What to do in Varanasi?

Ganges in Varanasi
Varanasi. Benares. Kashi. This are 3 names of one city that lives in the heart of every Hindu. Deeply religious, the most blessed of all the holy cities, it is a favorite place of Lord Shiva and is situated on the banks of the sacred river Ganges. This is the final destination for each Hindus, which seeks to get out from the chain of rebirth and attain the liberation.

Varanasi has made indelible impression on me and became one of the most favorite cities! The most amazing atmosphere, where you forget about time while enjoying the very course of life, that exists here and now – just on the waterfront of the city, famous for its ghats. Do not be lazy to go there early in the morning or in the evening, at this time is all the fun. Amazing fun you will get if you get up at dawn and hire a boat. For very small amount of money you will sail along the entire coast of Varanasi, you will be able to observe the life of the Indians and see the sunrise at the melodic sounds of temple bells and gongs, ushers in a new day.

Almost every ghat keeps his story about the mystical saddha, that meditated under the water for thousands of years, or about the temples that were built on the shore and which the goddess of the Ganges didn’t like, so she washed them with her stormy waters.

Boats on Ganges banksWith the dawn of a lot of Indians come down there to pay homage to Mother Ganges, to pray, to bathe. In addition, there are splashing cows, women rinse laundry, bathed the children and adults; ash from ghat for cremation, again, let down in the river water. Despite this frantic activity, the river is not dirty. Water contains a large amount of silver, owing to the properties of which are self-cleaning water. But I do not dare to get bathed … Although for the purification of karma it sould be helpful. Incidentally, I watched as an European girl bathing – in a long scarf to mid-calf. A crowd gathered around her of more than 30 Indians and they watched as she washes away her sins. In the evening, with boats, hundreds of people watching every evening ritual pujas, terrific atmosphere and its ineffable beauty.

People on banks of GangesThe most sacred place in Varanasi – Manakarnika ghat – the place where Shiva had dug a pond, when he was searching for a lost earring, of his wife Parvati. Nearby is another sacred place – Charanpaduka – a plate on which there are traces of Vishnu, there are cremated representatives of the most privileged families.

There is a legend of how Shiva lost his city. Many centuries ago there was a time when drought in the land lasted 60 years. Neither gods nor men could not save the earth from such disasters. Only a king Ripundzhaya had enough power and abilities to solve this problem, so Lord Brahma spoke to him. The king agreed to help, but with one condition – all the gods living on earth, must return to heaven. All the gods left the earth, was among them, and Shiva, who was very sad to leave his beloved city, Kashi. After this the king took the throne Ripundzhaya lord of the whole earth, took the name Devodaza – primarily a minister of the gods.

Saddha reading newspaperMost in Varanasi I was struck by saddha. Perform ablution in the Ganges at sunrise, meditating or reading the newspaper with the latest news in the early morning – they were absolutely gorgeous. Smeared with ash, with long hair twisted into dreadlocks, with colored stripes on the face, means the belonging to any religious movement – saddha very colorful look at the holy river embankment. The best time to observe them in the early morning when they all go to the embankment. As a rule, they can be photographed, but it is better to ask for permission, even gestures. When I shot the young saddha on the waterfront, they asked me to give them a money from my country – because they have a collection of coins from different countries, it turns out. Moreover, the first money – then the photo.Saddha

After the main attractions of Benares – the waterfront, you have to go deeper into the city. It consists of a maze of small streets, known as “Gali.” Some of them are so narrow that when you meeting there the Indian cow, you should carefully press down into the wall so she could slowly go near you, or go back and choose another route. In these quarters the sky is almost not visible, but it is possible to properly consider the images of gods, often appearing on the walls and watch the monkeys run hither from the balcony to the balcony in search of something edible, the air there is filled with spices and perfumes.

Varanasi is famous for its craftsmen, manufacturing a silk products, their scarves from the finest high quality materials are very beautiful. In Europe they are very expensive! Those who love to go shopping, should to visit the Silk Market, road to it can show you every passerby.
Silk craft shop

By the way, many travel to the nearby town of Sarnath, where Buddha delivered his first sermon to his disciples under the tree. So I do not recommend to go there – there is nothing special. There is an ancient tree, enclosed on all sides, and models of the Buddha and his disciples. In any country, half of the attractions of far-fetched and this one is from the same category, in my opinion.

You can get to Varanasi from Delhi by train, the ticket will cost between $20-50, road takes 17 hours. Necessarily need to take into account the amazing feature of trains being late – the delay is usually from 3 to 6 hours and I can’t remember the train that arrived on time, so you should never buy tickets right next to the form of transport – there will be many nerves and frustration.

With accommodation problems will not arise, since a lot of guest house located in the city center and along the waterfront itself. Pre-booking is not necessary and prices start at $5 per room, for this price you’ll get a standard room with shower inside and even with hot water. Of course, as everywhere, you can find expensive hotels.

In Varanasi, one can sit for hours on the waterfront watching the life of local residents, saddha and pilgrims, listening to the ringing sound of bells and gongs, coming from churches and shivaistskih napityvayas special power that prevails in this city.