Thursday, 12 December 2013

Varanasi: The Sacred Heart of India

It’s 5:30 am and a brilliant orange ball perched on a puffy white cloud stretched itself, pacing its way gently through the calm grey blue of the wide undisturbed sky. It looked like a mystical drama with the universe playing its enchanting part in the ordinary lives of the humans who inhabit the shores of the Ganges in a city like none other: Varanasi.

Courtesy: Orvalrochefort/Creative Commons/Flickr  

Watching the beautiful sunrise, a little boat trip would take you across the Ganges, from one ‘Ghat’ to another as you take in the breath taking beauty of an ancient civilization that still manages to live its present while beautifully wrapped in the culture, traditions and dignity of its glorious past. 

As you enjoy this soothing boat ride, you see the city waking up from its slumber and soon you see people milling about, the priests or the ‘pujaris’ as they are called in the local dialect performing their set of morning prayers with a religiosity that will beckon your admiration while the pilgrims, tourists and the locals go about their own business. With the Ganges flowing, Varanasi is a delightful place to find yourself in as you sit and reflect, to introspect and heal spiritually. Many a times you shall hear people testifying to sudden inspirations and knowledge while sitting at the Ghats, or listening to the chiming bells in the temples.Wherever you go, you will easily find sages and priests offering prayers, performing ritual ‘aartis’ and handing out ‘Prasad’ to all those pilgrims who come seeking divine blessings.

Varanasi, Kashi, Benares

Many names for what is essentially the ‘Soul of India’. There’s something sacred in its air and sooner or later it gets you; it soothes you and calms you. Hailed as the city of Gods, ‘Varanasi’ lends an overwhelming experience to anyone who touches its holy shores washed by the Ganges herself. Even this poetic name comes from the union of the river ‘Varuna’ and a small stream known as ‘Asi’.

What makes Varanasi so unique?

    Courtesy: Meenakshi Payal/Creative Commons/Flickr

Well, there is so much that makes this land such a representative of the Indian culture and society. Let’s see, the city is old with its traditions, ways and culture spanning hundreds of years, yet elements of the new can be witnessed in the way the city has gradually developed with time.  Travelling to Varanasi is so easy. It is connected by the airport, the rail route and the roadways. If you wish to stay, then this city offers a range of options from the likes of Radisson and Ramada to small hotels, guest houses and dhaam shalas to make your stay a comfortable one. The colourful fabrics sported by the people, the silks, brocades, muslins and not to forget the world famous ‘Benaresi Saris’ (a must have in the trousseau of every Indian Bride), present a visual feast for any shopaholic while the rich and spicy platter or ‘Thali’ as it is called by the indigenous of the Northern India gives wafts of delicious aroma truly sensational and never fail to tickle your taste buds. And that is not all, mingled with this exotic profusion of colours, flavours, aromas and delicacies is the essence of Indian spirituality that lives and breathes in the very air of the place. Be it the Ghats, the cleansing waters of the Holy Ganges revered as a mother or the temples with their intricate carvings beckoning throngs of believers to their inner sanctum, Varanasi is a haven for each and every person. It is a place where you find solace.

Make sure when you plan your next trip, reserve a special seat for this holy city and give it the time it rightfully deserves.  

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