highlights and main attractions of varanasi

Ancient, holy and tumultuous yet simultaneously spiritual, Varanasi can be an overwhelming yet equally moving experience. Said to be one of the world’s oldest cities and mentioned in ancient Hindu texts such as the Ramayana. The city’s spirituality is closely linked to her setting on the banks of the holy river Ganges and Hindus believe that Lord Shiva himself founded the city. As such, pilgrims and Saddhus (holy men) flock to the city, to bathe themselves at the ghats along the banks of ‘Mother Ganges’ or to worship at one of the many temples in the old town. Cremations are also popular here, since many Hindus aspire to have their ashes scattered in the holy river.

Varanasi (also known as Benares) is alleged to be several thousand years old.

where is varanasi?

Just under a two hour flight from Delhi, Varanasi has long been an important spiritual centre of Northern India, and is often referred to as ‘the holy city of India’. With all of this spirituality, the delightfully noisy and slightly chaotic nature of Hindu temples seems to spill onto the streets. Cows wander through the narrow lanes, vendors sell brightly coloured flowers for worship, holy men and pilgrims beg for alms on the streets. Varanasi has to be one of the most atmospheric and distinctive destinations in all of India. The city is also important for the Jain religion, as well as for Buddhism, for whom the nearby site of Sarnath, reputedly where Lord Buddha first taught Dharma, has a very special significance.

If the busy streets get too much, the river acts as an excellent escape. A serene boat trip on the Ganges at dusk is incredibly atmospheric – candles float on the water, Hindu priests chant prayers whilst the local residents bathe in the river.

This is truly India in all her glory and it is the accessibility of the city that makes it so engaging, being able to witness in starkness the everyday rituals of life and how they are so intrinsically linked to religion offers the visitor a unique insight.

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