This Is Varanasi

Varanasi Travel Blog

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The prayer ghat

Would it be too simple to say that all that is India is Varanasi? 


Probably, but I’m no writer so please bear with me.


After spending 3 months traveling around India, I’m ready for a break.  This means crossing the border into Nepal from Sonauli.  But before leaving, I had to spend some time in Varanasi.  Any traveler coming to India has to make a stop here and once you arrive, you know exactly why.


We arrived late in the afternoon and by the time we settled into our rooms, it was after sunset.

Sadhus at the prayer ghat
  Rod and I decided to take a walk along the ghats lining the Ganges River.  As we approached, it became obvious that in order to find our way to the ghats through the narrow winding alleyways, we should follow the rising smoke.


If you don’t know why we knew to follow the smoke, you’ll understand in just a moment.


We made our way down a flight of stairs busy with people milling about despite the late hour.  There were stock piles of logs tucked away where ever there was room.  The locals kept reminding us “No pictures, no pictures”.  We didn’t need reminding.


As the stairs opened up to the ghats, we found ourselves approaching about half a dozen fires blazing bright orange against the dark night sky.  We were watching half a dozen funeral pyres burning at different stages of cremation.  I could make out the shape of a wrapped corpse laying on one of the closer pyres.


Eerie just isn’t strong enough a word.

A ghat by the Ganges
  Maybe jarring, or some other word I can’t bring forward.


And that was how I was introduced to this uniquely vibrant city.  Holy just isn’t strong enough a word.  Spiritual is a word that would barely scratch the surface. 


Maybe you could describe Varanasi as a gateway.  But not just to Hindus.  It’s obvious to a foreigner like me that this city has an energy beyond the beliefs of one particular faith. 


It seems that all of India has found a way to cram itself into every nook and cranny of Varanasi.  The alleys seemed dizzying at first, but after a few days getting lost in the labyrinth of tailor shops and chai wallah stalls, we became MASTERS of the old city.  I couldn’t help but develop a sense of pride for successfully navigating through the crowds of Indian shoppers, aggressive shopkeepers, Sadhus, fake Sadhus, DRUG DEALERS and RANDOM COWS to find the shop that sold us the insense we liked, or the hidden local restaurant that served the cheapest and most delicious dosas. 


Alive might be a decent enough word to describe this place.

worldbridger says:
i can't wait to go!
Posted on: Feb 13, 2010
tweedcouch says:
Its sounds wonderfull. Thank you for writing : )
Posted on: May 03, 2009
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The prayer ghat
The prayer ghat
Sadhus at the prayer ghat
Sadhus at the prayer ghat
A ghat by the Ganges
A ghat by the Ganges
photo by: rotorhead85