With the first rays of the morning sun on the banks of the Ganges River, the elderly man stretches out his hands towards the slowly rising fireball and utters "namaste" (worship and glorification of the Almighty). Such scenes are repeated every day for more than three thousand years in Varanasi, the sacred city of India. Watching what is happening on the banks of the Ganges River, one gets
the impression of a city that has frozen in time. Varanasi is an important religious place in the world of Hinduism, the center of pilgrimage of Hindus from around the world, as ancient as Babylon or Thebes. Here, more strongly than elsewhere, the contradictions of human existence are manifested: life and death, hope and suffering, youth and old age, joy and desperation, splendor and poverty. This is a city in which there is so much death and life at the same time. This city, in which eternity and being coexist. This is the best place to understand what India is, its religion and culture. We have customized tour package of Varanasi and best travel agency in Varanasi since last 30 years.
In the religious geography of Hinduism, Varanasi is the center of the universe. One of the most sacred cities for the Hindus serves as a kind of border between physical reality and the eternity of life. Here the gods descend to earth, and the mere mortal reaches bliss. It is a holy place to live, and a blessed place to die. This is the best place to achieve bliss.
The fame of Varanasi in Hindu mythology is unparalleled. According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu God of Shiva several thousand years ago, which made it one of the most important places of pilgrimage in the country. This is one of the seven holy cities of the Hindus. In many ways, it embodies the best and worst aspects of India, sometimes leading foreign tourists into horror. Nevertheless, the scenes of pilgrims praying in the rays of the rising sun at the Ganges River, against the backdrop of Hindu temples, is one of the most impressive sights in the world. Traveling in northern India, try not to bypass this ancient city. Walking tour of Varanasi is also available with us.
Founded a thousand years before Christ, Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world. It was called by many epithets - "the city of the temples", "the sacred city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", "the city of enlightenment" - and only recently its official name, first mentioned in the ancient jataka Hindu literature. But many still continue to use the English name Benares, and pilgrims call it just like Kashi - that's how they called the city three thousand years. Because of we are experienced tour and travels in Varanasi we show you the Varanasi very well. We also have Sarnath Tour Package and car rental (taxi/cab) services as well.
For millennia, Varanasi was the center of philosophy and theosophy, medicine and education. The English writer Mark Twain, shocked by the visit to Varanasi, wrote: "Benares (the old name) is older than history, older than tradition, even older than the legends and looks twice older than all of them combined." Many famous and most revered Indian philosophers, poets, writers and
musicians lived in Varanasi. In this glorious city lived the classic of Hindi literature Kabir, the poet and writer Tulsidas wrote the epic poem Ramacharitamanas, which became one of the most famous works of literature in Hindi, and the Buddha delivered his first sermon in Sarnath, just a few kilometers from Varanasi. Sung by myths and legends, consecrated by religion, it always attracted a large number of pilgrims and believers from time immemorial.
Varanasi is located between Delhi and Calcutta on the western bank of the Ganges. Every Indian child who listens to the stories of his parents knows that the Ganges is the largest and most holy of all rivers in India. The main reason for visiting Varanasi is, of course, to see the Ganges River. The value of the river for Indians can not be described. It is one of the 20 largest rivers in the world.
The Ganges River basin is the most populous in the world, with a population of more than 400 million people. Ganges is an important source of irrigation and communication for millions of Indians living along the riverbed. From time immemorial, it was worshiped as the goddess of the Ganges. Historically, a number of capitals of the former principalities were located on its shores.
For devout Indians, the river Ganges meant the same as the goddess of the land of Gaia for the ancient Greeks: the giver of life, help and salvation. Hindus view the Ganges River as an amrita, the elixir of life, which brings the purity of life and salvation to the dead. The religious beliefs of the Hindus encourage them to undertake a pilgrimage to Varanasi at least once during their lifetime.
Hindus believe that the Ganges River flows to earth from heaven to wash away worldly sins from mere mortals. Therefore, all life in the city is centered around the sacred river. Shortly before dawn, the banks of the Ganges come to life when thousands of pilgrims - men, women and children - descend to the river to meet the rising sun, and then sinking into the sacred river will purify them of suffering and wash away their sins. Every day, more than 60,000 people come to the river bank to plunge into the sacred waters of the Ganges, to raise their prayers to the forces of nature, the rising sun, the dead ancestors, carried away by the waters of the sacred river. People are attracted to the river by a firm conviction that water can take away the sins of many generations.
Each person makes his own ritual of contact with the sacred Ganges: some bath; others drink water, others give water their sacrifices in the form of flowers, fruits, the fourth fill the brought pots with holy water to take to their homes to perform religious rituals.
Varanasi is best known for his ghats - an endless chain of stone steps descending to the water. Each of about 88 ghat, large and small, has its own linga (male organ of Shiva), and takes its special place in the religious geography of the city. Some of them have declined for many years, others continue to take off from the early morning bathers. Some ghats are covered with legends and myths, some are already in private ownership. Most ghat are designed for swimming, several of them are used for cremation.
At all times, pilgrims came to the city from all parts of India , even for several thousand kilometers, to bath in the Ganges, to be cleansed of sins and ... to die in order to instantly rise to heaven. Death is a good business in Varanasi. Weak, sick, and elderly people come to the city in anticipation of death. To die in a city on the banks of a river of life means to die with the hope of salvation, with the hope of getting rid of the endless cycle of life and death (reincarnation), and get moksha, that is eternal bliss. Thus, for centuries, Hindus have come to Varanasi to die or to bring the ashes of the dead, in order to disperse it over the holy waters of the Ganges River.
