We packed our bags to explore the Holy City of Varanasi over a long weekend. Varansi, situated on the banks of Ganges, is one of the few oldest inhabited cities that are still in use. Also known as Benares and Kashi, this city will envelope you in a mystical atmosphere. The city offers a spiritually enriching experience, and the holiness of the place can be felt in smallest of experiences, and felt by all, even if you are non-Hindu or an atheist.
Varanasi, the 5000 old city, reflects a prehistoric heritage which is a blend of religion, legend and myth. The city attracts a large number of worshippers, due to its ancient Hindu culture. It is known to be original ground created by Shiva and Parvati.
“Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, And looks twice as old as all of them put together” ~Mark Twain words describe the city aptly and beautifully.
The must-do charms of this pilgrimage destination are
The aarti is the most famous ritual and tourist attractor, performed every evening at Dashashwamedh Ghat. As the oil lamps are lit, incense fragrance fills the air , accompanied with religious chants, the whole Ghat becomes lively and majestic. It is one the most spectacular moments of your life.
Ganga Boat Ride
Boat ride in the Ganga River, will give you different perspective of the life on the Ghats. Though best time for a boat ride, would be either in early morning or during sunset. We got to boat early morning, in the beautiful horizon of Assi Ghat. In the chilly weather, the foggy morning provided the perfect background for a boat ride. The city has 87 ghats, most of which are bathing and puja ceremony ghats, while few are exclusively for cremation.
Most Varanasi ghats were built after 1700 AD, when the city was part of Maratha Empire. The patrons of current ghats are Marathas, Shindes (Scindias), Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwes (Peshwas). Many ghats are associated with legends or mythologies while many ghats are privately owned.
Beyond, religious city – City of Varansi is a food paradise. The city has perfected the art of preparing mouth-watering delicacies, from the local chat, fruit flavoured lassi’s and baati chokha. After landing, and making our way to the tiny alleys of the city to our Hotel, we left to eat some local food. We walked around in the crowded streets and made our way to Kashi Chaat Bandar, and had finger licking delicious chaat. While strolling around the city, in the smaller by lanes close to Dashashwamedh Ghat, we made our way to Bana Lassi. Inspired by Bob Marley, this place is a cozy café , which serves lassi of every possible fruit flavors, freshly made and served in mitti ka matka, this would be the most heavenly lassi, any of you would ever had.
The urge of tasting local food, made us go in circles enquiring the locals, we finally reached Pallavi Baati Chokha Restaurant, in Sigra area, to indulge in Baati Chokha. The dish is so local, that everywhere you will find stalls serving this and crowded by locals for their meals. Baat served with Chokha and freshly mint chutney and spicy salad, this was the most satisfying meal of the trip. Just writing about it is making my mouth water. Lastly, in spite of the freezing wind cold weather, we took a rickshaw to Assi Ghat to have some continental food at Pizzeria Vaatika Café. Ascending the stairs to reach this simple restaurant overlooking the Ganga, is a must do. We ordered the famous – Huma Quershi’s Fav pasta and Mushroom Sauce Pasta, this food will leave the best continental restaurants in Mumbai to shame. Also, don’t leave the restaurant without having the Apple Crumble Pie, which is freshly made every day and is world famous, is Varanasi.
We visited Varanasi at the peak of demonetization and in spite of carrying enough cash; we were short of cash at this place. The humble manager in spite of having no digital option available, let us go and invited us to come in the morning to settle the bill and taste freshly made apple pie. Oh these people will make you smile at the smallest thing possible.
Varanasi is a MUST on your list because it is all the chaos and love of India in one place. Besides being the cultural capital of India, it is the most shocking place on earth that you can visit. Bold but true; every two seconds, your eye can catch something new and exciting. The Gange River is a magical place, full of history, meanings, symbols, culture and religion.
1. Flights: There are daily nonstop flight from Mumbai to Varanasi every day
2. Travel: Airport to the city, would be best done in Ola. For local travels – rickshaw and auto are the best options.
This article is written by Nayana Talwar who has been happily traveling since 1998 and writing about it. A long-time advocate of solo travel, she hopes that reading about her experiences will encourage other women to stop waiting for a travel partner and pursue their own travel dreams now.