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Colours of Varanasi: 6 Things You Just Can’t afford To Miss In This Modern Vintage City

“Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together” -Mark Twain

Updated: May 31, 2022 9:59 PM IST

By Jigyasa Sahay

Places to explore in Varanasi
The oldest living city of Varanasi

Alexa cue “khaiyke paan banaras wala”

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Exploring Varanasi: Yes, it is old but it is not boring. Varanasi has limited but beautiful things to offer when it comes to exploring this potpourri of traditions and customs. Benaras/Banaras, Kashi, or Varanasi, is a city as old as most ancient epoch itself, yet as modern as the say, 5G. Almost 5000 years old, it is one of the seven holy cities in the country. A cradle of religious cultures, Varanasi finds a mention as early as the time of Rig Veda and still goes on inhabited in its equanimous glory.

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Located in Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi resides on the banks of the river Ganga. Since time immemorial, there has been a popular notion about this city – anyone taking their last breath here is said to attain salvation. Its mystic socio-cultural fabric attracts multiple pilgrims every year. While it is surrounded with religious connotations, one can witness a synthesis of contemporary times with the age-old rituals. Along with the culturally rich sacred sites, Varanasi has been an abode to famous writers and silk weavers.

From taking a dip in the holy waters of Ganga to going on a local shopping spree, Varanasi boasts of many things to explore.

Boat Rides

Boat ride in Varanasi

Just like the rest of the country, River Ganga is revered and worshipped widely in Varanasi. Sitting on the banks of this river, one cannot miss the enchanting boat rides. Rowing across the river, the boat rides take you to various ghats on the banks from where one can witness the spectacular rituals taking place.

It’s not just from the mighty mountains that you can experience serene sunrises. The early hours of dawn on the boat offer mesmerising views of sunrises by the river. Even the twilight at dusk is an opportune time to watch the Grand Evening Aarti taking place on the ghats with an uninterrupted view.

The Evening Aarti

Ganga Aarti in Varanasi

Speaking of the Evening Aarti ceremony, this event of the day is an unmissable surreal event. The ceremony takes place at the Dashashwamedha Ghat at the riverfront in full grandeur. The iconic ritual engulfs the vicinity with its divine scenes. There are huge brass oil lamps lighting the skies with a colourful bandwagon of people surrounding the ghat.

It starts at around 6 pm in the evening and lasts for almost 45 minutes. The priests, clad in orange attire, chant the mantras in unison. The aroma of incense sticks and flowers envelopes the environment as the people pay their obeisance to the divine.

Ramnagar Fort

Ramnagar Fort

The Ramnagar fort is a majestic fort standing tall overlooking the eastern banks of river Ganga. Opposite to Tulsi Ghat, it is a red sandstone structure built by the Kashi Naresh (Ruler of Kashi), Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 18th century. It specifically illuminates during the months of October-November when the Ram-Leela festival is celebrated.

In addition to its magnificent history, there is a Saraswati Museum, a vintage armoury encompassing swords and guns from Japan, Myanamar and a clock dating back to the 19th century. There are other small structures that contain various sacred mementos that pay tributes to some Hindu deities, old scriptures etc.

Pilgrimage of Sarnath

Sarnath Pilgrimage

One of the most sacred sites of Buddhists, the pilgrimage of Sarnath is located at a distance of about 12 km from the main city. This is the place where Buddha, after attaining enlightenment, preached his premiere sermon. The aura around this place brims with the overtures of Budhism; there is a sense of tranquility attached to these grounds.

There are lots of relics and ruins which add to the magnificence of this place. The Dharmekh Stupa is one the chief and impressive stupas. There is an archaeological museum, six temples of Asian communities, and the Ashoka Pillar with intriguing carvings. It’s a treat to explore this site.

Banarsi Food Palette

Food Street

The Banarsi Paan or the green betel leaf is the first food association one makes with Varanasi.  Apart from the historical sites, the lands of Kashi take pride in their rich gastronomical furnishings. The city has variegated mouth watering delicacies to offer. Street food is top on the chart – Tomato chat, Aloo Tikki, Kachoris, Pani Puri, etc, is just the start! Adding on to the meal course, the Banarasi Kalakand, Rabri-Jalebi, and snowcone are unique to this town.

The Weaver’s Village

Weavers in Varanasi

The Sarai Mohana village is the weaver’s town which enjoys international fame. These silk weavers from Varanasi are known for their intricate masterpieces. The world famous Banarsi silk sarees are woven with utmost precision. The brocade of zari with silver and gold work along with the aesthetic embroidery makes them stand out.

The artisanship is pretty exquisite and each design is different from another. It takes around 15 days, or a month or sometimes six months to complete a Banarsi silk saree.

Explore this old city and immerse yourself in a colourful experience.

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