Banaras (now Varanasi), located on the banks of the Ganga, has always remained a mystical city in the minds of Indians. Right from the Ghats to the Aghoris, Varanasi has always captured our imaginations in a very different way. Here are 10 reasons why Varanasi will always have a special place in India and why shall all the Banarasis be proud of the city’s glory.
It is the oldest city in India
Varanasi is the oldest city in India. The archaeological evidence states that the city has had inhabitants right from 20th century BC, making it one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world! But the mythology suggests that this city was founded by Lord Shiva and the Pandavas visited the place to atone for their sins. Be it mythological or scientific, it is clear that Varanasi has a rich history that no other city can compete with, which makes it special in its own right.
Spiritual Capital of India
Varanasi is called the spiritual capital of India. Right from the Ganges and Kashi Vishvanath Temple to promoting Buddhism, the city has it all. The Shivratri Festival and the Mini-Kumbh Mela make Varanasi, a spiritual hotbed.
Well, this name is enough to creep out people. The Aghoris are shaivik saints who are headquartered at Kinaram Baba Ashram in Varanasi. They have weird rituals and eating habits. They are believed to smear human ash on their forehead and eat carcasses. While all these may freak us out, it just adds mysticism to an already spiritual city.
Varanasi is incomplete without its splendid ghats. This city has many ghats along the banks of the Ganga and most of it is reserved for specific purposes like bathing, washing and cremation. The most prominent ones are Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat and the Scindia Ghat. All these ghats have a mythological event attached to it which makes it even more interesting.
The winding streets of Varanasi
Varanasi is not your typical metropolitan city with huge main roads and traffic signals. It essentially is a set of narrow winding congested roads which are invariably over populated with people and shops. Many people might find this too discerning, but this is where true Varanasi lies. In these streets, we can see the life of the Banarasi’s. Their food, their clothing and their way of life can be understood if you take a stroll down these alleys. These narrow and colorful lanes adorned with the old buildings gives an old world feeling to the city. The spirituality, tradition and culture of the city all come together in these alleys.
The Boat ride across Ganges
How can anyone forget the spectacular boat ride on the Ganga! The small, hand-pedaled boats offers a great view of all the ghats and the serenity of the river. The ride is most enjoyable either in the morning in the warm sun basked atmosphere or in the evening during the Ganga Aarti in the Dashwamedh Ghat. The floating lotus lamps coupled with the saffron clad devotes and their clamor is a sight that is exclusive to this spiritual city
The Evening Aartis
Every evening, the priests from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple perform Ganga Aarti in the Dashwamedh Ghat. Thousands of people from all over the world throng the steps of the Ghat to witness this mighty event. The air is filled with smoke from the incense sticks and the reflection of the multi layered brass lamps on the river adds beauty to this event.
Varanasi is dotted with various rooftop cafes catering mostly to the tourists. These cafes, in addition to great food, also offer a great aerial view of the city. It is just breathtaking to sit in one of these rooftop cafes, sipping coffee and getting the view of the oldest city of India, in all its glory and valour. The Kulhad Chai with Jalebis and Doodh – Malai is a must try delicacy.
Varanasi during festivals
Varanasi is at its best during festivals. Be it Diwali, Holi or Shivratri, Varanasi completely transforms during festivals. There is a mix of pilgrims thronging the temples and tourists who just come to immerse themselves in the celebrations. Varanasi becomes a trance of aarti, pooja and delicious food. Varanasi celebrates Dev Deepavali on the day of Karthik Poornima. The whole city is lighted up during this night and the view looks captivating, especially if viewed from a boat ride a few metres away from the banks.
Varanasi transcends time
Varanasi is a city that transcends time. The city has taken the developments inflicted it in gracefully without losing an iota of its existing charm .The rich heritage of this place has not been affected at all by the developments around it.
On one hand, you have tourists who uses their DSLR camera to capture the ‘REAL VARANASI’ whereas on the other hand, you have a sadhu who is oblivious of the invention of camera itself. A lot of cities and monuments loses its charm due to continuous human intervention outside, but not Varanasi. One thing I have learnt is that the people cannot change Varanasi, but Varanasi can sure change people.
Varanasi is a mystical place, a place where the cultural edifice of India lies. If you haven’t visited it yet, you haven’t seen the real past of India. So visit Banaras to feel the magic.
Article by Harinandan (Intern)
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