February generously brought me quite few opportunities of travel and just how! The third week of the month had me and family pack our bags and leave for Varanasi, the religious capital of India popularly known as ‘City of Ghats’, ‘City of Salvation’, and one that proudly stands as one of the oldest cities in the world.

As a kid, mom had narrated a tale. I don’t remember the middle or end of it, just the start. Mom began, “You know the only time, time ever stopped? It was when it visited Benares.” Whether that is fact or fiction, but as a child it had a profound effect on me. And has stayed with me since forever.

Greatest men of all times have been bewitched by this city. When Mark Twain visited Benares, he was dumbstruck by its sheer opulence of culture and spiritual beauty. He wrote,

Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.

Kashikhanda thus describes the holiest city on the planet.

Are there not many holy places on this earth?
Yet which of them would equal in the balance one speck of Kashi’s dust?
Are there not many rivers running to the sea?
Yet which of them is like the River of Heaven in Kashi?
Are there not many fields of liberation on earth?
Yet not one equals the smallest part of the city never forsaken by Shiva.
The Ganges, Shiva and Kashi: Where this Trinity is watchful, no wonder here is found the grace that leads one on to perfect bliss.

As legend has it, when Lord Shiva was wedded to princess Parvati, he couldn’t take her to the Himalayas; devoid of life. He chose to live in Kashi, Varanasi, for he loved the plains, the ghats, and the natural beauty of the place. Ever since, it has been called Lord Shiva’s humble home, second to Himalayas. It is written in Hindu scriptures that it was Lord Shiva who founded Varanasi some 5000 years ago.

Benares being my most favorite city in the country, I was naturally immensely excited. We were to be audience to age-old Hindu rituals in traditional Indian weddings since my cousin was getting married.

After the ceremonies were concluded, we had few more days before our return to Mumbai and thus, we took the opportunity to visit places of prominence in the region. Consequently, we visited the Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirling, Sarnath Archaelogical Ruins and Museum, the famous Banaras Hindu University and located within its confines the Vishwanath temple, replica of Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirling.

I shall quit the talking now and shall let the pictures talk.

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The groom’s haldi. The Turmeric tradition followed in Hindu Indian weddings since ages is believed to keep the bridegroom safe from evil eyes.
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My brother’s mehndi.
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The groom just before the baraat!
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The newly married couple offering prayers across the banks of Ganges.
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The brother and sister
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The groom’s mother (mom’s eldest sister) offering prayers to Ganga for a blessed long life of the son and his bride.
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Breakfast times meant bread toasted the traditional way – on burning coals.
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Some piping hot tea!
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Alfey – My love on a lazy winter morning.
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Myself by the Ganga ghats
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The City where welcome visits by cows right in the confines of your home is no surprise.
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The couple’s reception!
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On the reception day!
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The Family!
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Let the festivities begin!
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The Dhamek Stupa at Sarnath. Built in 500CE, this is the spot where Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon to his first five disciples on how to attain nirvana.
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Ruins at Sarnath from the 3rd century unearthed by the ASI.
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The archaeological excavations at Sarnath unearthed some beautiful treasures from 3rd and 8th century.
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The archaeological excavations at Sarnath unearthed some beautiful treasures from 3rd and 8th century.
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The sister sailing on the Ganges.
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An absolutely delicious speciality of Varanasi served in kulhad – Tomato Chaat.
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The evening Ganga aarti which has hundreds of spectators from across the globe.
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A glimpse of Kashi, Lord Shiva’s own humble abode.
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The boy all grown up and handsome and smart. Alfey.
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The historical palace on Manmandir Ghat.
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Posing in the narrow lanes of Benaras…
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Ganpati Ghat and what a sight with the stairways all lit up with mud lamps.
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Quintessential ceiling art in Viswanath Temple located in the BHU (Banaras Hindu University) campus.
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A mighty Shivling right by the Ganga ghat. What a magnificent sight for a shiva follower!
Dashashwamedh Ghat
In the night, the city shines to its name. Dashashwamedh Ghat in sight where the evening Ganga aarti is performed.

And with that, ends my travelogue. I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I did capturing them. Since I was a child, I have loved this city for its history, the culture, the people, and most of all its tranquil architectural and spiritual beauty.

Have you ever visited the city? Do share your experiences; I’d love to know.

Have a great weekend, reader! 🙂

~~~~~
Asha Seth