Storyteller, Travel

Visit To The City Of Shiva : Varanasi ( Banaras ), Uttar Pradesh

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In the words of Mark Twain,  “Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, even older than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together’.

Photo Source: Shashi Ranjan Ojha

 Even though I have few friends studying in the Banaras Hindu University, I had never got to visit the ever beautiful Varanasi until last month. It was an impromptu plan that left me with tonnes of memories and an unforgettable experience. I reached Kashi early in the morning. Two of my friends came at the station to pick me up and we reached their abode. I just had one day to explore the oldest and the holiest city, so we left for the exploration. The eclectic beauty mingled with ethereal spirituality has given Kashi it’s magical touch.

Photo Source: Shashi Ranjan Ojha

The City of Lord Shiva is famous for the glorious Vishwanath temple and that’s where we went first. The architecture, the serenity and the vibrance of the temple landed me with peace of mind. From the Vishwanath temple, we went to the Dashashwamedh ghat.

Photo Source: Shashi Ranjan Ojha

Dashashwamedh ghat is the liveliest and the most vibrant of all the holy ghats of Kashi. Scintillating waters, sadhus with painted faces and headful of braided hair, floating flowers in the river and the air enriched with the aroma of incense sticks that’s what the ghat will portray to you.

Photo Source: Shashi Ranjan Ojha

Not a breath of air disturbs the tranquil spectacle of the sacred ghat. My eyes fell upon a group of aghori sadhus. Their peculiar appearance may baffle few people but I find them interesting. The aghori sadhus cover themselves with human ash which is the ultimate rite of the human body.

Photo Source: Utkarsh Sachindra

Being in Varanasi, we could definitely not ditch the authentic Banarasi pan. The explosion of refreshing flavors will make you feel like a proper Banarasi. After the rejuvenating pan, we decided to head to the Manikarnika ghat.

One thing that fascinates me about Varanasi is that temples are omnipresent in here. You will find a temple, in every nook and corner.

Photo Source: Shashi Ranjan Ojha

On our way to Manikarnika ghat, we stopped as I was feeling ravenous. Driven by hunger, we went to a nice restaurant. After a zesty meal, we moved forward in accordance with the plan. The entangled lanes led us to Manikarnika ghat.

Photo Source: Shashi Ranjan Ojha

The Manikarnika ghat is the main cremation ghat that witnesses 200-300 cremations everyday. It is believed that the bodies that are cremated here get liberated from the cycle of rebirth. When we arrived at the unearthly Manikarnika ghat, I was taken aback. It’s the mere aura of the place that is so peculiar. The sight of piles of wood will welcome you to the land of cremation. Dead bodies are burnt in accordance with the Hindu traditions. The air of the ghat is so fused with the smell of burning wood giving it a mystic feel.

The smoke and ash is everywhere. As the flames from funeral pyres embrace the air, wide spreads of ataraxy fill the environ.

The ghat made me wander about the mortality of humans and the strange beliefs. But I must tell that the Manikarnika ghat is not for weak hearted people.

It is believed that when burnt here, one leaves this world of suffering forever behind them and becomes one with the almighty.

The visit to the ghat where deaths are celebrated was strange yet beautiful in its own way.

The sunset reminded my friend of the Ganga aarti. We rushed to Assi ghat to witness the glorious Ganga aarti. The purpose of the aarti is to express gratitude to river Ganga as it is foundation of life in Kashi.

Photo Source: Utkarsh Sachindra

The priests, all dressed in dhoti and kurta, perform the elaborated ritual. Fragrance of incense sticks blends with the rhythm of conch shells magically. Huge brass lamps move in the air as the priests chant holy mantras.

To explain my experience of Ganga aarti, I would just say “soulful”.

Next on our list was “blue lassi”.

Blue lassi is a famous lassi shop in Varanasi. Nothing could end the day better than a glass of lassi. The time raced and the night arrived.

It was my time to leave the majestic Varanasi. There is no other place on earth that can be compared to Varanasi. I hurried to reach the railway station so as to catch the train. With a promise in my heart to come again.