Varanasi is a city that rises from the Ghats of the western banks of the Holy Ganges. Varanasi is the quintessential India packed with an ancient history that as old as history itself. It is one of the world’s most sacred cities that is home to Kashi, better known as the “City of Light, where Lord Shiva’s eternal light intersects the earth.” Varanasi is the land of pilgrimage, home of Lord Shiva, where the devout flock in to take a dip in the Holy Ganges and seek forgiveness.
Varanasi is one of the holiest tirthas where many return to die in the hope to attain moksha. The city was named after Rivers Varuna and Asi converged as one. The city is centrally positioned on the ghats that contour the waterfront. You will notice each waterfront honoring Lord Shiva depicted in the form of a Linga found on every ghat. At dawn, you can enjoy a cruise along the waterfront to witness the most surreal sights of devotees taking a dip, meditating, and performing ancient rituals to greet and honour the Sun. At sunset, priests at the Dasashwamedh Ghat perform aarti, a prayer ritual that uses complex fire rituals while pilgrims light candles and float them over sacred waters in the hope to appease their deities.
Varanasi easily dates back 8,000 years ago and is a city that has attracted pilgrims since ages. Even Lord Buddha visited this holy city in 500 B.C. after he attained enlightenment and shared his wisdom at Sarnath. The city has witnessed successive raids by Muslim invaders of which Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb is the last that led to the destruction of numerous Hindu temples. This connotes that most of the buildings in Varanasi easily date back no further than the 18th century but still, the aura of ancient history is almost intense. The cramped labyrinth of this city is where you can get lost in the crowd of pilgrims buying flowers for their offerings and prayers, where you will witness grieving relatives bearing the corpses of their dear ones, or listen to the chanting priests and watch cows being fed by devotees – a travel experience you will never forget.