Varanasi, Benares or Kashi, the holy Hindu city on the banks of the sacred Ganges. The last stop before release from the endless cycle of birth and death. We arrived at sunrise from the overnight train, making sense of the sounds and sights that swarm the mind. The river is full of wooden rowing boats and candles floating in lotus leaves for the dawn puja. We stayed in an old building overlooking the ghats. As we walked by the river we were reminded of the sacredness of life and death, as it was played out around us, we could not remain separate. The next morning before dawn we too took a boat down the Ganges and once ashore again played the violin to the rising sun and Mother Ganga!
Uttar Pradesh, Northern India. Main station Varanasi Junction. Also airport 15 miles to the west.
The ghats are the main reason to visit Varanasi, but once you've done the standard tour and the boat trip, if you have time then simply pick a ghat you like and sit there for a day or so.
This is by far the best way to capture the essence of the city. You'll never get bored, there's too much going on, and you'll learn so much more about India and its people just by quietly observing the daily life and rituals of the Ganges from sunrise to sunset.
Walk along the banks of the river and pick a ghat that appeals: then find a spot to settle down and go with the flow.
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