Banaras or Kashi is every traveller’s dream. One of the oldest inhabited cities of the world where a river is revered to the extent that many seek death at its banks, where Shiva is ubiquitous and where Hindus and Muslims live in perfect harmony, each religion colouring the city in its unique grandeur.
It was my first visit to the city. There were food trails done, bazaars were thronged, temples were visited, the quintessential boat ride was done and the grand Ganga Aarti was witnessed.
Door were clicked too! (Obviously!) Full post on this coming soon.
Here is Part one of my initial experiences in this Holy City.
1. Gallis and Chaos.
One word that describes my first encounter with a Banarasi market: Chaos.
Honking. Two wheelers almost killing you. If you survive, you battle with the rickshaws. Bravo! You’re alive. Almost. But not before the din wrecks your ears. Standing in the epicentre of all the action, I gape at the ruthless two wheelers barging in and out of narrow gallis. In the background a calm ensues. At every nook, a paan Waala’s chunna stained fingers, dish out a Banarasi paan every minute. People savour their paan over conversations amidst all the din. Not too far away is piping, hot jalebi being made and kullad wali chai being served.
Just like paan, even Lord shiva is ubiquitous. Found at almost every bend is a shiv ling or a Shiva Graffiti, proof of the fact that Kashi Vishwanath is indeed the ruler and protector of this holy city.
Stand in the Chowk area and let the city wash itself upon you. A melange of incessant ringing of bells, the evening Azaan from the nearby mosque and bodies being carried to the cremation ghats. It’s a normal phenomena, treating death to be as routine a thing as sitting at the Chowk and drinking chai in a kullad.
The markets are abuzz with activity, selling anything and everything from mouth freshers to jewellery to local itars.
Glimpses from the Bazaars and Gallis:
The gallis are narrower than you can think and turn faster than you can imagine.
There is no time to stand and stare as a two wheeler honks in your ears and you jump over piles of cow dung. Each galli looks just the same and unless you have a local with you, you will end up landing where you started.
Do not forget to engage in a conversation with a Banarasi. Be it a policeman or a rickshaw wala, they absolutely love to talk and converse!
2. Ghats and activities.
So if you thought the ghats were only for poojas, Pandits, aghori sadhus and cremations, then you might consider rethinking. Ghats are buzzing activity grounds.
Home to the Banaras cricket league, which has its own interesting set of rules. (Throw the ball in the water and you’re out). Masseurs give demos of their massages by shaking your hands and easing your muscles and if you’re game they make you lie down and give you a body massage( men only!)
A stroll on the ghats and one can witness the essence of the city.
Boatmen almost chasing tourists for boat rides, locals washing clothes, teenagers playing cricket, men in huddled discussing politics, some playing chess.
There are 84 ghats in Varanasi (Named after kings and rulers ) and each has a unique story to it. Each has a distinct architecture and design.
While witnessing these from the boat is a great option for photographers, people watching at the ghats can be a great option too.
3. Shimmering diyas and the evening Aarti.
It’s 6.45 pm and crowds have started to pour in. Everyone wants a good spot to see the famed Ganga Arti at the Dashashwamedh ghat. Boatmen will offer VIP seats in their chair seater boats. While local priests will not let you sit on their wooden panels unless you pay 25rs per person. Young girls hover in and out of crowds selling diyas and flowers to devotees to float in the Ganga as an offering.
7 priests dressed in finery walk up to the Arti spot and take their positions. At the sound of conches, the Ganga Aarti commences, as all these priests worship the revered river.
With shimmering lamps, conches, flowers, peacock feathers, and smoke blowing out of cauldrons.
Drums, bells and the holy smoke leaves the hundreds of devotees in awe as they move in perfect unison. Completely in sync.
Devotees sit wherever there is space. Even boats are completely packed. After about an hour, there is complete silence. While majority of the crowds leave as soon as the Arti ends, a few walk down the steps of the ghats to float shimmering diyas nestled in flowers. I watch hundreds of these bobbling up and down, little bundles of prayers floating away, their destination unknown.
P.S: I explored the Ghats and Gallis with Ayush from Roobaroo Walks. They do a fabulous job of conducting walking tours in Varanasi.
P.P.S : It isn’t over yet. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post for a rendezvous with various other aspects of this mystic city!
223 thoughts on “First Impressions of Varanasi: Part 1”
The pictures are fabulous. It looks like the entire place breathes of culture and living tradition. I would love to visit this place, feels as if one can easily spend a week there 🙂
Thanks so much Vinay! 🙂 it indeed is a very ancient city and it shows in its architecture.
All the photos look good. Is it processed?
You surely are a master in this field.
Btw Long time. I hope you remember this old friend of yours 😀 Huh
The Solitary Writer
Thanks Ste! Yes I do rem this old friend:) hope you’re doing well
Loved it 🙂
Oh my, I wanna visit this place now! Great photographs!
Thank you Uday:)
I’ve never been there, but my family recently went on a trip (along with a few other places). I would like to see Ganga Aarti and the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple some day. And, have Jalebis too 🙂
Nice coverage of their culture!
A food post on Banaras coming soon 😉 I did visit the temple. Super security in there! Thanks for reading Alok:)
your posts are so incredibly exuberant and full of life…
So are yours! 🙂 thanks so much 💕
Wonderful post . Will look forward for more . Have you ever thought what will happen if both of us are in this city together with our cameras ?
