Older than the western cities of Babylon and Nineveh, Kashi’s (present-day Varanasi) beginnings began at the dawn of creation. According to ancient Hindu scriptures, Kashi is the centre of the universe. It is the earthly home of Lord Shiva, whose celestial light first pierced the primordial darkness. Empowered by these cultural and spiritual roots the citizens of the ‘City of Light”, spend their days (brightened by the blessings of the Lord) in pursuing happiness and the good life, secure in the knowledge, that to die in Kashi is to find liberation; for Lord Shiva himself will whisper the secret mantra of salvation in their ears as they leave this Earth.
The riddle of life and death is an ongoing conundrum, but as you travel around Varanasi, you will discover Kashi is a state of mind—the ghats-sacred spaces for the funerary rites and ritual for the dead., the flowing Ganga awash with the tears of sorrowing widows and grieving families, its temples and museums, bustling bazaars and learning centres are but incidental to its organic worldview that has kept it going for centuries.
But Varanasi’s citizenry has also long been noted for its distinctive masti (joie de vivre)–intrinsic to the Banarasi lifestyle (Banarsipana). This heady fusion of mauj (festive spirit), masti (joie de vivre) and phakarpan (being carefree) offers an endearing qaulity to the city and its people and the art of living.
As the world’s oldest inhabited city, Varanasi is an alluring experience for its organic lifestyle, fantastic food, phenomenal learning and knowledge, music and dance traditions, inspirational handicrafts that are a commercial success–and its celebration of life, and even death! Surrender to the moment–from the sublime to the messy–for there too lies its great charm.
Why you will love it
- Rich interface with one of the oldest living cities in the world
- Dipping deep into its essential cultural diversities
- Eating as the Benarsis do
- In sync with the city’s spiritual, philosophical and global reputation as an ancient centre of learning
What you will experience
Slow travel into India’s oldest cultural hub, where history, and heritage, religion and spirituality, philosophy and learning, music and dance, food and festivals all blend into a seamless extravaganza of centuries-old living traditions. Varanasi still tenaciously clings to the intellectual, cultural, and ritual traditions which enrich each experience of the traveller. As defined by the Kashi Khanda the Ganga, Shiva and Kashi have not changed. Varanasi was a principal centre of religious pursuits and commercial activities since ancient times. Prayer and meditation are pursuits linked to some of the most important religious figures and sages who walked its streets. Savour those precious moments water-gazing at the ghats as you enjoy the healing experiences of yoga and music by the Ganga. Step away soothed and calmed to the lively environs of a kushti akhada, where you will watch Indian-style mud wrestlers go through their paces in time-worn practices that are intrinsic to the city’s sporting activities. Walk the talk with legendary Hindi poet and mystic Pandit Goswami Tulsidas, translator of the sacred Ramayana text, whose 16th century home is now a museum filled with artefacts of his times. The story teller who accompanies you on the tour will pander to your curiosity on many aspects of your explorations. You will love the time spent at the handloom workshops, which are custodians Varanasi’s ancient textile traditions and deeply knowledgeable about design and industry dynamics that have changed over time, while still being rooted in their ancestral skills. Breakfast is a traditional Varanasi morning palate-pleasing adventure with yummy kachori-subzi and delectable jalebeis.