Varanasi Journals

Varanasi - the oldest city in India

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A July 1991 trip to Varanasi by Quan

Quote: I once read somewhere that you can't feel neutral about India, and I think that's the perfect description of this amazing country. And once you see the ghats, the river, and the rituals, you will not walk away feeling neutral about Varanasi either.

Varanasi - the oldest city in India

Overview

Quote:
India is a land of intensities. One love its color and sensual pleasure, but hates its dirt and its heat, which is made even more maddening by the way that Indians society moves, slowly, interminably. Nowhere did this seem to me more apparent than in Varanasi, though I am not sure whether this is due to reality, or because I knew that Varanasi not only claimed honor as the oldest city in India, but perhaps the oldest city in the world. Some evidence suggests it has been in existence since 3200 B.C. Varanasi is an intensely religious city, being as it is the capital of Hindu faith and learning, its holy city, doubly blessed because it is on the shores of the sacred Ganges River. Religion domi...Read More
Quote:
Next to the ghats, this is another area that rewards the explorer with shrines tucked into every corner, pilgrims paying respects to the various temples, and stalls offering all sorts of religious goods aimed towards the pilgrims. Dominant in the old city is the Vishwanatha temple complex, often called the Golden Temple because of the massive gold plating on its spire. The Golden Temple has been sacked by successive Muslim rulers, and repeatedly rebuilt. Shiva the destroyer is also revered as the god of the universe and is often depicted either in statue form, with four or five faces, draped with serpents, and having a third eye in his forehead, or as a lingam, a phallic symbol the yon...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 13, 2001

Exploring Vishwanatha Khanda - the old city
Center of Varanasi
Varanasi, India

The Ganga River (The Ganges)

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Attraction | "The Ganga River at dawn"

Quote:
Every morning at dawn, an ancient ritual takes place in Varanasi. Thousands gather on the banks of the Ganga and strip to their underwear, then wade into the muddy waters, scoop up handfuls and drink. I guess this is one of the reasons that the boat ride along the Ganges at dawn was a favorite tourist activity, and I admit to wondering at the time whether they were trying to empathize and understand the religious significance of the morning bathe, or just taking another opportunity to criticize and prove their superiority. Should you want to take a boat trip, know that tourists are frequently fleeced, so bargain, bargain, bargain. Being as I was a poor student, I chose not to take the...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 13, 2001

The Ganga River (The Ganges)
Varanasi Waterfront
Varanasi, India

Boat trip down the ghats

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Attraction | "Visiting the Ghats"

Quote:
The great river banks of Varanasi are lined with an endless chain of stone steps--the ghats--which stretches three miles along the shores of Varanasi. Supposedly, the ghats alter in appearance with the seasonal fluctuations of the river level, and I can see why, as the steps descend into the water, so in high tide, you can only see cropped off tops. One shocking sight to those not familiar with the symbolism of the Hindi gods, is that each of the hundred of ghats, big and small, is marked by a lingam--the phallic symbol that represents the god Shiva. I have to admit that besides being able to distinguish the big ghat from the small, the more glorious from the less noticeable (because of either a te...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 13, 2001

Boat trip down the ghats
Along the Ganges
Varanasi, India

The story of Varanasi

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Known to the devout as Kashi, the Luminous, the City of Light was founded by Shiva. Varanasi's association with Shiva stretches back to the dawn of time: legend has it that after his marriage to Parvati, Shiva left his dwelling in the Himalayans to come and live in Varanasi with all the gods in attendance. Death is an important aspect of Varanasi life. Along the ghats--long flights of stone steps on the waterfront--smoke rises from the cremation grounds to signal the final release. Being released in Varanasi is an aspiration of many Hindus, who believe that to die in Varanasi and have one's ashes committed to the holy Ganges is to the key to attaining release of their tormented souls from the u...Read More

The Ganga River (The Ganges)

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Attraction | "The Ganga - the holy river"

Quote:
While foreigners gringe, Hindus consider Ganga, the Ganges River, the elixir of life, capable of bringing purity to the living and salvation to the dead. While the rituals of the devouts attract, the ashes of the dead, garbage from open drains, and leftovers from religious ceremonies repulse. The Ganga is dangerously polluted, but Hindus believe it to be sacred--able to cure disease, absolve sins, and confer immortality. I remember a story told to me by an Indian friend. An acquaintance of hers used to work in an NGO (non-governmental organization), specializing in assistance to poverty-stricken area. On a particular trip to a small village, she was offered water from the Ganges River...Read More

The Ganga River (The Ganges)
Varanasi Waterfront
Varanasi, India