Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is guaranteed to make an impression. Considered the holiest of places in India, the city of Shiva has been a centre of learning and civilization for over 2000 years. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to bathe and rinse away their sins in the waters of the River Ganges and tour its revered temples.
Varanasi is also believed to be an auspicious place to die, ensuring release from the cycle of rebirths and an instantly granted passport to heaven. These rituals of life and death take place very publicly on the city’s famous riverside ‘ghats’ or steps and it is this accessibility to the practices of ancient tradition, coupled with Varanasi’s labyrinthine streets and colour that draw people.
An wonderful vantage point is from aboard one of the dawn boat cruises on the Ganges. Scores of people enter the water from the ghats to purify themselves before the rising sun. While you watch all of this, cremations take place on some of the ghats. All of this incredible commotion takes place along the western bank; the eastern bank is unpopulated and almost barren.
Providing the backdrop to this display of humanity is an incredible array of temples and ancient buildings. There are 2,000 temples and shrines in Varanasi, though the holiest, Vishvanatha, is closed to non-Hindus. The Durga Temple, which can be visited, teems with monkeys. Farther downstream on the eastern bank of the Ganges is the Ram Nagar Fort.
SEE ALSO: Nearby site of interest - Sarnath
To get you started with planning your holiday to Varanasi, we have showcased below some popular itineraries requested by our clients which we hope will inspire your visit to India
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