Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India the city of the dead, was the place that most marked us in our passage through India. We did not know very well what to expect from this city, the most sacred to the Hindus, but we ended up discovering that it possesses a unique mystique and atmosphere, almost magical. Let’s explore Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India.
Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India whose name comes from the combination of the names of the rivers Varuna and Asi, has, according to the Hindus, 5000 years of history.
This city which, according to mythology, was founded by Shiva, is the spiritual center of Hinduism and the birthplace of Buddhism. Perhaps because of this, because of the massive presence of pilgrims of all kinds, taken by a kind of nostalgia and religious concreteness, its atmosphere is unlike any other city we have visited this day. Believers, adorned with the robes of each belief, so distinct from each other, blend peacefully and harmoniously in a combination of colors and exotic traditions.
The city of Varanasi and its religious importance is closely linked to the Ganges, the most sacred of rivers. Hindus believe that this is a divine representation and that those who are cremated on its shores, seeing their ashes thrown into the river, are closer to the “Moksha”, the end of the cycle of reincarnations and spiritual liberation.
This religious concept causes the banks of the Ganges River to have funeral pyres burning 24 hours a day. It is often seen, in the narrow streets that converge in the ghats, families transporting the bodies of the perished relatives to the places of the cremations, where more than 200 bodies are cremated daily, in the sight of all and without great fuss.
It’s strange, is not it? The idea may be a bit frightening, perhaps, to make us wonder why anyone wants to visit this city. The truth is that it is the cultures, so distant from ours, that have an unequaled impact and that value the trips. In such a strange setting the environment could not be more tranquil, no one cries and there is no place to weep. What we can witness in our ignorance is a celebration of life and death, the consolation of one who says goodbye to a loved one in the holiest and closest place of “God” that exists.
Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India lives to and from religious rituals. In narrow streets, where from time to time we cross one of the 22,000 cows that inhabit and wander around the city, we find temples and shrines hidden in every nook and cranny. In the Ghats, at sunrise, we can witness the sacred character of the Ganges, when we see a multitude bathe in the sacred waters, uttering prayers of thanks. At night the ritual is different, but the scene repeats itself. Along the shore are the ceremonies of fire, of singular beauty, in which Hindus and believers, of other religions and creeds, thank the day.
Top Things to Do in Varanasi
See the sunrise on the Ganges
Watching the sunrise on the Ganges was one of the best experiences we had on any trip we have taken. To witness this moment, from a boat, accompanied by the rising light of the sunrise, is absolutely extraordinary.
We can see a city moving to the river, still at dawn, to thank the day that is beginning. This idea, by itself, justifies waking up early and night with fewer hours of sleep.
The combination of colors in that serene atmosphere, absolutely magical, is unbelievable. To see older and younger generations, men and women, bathing in the dubious water of the Ganges, weaving their prayers, before looking at the day that is born, is a memory that still causes shivers today.
Ganga Aarti Ceremony
The evening ceremonies of fire in several Ghats of Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India are spectacles not to be missed by visitors to the city. Every night, at various points along the river bank, believers and tourists gather to witness a ritual combining fire, music, and dance performed by “Brahmans” priests. After the dance is over, people approach the river, throwing candles in the water. It is possible to witness these ceremonies in the ghats, on the banks of the Ganges, or from the river, if we hire one of several tours that exist for this purpose.
For those who enjoy night time entertainment, at that hour, after the ceremony, the ghats are quite inviting. Many people stay there, there is a lot of animation, with music and people of all kinds.
Walking the Ghats –
Exploring Varanasi, the city of the dead, is not just seeing the river and witnessing the rituals that take place on its bank. Knowing the essence of the city goes by exploring the network of narrow streets that converge for the Ghats. Although urban planning is non-existent and labyrinthine, the alleys and alleys, full of surprises, altars, temples, and commerce, are the main attraction of an area full of history and charisma.
After wandering a little, it is worth going down a Ghat and goes along the banks of the river, where there is always movement and motives of interest. We will find, among other things, cows bathing, holy men meditating and people washing our hotel bed linen in the “clean” water of the Ganges.
