The Odd Charm Of Varanasi

Before I head back to Dharamshala to work with Peepal Farm, I decided to take a small trip to Varanasi (or Benaras, as many may call it). The interest to explore the oldest and holiest city in the world was fueled by an old school acquaintance after we met briefly for a day back in Dharamkot. He had been living in Varanasi for a while and I got super intrigued after hearing all that he had to say.

First thing I noticed right off the bat was how sweet the people were. In a city which looks like chaos and dirt and non-functional traffic lights, you will find that the niceness of people is enough to get you through Kashi. But again, this is completely subjective – I trust everyone and choose to look at their positives as much as I can. It sure does make travelling a whole lot less stressful.

The first evening in Varanasi was spent navigating the little gallis of this town, and then finding a spot (more like being squished in between people) at the Dashashwamegh ghat to see the Ganga arti. Screaming “Har Har Mahadev” was super fun, especially since I think Shiva is one of the coolest gods to ever exist.

This guy was pretty funny

The next day, I went to Assi ghat early in the morning to catch the regular morning rituals by the Ganga. It’s surprising how Benaras can go from chaos to complete calm in just a matter for a few minutes. Beautiful Hindustani classical music, followed by a yoga session, this place sure knows how to keep the community entertained and happy.

Assi Ghat at 6 am

I took a boat ride to see all what the hype about the Ganga was all about. And after that ride, I understood. Sure, the Ganga is polluted as hell and you will see some nasty things being chucked in there (can we stop with that already?), but when you see this tight knit community giving a river this much respect and love, something in your heart changes. We all need something to believe in. For some people, it’s God. For others, it’s true love. For them, it’s Ganga Maa. And I think that’s absolutely beautiful.

During this boat ride, I saw everything from  people bathing to people being cremated. That’s what Varanasi is all about. No fear of death. Embracing death. And that idea resonates with me so much. 

Check out the funky graffiti!

I have never had as much lassi as I had here. My top two picks are the Blue Lassi Shop and Shivprasad Lassi Bhandar.

Pomegranate and coconut lassi at Blue Lassi Shop
My personal cheap and yummy pick. The wall mural is definitely a +2

I also managed to eat some of the best chaat of my life at the Kashi Chaat Bhandar. 

I contacted Roobaroo Walks for a “Pay as you wish” walking tour (this scheme worked perfectly given my broke status). Sudarshan showed me some hidden gems of the city which a traveller would have not been able to discover on their own. Being showed around by a local really does help. He also took me to Manikarnika ghat, one of the two ghats where dead bodies are burnt. I love how open people are about death in Varanasi, I wish we all had the power to accept death like the Benarasis do.

All in all, Varanasi was amazing and I can’t wait to go back again someday and spend some more time getting familiarized with all the gallis and nukkads this culturally rich city has to offer.

The Kulhad Wali Chai will surely call me back again 🙂

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