“Banaras is older that history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together”
– Mark Twain
As the dawn approaches, it feels brighter. All temples begin to sing songs of their historic glory and all lives seem to bustle out of an ecstasy unsaid. The Ganges seems calmer at night, as though attending its early night prayers while it proceeds with the salvations of the dead souls. They call it a city of the dead and yet Varanasi feels like the most alive place ever. It stands to be the epitome of everything ‘Indian’.
For travel enthusiasts who prioritize cultural heritage, this city in India tops all bucket lists. At your arrival itself, you will commence with a sense of oneness that lies in the diverse spirits of the city. The people and their innocent smiles full of divine gratitude towards life will justify all the theories of Sanyas and salvations you’ve been reading all this while. Though words can hardly describe the ethereal mysticism of Varanasi, only if this encourages you to visit it once, my purpose stands served.
Though the city is open for tourists all year round, winter would be the best time to visit. In line of your ‘to-do’ and ‘to-go’ list would stand the hundreds of ghats in the city including the Assi ghat, the Manikarnika ghat and the Dashashmedh ghat. Go take a boat ride through these ghats whilst many temples flash across your eyes and the millions of stories that the boatmen have for you. However, do not forget to bargain with the prices everywhere you go.
Varanasi is more of a feeling than a mere tourist place they say. They say it right. The city is glorified with the vast history and heritage that it continues to maintain in every pacific sense. The old narrow lanes with an unceasing exhilaration, the street food that none could compare to and of course the Banarasi silk sarees you would not want to miss, all introduce you to a place that has a history of moving minds and hearts.
Religion is not the base of this city if that’s what you have been hearing. Culture, heritage and tradition is. People from all religions, all nations and all genders come here to establish a hold over their spirits; to make themselves believe in the divinity that right away moves your hearts in Varanasi. The Banarasi people call themselves “Akkad or Fakkad”, meaning “Careless or rebellious”.
To stay as a tourist, you’ll find many guest houses that serve a wonderful stay at a very reasonable budget. You could take a day out to visit the markets while shopping for some sandalwood perfume. And do not miss the tasty thandai at ‘Baba Thandai, Godolia’, which would definitely serve as a reason you visit Varanasi again.
For everything surreal that Varanasi has to offer, the city invokes in us, a sense of gratitude towards life. It seems like a mini world of dreams and spirits striving each day to create a sense of divinity through the diversity it withholds. A long walk through the ghats is enough to make us realise that life, at this very moment, is endless and eternal. Varanasi is a place where you lose yourself, only to find yourself.