Sarnath – Sarnath is a must-see place.
It is a very important Buddhist pilgrimage destination, as it is pointed out as the place where Buddha met his first disciples (Chaukandi Stupa), where he gave the first sermon after enlightenment (Dhamek Stupa) and where we can find the imposing “Giant Buddha Statue “.
This area on the outskirts of Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India, full of scattered ruins and surrounded by gardens and forest, is the perfect place to relax for a few hours, forgetting the confusion of the great Indian cities.
The atmosphere is super laid back and it’s easy to miss ourselves on time. It is worthwhile, after seeing the ruins, to sit on the grass contemplating the idea that there, a figure with the symbolism of the Buddha shared, for the first time, the doctrines that resulted in one of the most significant religions of the days of today.
Temples of Varanasi –
Although Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India itself is a kind of temple, there are some shrines, in the true sense of the word, that deserve a visit. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, known as the golden temple, is the Durga temple, which is distinguished by its reddish color and Birla temple which, among the Hindu temples, has the highest tower. The first two are located near the Ganges, being relatively central and easily accessible.
Birla Temple, also known as Shri Kashi Mandir, is on the outskirts of the city and forces us to waste some time in transit. It’s still worth it if it is framed in a tour with other stops.
Ramnagar Fort –
Ramnagar Fort is a fortification built on the banks of the Ganges which is still the residence of the Maharaja of Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India. This palace, built in 1750, allows you to glimpse the lifestyle of the royal family and the opulence of a remote past. There we can see the private ghat of the royal family, stroll the corridors and also visit the Saraswati Bhawan museum. Despite being the official residence of royal descendants, this whole complex, including the museum, is in a poor state of repair. Anyway, it’s worth to visit it to see the most luxurious aspect of the history of the holy city.
We can also take advantage of eating the most popular lassi in Varanasi, just right from the entrance of Ramnagar Fort.
Best time to visit Varanasi –
Although it can get cold in the peak months, The best time to go to Varanasi is between October and March, when temperatures are not too high. It is the best time to visit the various temples in Varanasi, take boat trips on the Ganges River, and explore the vibrant city without having to be under intense heat. At this point, the monstrosities are over and that’s when the main festivals of the city take place. The festival Dussehra (September) and Bharat Milap (October), followed by the popular festival of light, Diwali.
In summer, between April and September, temperatures are too high, The summer (April to June – 28 ° C – 45 ° C) in Varanasi is dry, sunny and humid with temperatures ranging from 32 to 46 ° C. People generally avoid going to Varanasi during the summer, especially in May and June, for being considered the hottest.
The hot and dry winds make it difficult to get to know the city. This season still receives occasional showers.
Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India, with the onset of monsoon (July to September – 24 ° C – 32 ° C), the temperature drops, and the true beauty of the city comes in its dirty condition. The monsoons in Varanasi occur along with the heat, a lot of humidity and moderate rains. Where to stay in Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India
Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India, like all tourist destinations, has accommodation options for every type of budget and tourist.
For those who travel with luggage and want to spend little, near the main attractions of the city, Ghats are the right choice. There are several guesthouses and hostels and allow you to easily reach the Ganges.
Among these, the most popular is the Dhasaswamedh Ghat and the Assi Ghat, where we stayed.
How to Reach Varanasi –
Bahadur Shastri Airport is 25 km from the city center with domestic and international flights.
- New Delhi to Varanasi: A ticket can cost between Rs 2,500 and Rs 7,700, according to the advance notice (we searched in March, flights for October). The journey takes approximately 1 and half hour.
- The plane from Goa (Dambolim) to Varanasi: A ticket can cost between 11,500 rupees and 19,000 rupees, according to the advance notice (we searched in March, flights for October). The trip takes approximately 1 and half hour.
Taxi from Bahadur Shastri Airport to the center of Varanasi – The Spiritual city of India: The trip takes about an hour and costs approximately 2,000 rupees.