As the morning sun burns away the night mists and lights up the waters of the holy Ganga, it will wrap around you like the blessings of Lord Shiva, whose celestial light first pierced the primordial darkness of the Earth. Secure in the local boat, you will be swept away by the time-worn morning spiritual rituals played out on the holy ghats and the Ganga, whose waters are held in awe as they have the power to cleanse you of all your past sins. Beggars and pandits, priests and pilgrims all offer untold stories to ruminate over as they arrive at the cleansing and healing the sacred waters.
Why you will love it
- Taking part in a centuries-old ritual on the waters of the holy Ganga
- Delving into the spiritual richness of one of India’s holiest cities
- Witnessing the outpouring of faith at the ghats and river and temples, by the endless stream of devotees
- Finding your own spiritual sustenance from Varanasi
What you will experience
The boat ride at sunrise offers you the most amazing spiritual experience. It’s also the best way to observe the fusion of life on ghats and temples and the Ganga and the deep sacred connection between them.
Soak in the panoramic view of the Ghats from the other bank of the river. The crescent-shaped left bank of the Ganga, significant for the Old City Heritage Archaeological Zone with the sacred Ganga riverfront, provides a brilliant range of vignettes Varanasi’s spiritual diversity. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism have defined its architectural, religious and cultural splendour. The crescent shape is symbolically described as a crescent moon on Lord Shiva's forehead.
The ghats, the focal point of many traditional and ancient forms of worship, also reflect the city’s cultural traditions and religious symbolism. The five premier merit-giving and sacred ghats (together called the Panchatheerthis) here in the heritage area are the Assi Ghat, Dasaswamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Panchganga Ghat and the Raj Ghat—all deeply significant for the throngs of pilgrims who descend on this venerable city. From Assi to Manikarnika (South to Center), the grammar of its architecture is marked by the amalgamation of different building styles mirrored beautifully in the palatial buildings, holy sites, ashrams and pilgrim rest houses etc along the waterfront. Dig deep into knowledge of the storyteller who accompanies you on the tour, which includes these sacred ghats, dating back three centuries, which have been rebuilt again and again as the city was destroyed by several invaders.
You will love the atmospherics here of the morning Ganga aarti and the tales of the great Yagya, performed by Lord Brahma himself, who sacrificed 10 horses at the city’s iconic Dashashvamedh Ghat. Manikarnika Ghat contains what is said to be the holiest spot in the city and is the meeting point of Shaiva and Vaishnavite traditions.
At the crack of dawn, the first lot of pilgrims arrives to perform the ritual dip in the Ganga, which symbolises the goddess washing away all your sins and giving you sustenance for a new life. The unique directional change of the course of the Ganga led to the development of the ancient city, then known as Kashi. The sudden northward turn of the Ganga at Varanasi symbolises the life cycle from death to life. For the devout Hindu a holy dip in the River Ganga at the ghats, symbolises the individual soul can get purified.
The crowds continue to swell with each passing hour. Photo ops are aplenty as vignettes unfold of pilgrims descending into the swirling waters carrying ritual brass vessels, marigold garlands and oil lamps; ash-smeared sadhus with matted hair still and silent on the ghat steps; lively youths conducting their daily calisthenics before diving into the water to worship and the sun and Goddess Ganga.