and most popular Ghats near the Kashi
Vishawanath Temple where the evening Aarti is carried out by five purohits or priests performing rituals and
worshiping Maa Ganga. The perfect synchronisation of the mantras played on
decibel raising speakers and the swaying movement in accordance left me
awestruck. During this time, the Ghat is crowded by the masses that arrive in
the city for this one of a kind experience. The flashes keep going off and
people are represented by their illuminated screens. But nothing and I mean
nothing can take the gloss off this divine ritual. A word of advice would be to
get your clicks as early as possible and enjoy this holy event with your own
I hope that I have been
able to convince at least a handful of you to visit this beautiful city.This was an account of my
set of memories from my stay at this “out-of-adjectives” culture destination.
Do share your stories if you have already been to this culture heaven.Keep exploring and
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