Pious Indians view cremation as an important ritual that releases the soul from the body, allowing the deceased to rise to heaven. In the traditional culture of the Hindus, when a person dies, the body of the deceased is ritually washed, the corpse is burned at the stake, then the members of the family scatter the ashes over the holy river. In Varanasi every day ritually cremated from 200 to 300 bodies in several ghats along the river. Cremation of dead bodies occurs 24 hours a day. The dead are carried on bamboo stretchers along the streets of the old city, then immersed in the river, and only then burned. The bodies are shrouded in shiny cloth and covered with garlands of flowers. To hide the smell of burning bodies, incense is cast into the fire. Tourists can watch the ceremony of cremation, while they should be dressed properly. Do not take pictures.
Deceased children under the age of 10 years, the bodies of pregnant women and smallpox patients are not cremated. A stone is tied to their body, and they are thrown from the boat to the middle of the Ganges River. The same fate awaits those whose relatives can not afford to buy enough wood. Cremation at the stake costs a lot of money and not everyone can afford it. Sometimes purchased wood is not always enough for cremation, and then the half-burnt remains of the body are thrown into the river. It is quite common to see the charred remains of dead bodies floating in the river. It is estimated that about 45,000 non-cremated bodies are buried in the city every year on the river bed, increasing the toxicity of already heavily polluted water. What is shocking visitors to Western tourists, it seems quite natural for the Hindus. Unlike Europe, where everything happens behind closed doors, in India every aspect of life is seen on the streets.
The Ganges River somehow miraculously cleaned itself for many centuries. Even 100 years ago, microbes such as cholera could not survive in its sacred waters. Unfortunately, today the Ganges is one of the five most polluted rivers in the world. First of all, because of the toxic substances discharged by industrial enterprises along the riverbed. The level of contamination by certain microbes exceeds the permissible values ??by hundreds of times. Visiting tourists, a complete lack of hygiene is evident. Ashes of the dead, sewage drains and donations float by believers as they bathe and spend in the water a ceremony of purification. From a medical point of view, bathing in water, in which corpses decompose, carry the risk of infections with numerous diseases, including
hepatitis. This is some kind of miracle, that so many people dive daily and drink water and do not feel harm. Some tourists even join the pilgrims.
One of the most enchanting spectacles of Varanasi takes place every evening on the ghat of Dashashvamedh. A group of young Hindu priests - a brahmana performs arati - a kind of ritual in Hinduism with lit candles, during which donations are presented: incense, flowers, fruit and so on. The colorful 45-minute ritual expresses the worship of Shiva, the sacred Mother of the Ganges, Surya (the Sun), Agni (fire), and the whole Universe. The arati ritual is extremely spectacular. Thousands of people attend this ceremony, including numerous tourists.
According to legend, Varanasi was founded by the Hindu god Shiva 5000 years ago, although modern scientists believe that its age is estimated at about three thousand years. The city was under the control of Hindu rulers for many hundreds of years until the end of the 12th century, when it fell into the hands of a number of Muslim conquerors. The result was the complete destruction of Hindu and Buddhist temples and the construction of Muslim mosques in their place. Therefore, the age of the oldest buildings and temples of Varanasi dates back to the 18th century.
Yet the sense of ancient history here is quite palpable. Labyrinths of narrow streets are filled with pilgrims, buying flowers for puja (prayers), mourning relatives, carrying the dead, and singing priests - impressions that can not be forgotten. At the same time, acquaintance with the city has two sides of the coin. The roads are crowded with cars and trucks, buses, rickshaws, bicycles, carts,
people, goats, cows and buffaloes. The hot air is polluted immensely. Narrow streets are in very poor condition, often there are no sidewalks sacred to cow Indians digging in street garbage. From the noise and smells the head can go around. Varanasi is impressive and shocking at the same time.
Varanasi is famous for the manufacture of silk products, which are an integral part of the wedding dowry of every Indian girl. The brocade produced in Varanasi has historically been considered one of the best in India and is well known all over the world. Its feature is embroidery of gold and silver threads. Such products are relatively heavy due to the fact that the pattern is decorated with
gold and silver threads. Depending on the complexity of the design and models, making a sari takes from 15 days to one month, and sometimes up to several months. The manufacturing technique is very complex and requires a lot of experience. Entire families are involved in this business, children begin to learn the basics of art from an early age. Traditionally, for centuries, silk was manufactured by the Muslim community of the city. Silk fabrics made in Varanasi can be found in any corner of India, Enterprising businessmen and drivers of rickshaws are trying their best to drag tourists to the shops to get their commissions. Therefore, shopping in Varanasi may well turn into a real nightmare, but the quality of textiles is worth it.
Take the opportunity and visit Sarnath. It is located about 10 km from Varanasi and is known as the place where Buddhaa, having reached enlightenment, delivered his first sermon about 2500 years ago. For over 1000 years, Sarnath attracted numerous pilgrims, there were about 3000 monks living there, he was an important center for studying Buddhism. But the constant Muslim invasions and looting destroyed monasteries and their material values in the late 12th century. Rebuilt in the late 19th century, today it still attracts many pilgrims, but from the ancient buildings only a pile of bricks from the destroyed monasteries and the Dhamekh Stupa has been preserved here. Built around 500, 31 m high, Stupa is said to designate the place where the Buddha told his Eightfold Path leading from the end of man's eternal suffering to nirvana.
Varanasi is best visited during the celebration of Deepavali. On the 15th day of Diwali, with the onset of dusk, each ghat is lit by lights, thousands of candles swim along the Ganges River, accompanied by the singing of Vedic hymns. It is believed that the gods descend from heaven to bathe in the river about this. In the period from April to October, the weather is very hot and humid.
In July and August, often rains, thick fog envelops the city in December and January.