I spent three days in Varanasi. And it wouldn’t be wrong to say that those three days were one of the best days when I felt more alive than ever; I was lost in exploration and mesmerized by the beauty and holiness of the city. In this blog, I will share with you my experiences with Varanasi.
Varanasi (or Banaras or Kashi) is one of the most ancient cities of India, whose history goes back to over 3000 years. The city houses thousands of temples of various Hindu gods and goddesses, making it the spiritual capital of India.
Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is located on the banks of the river Ganges, which gives it a breathtaking look. There are around 85 ghats (staircases that lead to the river), which are perfect places to walk and explore the city.
When I reached the hotel, it was 11 am in the morning, and I was exhausted (it was a budget trip). But I didn’t want to waste the day sleeping. So, I immediately took a bath, ordered food from Zomato, ate it like someone who hadn’t eaten for days, and then slept like someone who hadn’t slept for weeks. I woke up at 4 pm and then headed out for the adventure.
Assi Ghat, one of the most famous ghats of Varanasi, was only 1.5 km from my hotel. So, I decided to walk to Assi Ghat and, in the meantime, explore the city. I found several temples, shops for various items, fast-food corners, rickshaw pullers, and auto drivers looking for customers. The weather was quite fantastic as it was spring season.
When I reached the Assi ghat, I got my first glimpse of the river Ganges. The glistening blue water stretched under the infinite blue sky gave a stunning look.
The platform above the staircase was crowded with enthusiastic visitors and vendors selling mouth-watering foods. Below stairs, there was a 50m wide sandy area stretching along the length of the river, which gets filled with water in the rainy season.
Along the banks, there were boats and their owners calling visitors for a ride in the river. It was evening, so I decided to click some photographs and walk along the ghats to discover what they had in reserve.
If you ask me what the best thing to do in Varanasi is, I would say only one thing- Ghat-walk. You have got to do it. Walking along the ghats, observing towering buildings, ancient temples and structures, enormous staircases, and the blue river will give you a captivating experience.
When it was 6:30 pm, I came to Assi Ghat for evening aarti (I didn’t know aarti of Dashashwamedh ghat is the most popular). And yes, attending evening aarti is the second best thing to do in Varanasi.
The aarti is a magnificent phenomenon that a group of priests performs to worship Goddess Ganga and Lord Shiva. It is organized every evening at around 6:30 pm and runs for 45 minutes. The recitation of mantras, waving of oil lamps and incense sticks, rhythmic sound of bells, and several other beautiful things make evening aarti dazzling and fabulous.
After the aarti, I explored the streets and markets in Varanasi. The roads were packed with people and vehicles; the sounds of numerous engines made the place chaotic. And this chaos made me feel more alive. I ate dosa from a stall; it was delicious. And, how can I forget the paan of Banaras?
Paan is a combination of betel leaf, areca nut, and various other elements that is chewed for euphoric effects. The paan of Banaras is very famous, and I would suggest you try it if you visit the city.
After taking a short night walk, I reached my hotel happy and satisfied. I slept early to wake timely and enjoy the sunrise in the ghats. But the next day, I woke up suddenly to realize that I was late. I was so tired that I turned off the 4:30 am alarm in my sleep.
But wait, it was still 5:24 am, and I still had a chance to witness the sunrise if I made it quick. So, I got ready within a few minutes and headed out for Assi Ghat. I reached there by 6:00 am, and thank God, the sun was still below the horizon. I sipped tea with biscuits to start my day with fresh energy.
And, now it was time for the boat ride. You guessed it right, the boat ride is the third best thing to do in Varanasi. I got on a boat on a share, which would take the passengers to various ghats on Varanasi. I was sitting at the front of the boat, and ahead of me was lying an infinite river.
The orange sun and its reflection on the water, the magnificent look of the city, numerous migratory birds, and chilled air helped me forget my worries.
Ah! How can I forget the birds? Migratory birds like Siberian gulls, large cormorant, bar-headed geese, northern pintail, reddish shelduck, etc., flocks above the river Ganges and makes the place look no less than heaven.
The 40 minutes boat ride was so good that I took another the moment I was on the bank. This time I chose the hand-rowed boat to cross the river and explore what was on the other side. The slow rowing gave me some more time on the river.
The other side of the river was just a wide sandy area which gets covered with river water in the rainy season. There were camels and horses for a ride, but I spent 30 minutes just walking on the sand and taking photographs.
I returned to my hotel and spent the rest of the days with high energy and excitement. I visited Manikarnika ghat, where dead bodies are burned, following the Hindu rituals. I don’t know how it happened, but watching burning bodies made me free and fearless.
Maybe, I realized I would eventually die, so what was the point of worrying about anything.
I also talked to people who came here from foreign lands, took a bath in the Ganges ( to wash away all my sin, haha), visited Kashi Vishwanath temple, and walked 10 km in a day to explore all the ghats of Varanasi ( I am not exaggerating, my legs were super tired).
My experiences of Varanasi, the most ancient city of India, were extraordinary. I will never forget how the city transformed me as a person and what kind of happiness it gave me in those three days.