Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.
– Mark Twain
A brief history of Varanasi: Varanasi has an amazing history which could date back to 1200 BC. There are indications that the city could be living since 3000 BC. The origin of the name Varanasi is behind the names of the two rivers According to the Hindu mythology, city was founded by God Shiva. Banaras is still called ‘The City of Shiva’; and devotion to Shiva can be seen in the city abundantly. Banaras continued to keep its status of importance in the Buddhist Era as well. The city was referred in Buddhist texts in abundance. The ship of Buddhism first sailed circa 528 BC, when Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon near Banaras, at the places known as Sarnath. Qutb-ud-din Aibak in the year 1194, Feroz Shah Tuglaq in 1376, and Sikander Lodi in 1496 destroyed every old temples in Banaras. For centuries Banaras lived in the era of declination and suppression, and lost thousands of its temples.The suppression continued until Akbar took over the reins in 1556.During the British rule the influence of the Mughal dynasty waned away and this was when the Hindu King was brought into picture that would pay allegiance to the emperor. Currently, Varanasi is a major city. It serves as a major commercial centre in the eastern Uttar Pradesh state and western Bihar state.
When I reached my place of stay (Shanti rest house near Hanuman Mandir),I went to the terrace. The portico had a mesmerizing view of the ghats and the mighty Ganges just flowed below.I sipped my cup of tea, wondering how much this city has seen, 3000 years is a long long time.Wow, I had a camera on my shoulders and I thought let me cover the colourful varnasi for over history the place has seen too many colours and a plethora of emotions.
1) Evening Aarti: If you are in Varanasi and by the Ghats in the evening, you will know why it is the most sacred city for Hindus. In fact right when you step in Varanasi, you will be hearing an excess of devotional music from every nook and corner. Oh! Probably this aarti is the epitome of the same.
2) A walk in the ghats: Enter at any of the ghats and start walking in any direction, once you reach any end, return back until the other end. In between I assure you there will be more than enough to see. It is hard to understand but true, among all the cacophony, racket and noise, you will somewhere find peace in sitting on the stairs and gazing at the Ganges. Not only will you find a plethora of colors but also varied emotions, one place gives meaning to so many, so is Varanasi.
3) Sunrise and Sunset: You will never perceive colors if you don’t experience the sunrise or the sunset. Ideally if you have a window overlooking the Ganges, you will experience the multitude of colours in a day. The sun rises with its ruddy orange glow and hides behind the the temples making everything a pale yellow. Same with the color of the water, from black in the night to bluish in the noon, you experience a wide gamut of colors.
4) Chai and chat: As goes the old adage that there is no pain that a cup of tea cannot ameliorate. A cup of kullad chai not only awakens your mind but also your soul. Same goes with the chat, coming to Varanasi and not eating the spicy, chatpata chat, is missing on something important. There are plenty of places which offer the snacks; you will find people flocked in front of small shops waiting for their kachodi in the mornings.
5) Spirituality: There are no words to accentuate the fact that Varanasi is the city of spirituality, the very fact that it was created by Lord Shiva himself . Tulsi ghat is named after Tulsidas who sat there and wrote Ramcharitramanas
6) A boat ride and a walk on other side of the Ganges: Take a boat (recommended to go solo) and just feel the water, early morning and late evenings are the best time for a quiet soulful experience. Seeing the Varanasi Ghats from the opposite side of Ganges lets you glaze at the whole arc of ghats by the river. In fact you should try and take a walk on the other side of Ganges like I did.
7) Malviya bridge: The rumble of the approaching train and the top view of the Ganges make it for a thrilling experience to the bridge. If you could make it to the bridge before sunrise, you will be rewarded with an exceptional view. Malviya Bridge, inaugurated in 1887 (originally called The Dufferin Bridge), is a double decker bridge over the Ganges at Varanasi. It carries rail track on lower deck and road on the upper deck. It is one of the major bridges on the Ganges and carries the Grand Trunk Road across the river.It has 7 spans of 350 ft and 9 spans of 110 ft and it was the first bridge of its type constructed in the Indian sub-continent.
8)Colorful boats: Go anywhere, there will be boats with all sort of colours, so soothing I Must say.
9) Sarnath: If you are in Varanasi for long then you should not forget to take a trip to Sarnath. It holds a special significance for Buddhists. Chaukhandi Stupa(Chaukhandi Stupa was built in the 5th century to mark the place where Lord Buddha first met his disciples. The place holds immense historical, religious as well as architectural importance today.),Thai temple,Archaeological museum and the Ashoka Pillar are the must see places.
10)Monkeys: No trip ends here without saying a Hi to monkeys