"Varanasi - The City of Light" Top 5 Page for this destination Varanasi by Donna_in_India

Varanasi Travel Guide: 655 reviews and 1,534 photos

?Benares [ Varanasi ] was famous before Rome was known, and for many centuries has claimed and gained the homage of every devout Hindu. It is the Oxford and Mecca of Hinduism. Its river, its temples, its banks, are known and revered throughout India. Its very air and soil are counted holy. Residence in the city ensures salvation, death there makes salvation doubly sure?. Reverend Charles Phillips Cape described Varanasi in his book ?Benares, the stronghold of Hinduism? published in January 1909.

Varanasi is considered the world's oldest city. The original name was 'Kashi,' derived from 'Kasha,' meaning brightness.It is also known as Banaras or Benaras. It sits bank of the holy river Ganga (Ganges), and is one of the seven sacred spots for Hindus. Every devout Hindu hopes to visit Varanasi at least once in his lifetime. A bath/dip in the Ganga washes away all sins and to die in Varanasi is a release from the cycle of reincarnation.

It is said that there are over 80 ghats - long flights of steps leading to the banks of the Ganges - in Varanasi. Most of the ghats are bathing ghats although there are a few "burning" or cremation ghats. Early morning is the best time to visit the ghats. Take a sunrise boat ride and you'll see the river come to life with devotees taking a ritual bath, shaving, brushing their teeth, soaping themselves up, and washing their clothes. On the river ghats you'll see people doing pujas or practicing yoga.

You can walk the whole length of the ghats - a great people-watching experience! Along with the sunrise boat ride, a dusk boat ride leading to the evening aarti is another must see. The aarti is performed at the Dasaswamedh Ghat by five young pandits/priests. The smell of the incense and the sounds of the chanting are almost hypnotic.

Other things to do in Varanasi...visit temples, head to Sarnath, visit, the fort, etc. but most of your time will be spent around the ghats. Varanasi offers a different experience to each person. Looking back now I think it deserves a second visit. The first one can be overwhelming and for me, did not live up to my expectations. Taking what I know now, I think I would enjoy it more the second time around.

Pros and Cons
  • Cons:VERY Dirty!
  • In a nutshell:It deserves a second visit.
  • Intro Updated Jul 28, 2015
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Reviews (34)

Comments (9)

  • briantravelman's Profile Photo
    Oct 22, 2014 at 6:51 PM

    My gosh, how are these people not sick?

  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo
    Sep 2, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    What an extraordinary page, Donna! Lovely photos and terrific cultural insight.
    Obviously the ghats dominate the town - so is it primarily a centre of pilgrimage, or would it also function as a 'conventional' town as well?

    • Donna_in_India's Profile Photo
      Sep 2, 2013 at 4:36 AM

      It is actually both. Away from the ghats, life is different. Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is one of the largest residential universities in Asia! And a little further out - maybe an hour away from the ghats - you have small villages. I had to attend a wedding in one such village and they had never seen a 'gori' before. It's quite an experience.

  • mehulraj's Profile Photo
    Sep 1, 2013 at 8:08 PM

    Except few nook and corner you have been to almost every part of varanasi...enjoyed reading..I have never been to north much..planning to complete south india first then to north..cheers

    • Donna_in_India's Profile Photo
      Sep 2, 2013 at 4:26 AM

      India is just so big that you have to take it in parts! But you will like the north too.

  • elpariente's Profile Photo
    Jan 7, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Great tips and photos !!!!

  • Hexepatty's Profile Photo
    Feb 26, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    We passed a dead cow in the Ganges on our AM boat ride. That night back at home a new calf was born. We've named him "Little Ganga." Who knows?! Reincarnated to a small farm in Hickory could be an upgrade. Still thinking this one through! ; )

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Oct 9, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Seeing the religious monuments and GAnges must have been a surreal experience to savor. YOu did a nice job of pictures taking, and making comments for the readers.

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo
    Aug 14, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    This really excellent tips you put up there Donna. And bloody good photos too.

  • illumina's Profile Photo
    Aug 10, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    Some great photos here, can't wait to read the tips!

  • Durfun's Profile Photo
    Aug 10, 2010 at 4:19 AM

    I got it - you're the daughter of the chap who designed all these ghats ;-) Working to bag an award for their design?? ;-)


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