The great Hindu city of Varanasi, also known as Banaras or Benares. Varanasi tour is a must on every traveller’s list. Furthermore, it glows golden in the early morning sun. The city is stretched along the crescent of the holy river Ganga. Born in heaven and descended to earth, Varanasi’s waterfront is dominated by long flights of stone steps known as ghats. Literally ‘landings’, where thousands of pilgrims and residents scheme for their daily ritual ablutions. The ghats remain the single major attraction of Varanasi. It does not possess temples or monuments of any antiquity.
Known to the devout as Kashi, the Luminous. The city of light, founded by Shiva. Also, this city is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Most of all, it has maintained its religious life since the sixth century BC in one continuous tradition. It outlived outside the mainstream of administrative action and traditional evolution of the subcontinent. Furthermore, it stands at the centre of the Hindu universe. The focus of a religious geography that reached from the Himalayan cave of Amarnath in Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India. Puri to the east, and Dwarka to the west. Located next to a ford on an ancient trade route, Varanasi is among the holiest of all tirthas – crossing places.
Life and death go hand in hand in Varanasi. Visit the bathing ghats, smoke rising from the cremation grounds signals the final release of tormented souls from the earthly round of samsara. The unceasing cycles of death and rebirth. According to Hindu beliefs, anyone who dies in Varanasi, on the banks of the river of life, attains instant moksha or enlightenment. Widows and the old come here to seek asylum. To live out their final days. Finding shelter in the temples. At sunrise, flotillas of camera-clicking tourists pursue the ghats in amazement. While the pilgrims and people of Kashi continue their morning rituals without so much as a second glance.
For Photos, go to Mark Itkonen.
|Languages spoken||Hindi, English and Bhojpuri|
|Currency used||Indian Rupee(INR)|
|Area (km2)||1,550 km²|