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Varanasi – Things to do on a 4 day trip

Varanasi, not likely your next travel destination. I know. Nor was it mine.

It was a chance decision that made me visit Varanasi & I must say I was pleasantly surprised & quite liked my stay there. Wouldn’t recommend the place much if you’re a cleanliness freak cz’ it definitely isn’t one of the cleanest cities in India. Rather would come among the dirtiest, need I say. (Oops) I had to really try hard to ignore the filth around. But you can’t ignore this city, the holiest city to Hindus in India.

Varanasi (Benaras / Kashi) is one of few places that foreigners flock to by the hordes and stay for long periods of time. Why is it so famous worldwide? Read on to find out…

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1) GANGA AARTI

Come evening & you cannot miss the Ganga Aarti that takes place on the Ganga Ghat. Myriad diyas and soothing hymns calm your senses and drown out the noise from your surroundings. Witnessed by thousands of people either by the ghat or sitting in the comforts of their boats, to witness this is dramatic to say the least. No wonder, why then Varanasi is world-famous. Spending Diwali here is sure-fire going to etch a memory in your mind that will remain a lifetime.

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Evening Ganga Aarti in progress
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Thousands of people come to witness this spectacular display of faith and devotion

2) KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE

Heard of this? Yes, that’s right this is the temple that apart from being one of the most famous Shiva temples was also shrouded in controversy for being destroyed to build a mosque and re-built across eras. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples.  No matter when you visit the temple, you will always see throngs of people lined up to get a glimpse of the jyotirlinga. This temple is situated at the banks of River Ganga in Varanasi. A visit to the temple and a holy dip in Ganges is one of many methods believed to lead one on a path to Moksha.

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Pic Courtesy – www.ghumakkar.com

3) STREET FOOD

Food, who doesn’t crave yummy, mouth-watering street food. Varanasi is famous for its Chaat that ranges from tangy Pani-puris to dahi chaat to Aloo tikki to kachoris. I happened to visit the ‘world-famous’ Dinanath Chaat wala, and couldn’t help but dig in to the spread of chaat. A piece of warning though, to fulfil your craving be prepared to walk the by lanes of Varanasi with thousands of other people in cramped up roads.

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Dinanath Chaatwala

4) BENARASI SAREES

No visit is complete without a dose of shopping right? Yes, shopping all the way. I love picking up small memorabilia from different places, especially home decors famous to particular places I visit. Though Varanasi isn’t famous for handicraft, it is definitely a haven for people who love to buy traditional Indian clothes. The sarees here are handwoven and have amazing intricate designs that make it look like magic. And they have one for every budget.

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5) SARNATH MUSEUM

This Archeological Museum lies amid natural surroundings and exhibits Buddhist cultural wealth recovered from the site of Lord Buddha’s first sermon at Mrigadava in Sarnath (see image below). Sarnath is one of the four most important Buddhist Pilgrimage centers. According to Mahaparinibbna Sutta, Buddha himself told his disciples to visit four places- Lumbini, BodhaGaya, Sarnath and Kusinagara which were connected with his birth, enlightenment, first preaching and decease ( nirvana) respectively. This is definitely a must visit if you’re in Varanasi. (Museum is closed on Fridays and everyday between 12 noon & 2 pm)

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Archeological Survey of India site in Sarnath

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6) HASHISH

Yes, that’s right! Varanasi is a hashish haven for foreigners (of what I’ve heard) who not only come to get enlightened in this holy city but also to smoke up. Many of them stay here for months on end.

Varanasi is a contrast of sorts. Being the holiest city in India, on one hand people flock here to take a dip in the holy city, it is also believed that the dead buried here acquire Moksha and on the other hand, people come here to smoke up & enjoy their bit of getting high (literally).  Never have I witnessed so much chaos & calm at the same time. It may not be in my list of repeat visits, but it definitely has left memories in my mind somewhere.

Know of any more amazing things to do in Varanasi that’s not part of this list. We’d love to here.  Let us know in the comments below.

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