"Varanasi - A city that has been revered for centuries as a sacred place of pilgrimage, and it is easy to see why. The city, also known as Kashi or Benares, is considered one of the most spiritual cities in India and is considered as one of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism.
I visited Varanasi in January and it was the perfect time to go. The weather was neither too cold nor too hot and it was not overly crowded. I stayed in a guest house called Brahmdev Guest house located next to Chausati Ghat. There are many guest houses near the ghats in Varanasi, and the best way to experience the city is by staying in these charming alleyways. There were several cafes with a fantastic atmosphere and food, always filled with people. Some of the best cafes near Chausati ghat include Mona Cafe and Bona Cafe. I absolutely loved them!
Now lets talk about the city!
Steeped in tradition and mythological legacy, Kashi is believed to be the ‘original ground' created by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The present name Varanasi has its origin in these two tributaries of the Ganges, Varuna and Asi, which flank its northern and southern borders. The tract of land lying between them was named ‘Varanasi,' the holiest of all pilgrimages.
Mark Twain, the English author, and literature, who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Varanasi, once wrote :
“Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.
The energy of the city is palpable, and the hustle and bustle of daily life is infused with a sense of reverence and devotion. It’s a city pulsating with energy from its bustling bazaars, lively streets, intricate architecture, and rich religious life, a city where every corner holds a story waiting to be told. Another remarkable thing about Varanasi is its captivating art and culture, mesmerizing music, and stunning paintings. The city’s walls are adorned with gorgeous artwork that leaves one in awe.
Entering the city brings a rush of excitement, a surge of mystical energy, and a sense of freedom from stress and tension. The city's vibe is contagious and lifts your spirits, making you feel rejuvenated and energetic.
The Ghats, which line the banks of River Ganga, are a highlight of any visit to Varanasi And are a central feature of Varanasi's spiritual landscape. They are used by devotees for bathing, performing puja, and participating in different rituals. The Ghats are also used as a place of pilgrimage, where people come to perform the last rites of their loved ones. The act of performing the last rites of the dead in the Ganga is considered to purify the soul and release it from the cycle of reincarnation.
In Varanasi, one can witness the ancient ritual of Aarti, where lamps are lit and offerings are made to the river. The sight of the Aarti ceremony, with the flickering flames and the sound of devotional songs, is truly mesmerizing.
Some of the MUST VISIT ghats of Varanasi are: chausatti ghat, munshi ghat, Assi Ghat, Schindhia ghat, shitala ghat, Abhilya bai ghat, Darbhanga ghat, Rana Mahal Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, sankata ghat, ganga mahal ghat, Bhosle ghat and Manikarnika Ghat which is one of the most important and sacred Ghats in Varanasi. The ghat is known for the practice of Hindu cremation, which is considered a rite of passage for Hindus. According to Hindu tradition, those who die in Varanasi and are cremated at Manikarnika Ghat are believed to attain salvation and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. The ghat is surrounded by many temples and ashrams including Kali Mandir.
Manikarnika reminds you of the inevitability of death and how temporary everything really is.
Beyond the Ghats, the streets of Varanasi are a maze of winding lanes and bustling bazaars. The city is home to countless temples, each one unique and beautiful in its own way. From the grandeur of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple to the INTENSITY of the Kalbhairava temple, each temple offers a different insight into the rich spiritual heritage of Varanasi.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most sacred temples in Varanasi, is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. There are many other ancient temples in Kashi known for their rich cultural and religious significance. Some of the most famous ones include Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, Shool Tankeshwar temple, Dashashwamedh Maheshwar temple, Sheetla Mata temple, Shree Kamyankya devi mandir, Batuk Bhairav mandir, Birla Mandir.
Another thing that I was blessed with was getting a chance to perform a "Rudrabhishek." which is a supreme ritual and is considered to be one of the purest rituals. It is performed by giving a sacred bath to Lord Shiva along with flowers and the holy puja materials.
These are a few of many temples in Kashi that are visited by thousands of devotees from all over the world and are considered some of the holiest places in Hinduism.
One of the most unique aspects of Varanasi is the opportunity to take a boat ride on the Ganges. As the sun rises, the river comes to life with the sound of the temple bells, mantra chantings and the sight of the Ghats and temples bathed in the golden light. This is a moment of pure magic, where the beauty of nature and the spiritual energy of the city come together in a truly unforgettable way.
The spiritual essence of Varanasi is a combination of its Ghats, temples, and spiritual practices that have been performed for centuries. From the early morning prayers to the evening Aarti, the city is alive with the sound of devotional songs and the smell of incense. The spiritual practices that are performed in Varanasi are not only a way of connecting with the divine but also a way of finding inner peace and tranquility.
It's a place where people come to connect with the divine, purify their souls, and find inner peace.
You should definitely visit Kashi to Experience the timeless beauty and rich culture of Varanasi, where tradition meets modernity and the past intertwines with the present, where every turn unveils a tale worth discovering, come and immerse yourself in the kaleidoscope of colors, sounds, and smell that make this city so unique and unforgettable.
Here is a video of Varanash:
Here are some pictures of my Varanasi trip: