|Varanasi, one of the holiest cities in India, the city of Shiva. Here Hindus takes a holy bath in the river Ganges to wash away there sins, or are cremated at a burning ghat by the river. Tourists gets almost lost in the labyrinth of alleys in the city.
The old city of Varanasi (former known as Benares) lies at the western banks of river Ganges. It dates back to 1400 BC and claims to be one of the oldest cities in the world. Shankaracharya (a Hindu reformer) established Shiva as a sect around 8th century AD and the city became a name. Conquerers and rulers has destroyed Varanasi several times during the years.
In the morning the ghats leading down to the river Ganges are crowded with people taking there morning bath or performing a puja. Take a ride on the river in the early morning with one of the many boatmen (deal!) to get a good view of it. When walking on the footpath along the river many different ghats are passed: Dasaswamedh ghat - where a nightly ceremony takes place, it is also one of the bigger once; Manikarnika ghat - a burning ghat where a holy fire has been burning for thousands of years the legend tells. It is allowed to watch cremations, but no photos. At other ghats e.g. cloths are washed.
I had read that Varanasi would be dirty, bad air and so on. Yes it is not the cleanest city on the earth but not so bad that I had imagine. When I visited Varanasi some of the ghats looked freshly cleaned while others where in a cleaning process, flushing away dirt and mud from the stairs with river water and repairing them.
Parts of the old city are like a labyrinth of narrow alleys, no autorickshaws allowed here, but motorbikes and cows (watch where you step) make there best to get in the way. It is fun to walk here, looking at all small shops in the bazaar quarters and trying to find the way back to the hotel or to the river again. Suddenly a place is recognized and the orientation is back.
Varanasi is famous for silk and saris, not all silk that is sold is 100% pure silk. I have been told that if burning a silk thread and it smells like burning human hair it is silk. The manufactures are clever, in one direction silk, in the other direction synthetic fiber.
Manikarnika ghat is one favorite spot. Following the cremation ceremony from distance, first the body is dipped in the holy river Ganges, the firewood is prepared, a man walks around the pile of wood with the dead on top seven times I think it is and then the fire it lightened. Tourists are allowed to get close to the holy fire, ask if it is OK to take a photo.
|What's really great:
Walking along the ghats, take a rest, have a chai tea, look at the people bathing or washing there cloths in Ganges. I stayed two and a half day which was not enough, try to make your visit longer.
I stayed at Scindhia Guest House at Scindhia ghat, near Manikarnika ghat. Clean, simple hotel with a good veg. restaurant. Many rooms have a balcony facing the river.
I found a good small veg. restaurant above Dasaswamedh ghat, do not remember the name. Most of the small restaurants should be safe when locals and especially if families or women eat there.
|Published on Friday March 21th, 2008
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Tue, Mar 25 2008 - 11:43 AM
|Very nice photos and interesting report
Mon, Mar 24 2008 - 02:54 AM
|hii martin,nice to read the report ,have you been the the narrow gali (walkways ) of varanasi which is more than 2000 yrs old ,
Sat, Mar 22 2008 - 02:06 PM
|Nice report with great pictures. Houses on some photos are so clourful
Sat, Mar 22 2008 - 11:13 AM
|A pleasure to read reports other plaves in India other than Mumbai, Calcutta or Dehli. Thanks, helps me plan my trip there.
Fri, Mar 21 2008 - 07:04 PM
|Martin, nice report. I love the pictures they are so clear and sharp. Nicely done!
Fri, Mar 21 2008 - 07:04 PM
|Interesting report with wonderful pictures
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