Varanasi India - Holiday Guide to Varanasi City, Travel, Ganges & Tourism
Experiencing the colourful and spiritual Varanasi City is not for faint-hearted with its chaotic atmosphere. Touts are persistent and can at times be overwhelming for those not used to handling the attention. But if you are able to look past the unrelenting salesmen and the chaotic streets, Varanasi can turn out to be one of your travel highlights.
Historically, Varanasi has been under destruction, firstly by the Afghans then by Aurangzeb, a Mughal emperor which saw the destruction of nearly all of Varanasi’s temples. Although most of the buildings look very old, they are in fact less than a couple of hundred years old.
Most come to Varanasi, the city of life, for the spiritual journey as it is considered one of India’s holiest places. Hindu’s believe dieing here offers them moksha, meaning the liberation from the birth and death cycle, so is ultimately seen as a central point in the Hindu universe. Many journey here to cremate their loved ones in the River Ganges for this reason. Other than for death and cremation, others venture here to literally wash away their sins in what is considered sacred waters of the Ganges as in the Hindu religion, the river delivers happiness to the world and is a divine Mother.
Unfortunately the water of the Ganges is frightfully unclean. In fact that is a huge understatement, the water in some parts, because of its toxicity, is actually considered septic. This isn’t surprising considering the thousands who wash, bathe, drink and are cremated in the same water that more than 100 cities spill their sewage into. It is very unfortunate that the government has let it stay in this condition for so long as these religious traditions are ending up harming people.
However because these are traditions, the people continue to use the river. Past the unhygienic nature of the river, watching the pilgrims perform prayers at dawn at the ghats is a unique and unforgettable sight.
Apart from the temples and ghats, Varanasi is a great place for nature lovers with several sanctuaries and great for shopping, being well known for its silk products.
This spiritual gem is found in the state of Uttar Pradesh, north India, nestled between the Ashi and Varuna rivers. Most of the cities attractions lie in the ‘Old City’ where you are likely to find the most affordable accommodation also. However before you start planning your visit, take into account the weather as it can be unbearable hot in the summer months, so travelling between October and March is your best bet for the most pleasant weather while dodging the monsoons.