Varanasi is the holiest of Hindu cities and is a place of great religious, spiritual and cultural importance. In the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, you can visit this vibrant port on one of our Ganges River Cruises and marvel at a city that receives visits from thousands of people every year as part of their pilgrimage.
There is so much to see along the banks of this sacred river, but here are a few things you should do when you reach Varanasi.
Ghat To It
A ghat is a series of steps that leads from the bank down to the river’s edge and Varanasi has no less than 87 of them. They have many different uses including prayer, bathing and celebration, and some are even used to cremate bodies in what is an important ritual in the Hindu faith. Some of the ghats are privately owned whilst some of them are linked to ancient mythologies, but a walk amongst them is definitely an enlightening experience.
Some of the main ghats can get pretty busy and so you may want to explore some of those further away from the centre. Both Kedar ghat and Asi Ghat are great options, or you could take a stroll down to Raja Ghat and walk across the Malaviya Bridge. This is regarded as the limit of the city’s holy centre and is always a hive of activity.
Find Some Eats On The Streets
As with many places in India, street food can be found in abundance in Varanasi. There’s always a slight worry in regards to health when dining like this, but you shouldn’t let this put you off discovering some of the local specialities. If in doubt, look for the stands where the locals seem to be eating or ask some of them where the best places are.
Some of the dishes you can try include local favourites such as Kachori Sabzi (pastry filled with spices, dal and chickpea flour), Mithai (sweets made with palm sugar and spices) and many different varieties of tea and coffee. Some recommended street food outlets include Shribandhu Sweets, Blue Lassi and Kachauri Gali (all behind Manikarnika ghat) and Kashi Chaat Bhandar, which is just down the road, behind the main (Dashaswamedh) ghat.
Witness An Aarti Ritual
There are many rituals that take place along the river Ganges, but aarti is perhaps the most beautiful and widely practised. Aarti is performed many times a day by Hindus, usually in their own home. However, each evening thousands gather at Dashaswamedh ghat to light floating lamps and cast them off into the river. The ritual is accompanied by a frenzy of music, singing and prayer as everybody comes together to pay their respects to Ganga (the personification of the Ganges) and Lord Shiva.
Watching the floating lights from the shore is a wonderful sight, but you can get an even better view if you take to the water in one of the many rowing boats. This ritual happens every night from around 6pm and definitely shouldn’t be missed during your time in Varanasi.
If you would like to see Varanasi for yourself, Fred.\ River Cruises can offer excellent itineraries on the River Ganges with Pandaw. Call us today or submit an online enquiry.