Thanks Anin! I wonder what will happen if we both are ever together anywhere with our cameras 😁
Beautiful captures, Divyakshi 🙂
Beautiful photos! It looks like you had a good experience 🙂
Totally enjoyed this n looking fwd to more. U have captured the Soul of Banaras so well in your camera!
Thank you so much! 🙂 the next one is coming up soon!
I really love it to reading this post and enjoy the varanasi from my home… Lovely experience
Great post. Truly Awesome photos. waiting for next post .
Thanks Rupam:) next part coming up soon!
Benaras came alive on my screen
This made my day!! 🙂
I have been to the city once but am waiting for my call again for a long time now, the city touches the soul in ways one can never imagine… only experience. What a wonderful coverage of the essence, both with pictures and words Divsi, you just increased my heart’s longing… can’t wait to take a dip in Varanasi’s magic again some day!
I read your posts before going Arti:) thanks so much! Glad you liked the post 🙂 hope to travel with you someday.
Amazing! I’ve never been to the city. But, I’m toying with the idea recently…your pictures have added the fuel to the already existing fire… 🙂
Thanks Maniparna! A winter visit should be great. Whenever you plan to go make sure it’s not summer 🙂
Thanks for the tip… 🙂
My God! I have to get there at least once! The compositions and characters in them are so interesting!
Gorgeous captures! 🙂
So colorful and beautiful – thank you for lovely tour!
Thanks Indah! 🙂
I’m glad to see you are enjoying the city. It is a polarizing place – people either love it or hate it. You do an excellent job of showing the city with your photos and words, but Varanasi is a place that really has to be experienced. There is no place quite like it. Looking forward to part II.
Thanks Jeff! It is indeed a polarizing place. And there are no ‘must see’ places. Its all about the experience.
Next part coming up in a day! 🙂
Wow! Telltale pictures.
Can I just say Wow !! These pictures are so good. I just love the way you explore every place and it’s culture. Right now I am experiencing Banaras through your pictures.
Thanks so much! 🙂 Glad you liked the post!
Loved your collection!
Although I have been to India 9 times, I haven’t stepped foot in Varanasi yet. Don’t know why, but for strange reason, I have been hesitant to experience Varanasi despite seeing numerous pics. However, in all honesty, let me share with you – your post, the pictures and your descriptions are slowly convincing me to change my mind. So, let’s see if Post #2 does the trick 🙂 Seriously, love your pics. It’s amazing how you got amazing shots of the aarti. I have read from another blogger’s experience who found the entire experience frustrating because many people were standing and blocking other people’s views.
Varanasi was on my list since a very long time but it really never materialised into a trip. I guess it is also the calling of the place 🙂 Thanks a lot for the appreciation Kat! Means a lot!
P.S: the Aarti is in fact one of the toughest photography experiences! My back broke clicking those pictures. BUT it was totally worth it! 🙂
Oh sorry to hear about injury! Hope you are recovering well and feeling much better now…take care.
So, I went through this post for the second time and absolutely loved it. And the pictures are so artistic & mind boggling.
Great work, Divyakshi.
Thanks so much Shubham! Coming from you, it means a lot 🙂
Pictures are perfect representation of the city. loved them 🙂
Your work is inspiring 🙂 Loved the pictures 🙂
Thank you Shradha! 🙂
awesome pictures… love it. keep capture great moments
Loved your post and pictures. Hope i can visit the city too
Thanks!:) I hope so too. Have you visited India before?
Yeah twice. 🙂 Have some family friends there
Discovery of a sacred India! Love your blog and the pictures as well. commendable work!
Thanks a lot Bhargavi! 🙂
can u visit my blog?
Sure will! 🙂
Wow amazing photos, amazing INDIA. Proud to be Indian
Thanks!:) Truly, its a mutual feeling!
Just one word.. Amazing!!! I could see the pictures come alive.. I mean not really but they are really beautiful! fabulous work!
Thanks so much! 🙂
Beautiful photos! You are quite the curator! The images are so captivating and jumped off of the screen!
Thanks so much! 🙂
We can travel all over Benares just by reading this. Really vibrant and strong
I am so happy to hear that! Thanks for reading 🙂
Great pics and explanations without going into too much detail-delightfully crafted.
Thanks a lot 🙂
Varanasi is my hometown and your post brought back the memories of the days I spent over there. It’s a beautiful city and has a special place in my heart and hence your blog also occupied the same place. Eagerly waiting for the part 2
I am glad you liked it! 🙂 The next part will be up in a day 🙂
This is truly what exploring and telling stories is about. Absolutely gorgeous
This comment made my day! Thanks so much 🙂
Loved this! Hope I can book a trip early next year.
Thanks! Are you planning to go only to Varanasi?
An amazing place I was there in 2010, and it’s still truly with me. 🙂
Would love to read your experience!
Wow it was a long time ago. And not really my blog content, but maybe I could put something together
Wonderful pics. Love how you capture the colours, sounds and atmosphere Varanasi.
Thanks!:) Glad you liked the post!
You give an great insight to India, wow!
Wonderful post and pictures. Guess you explored the city and it’s ghats like a local. 🙂
Thanks Braj! 🙂 explored with a local 🙂 So that definitely helped.
I would LOVE to go there one day:) Great post!
Thanks! Hope you do go there! 🙂
Awesome post and such vivid shots of life in India in true color:)
Thanks so much! 🙂
Love this post!
Loved your post.
Hey, nice pictures you have there of your adventures. There is a page that I manage and would be glad to have you join it. The page is around backpacking in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Your contributions will be helpful, cheers! 🙂 facebook.com/groups/indiabackpacking
Thanks a lot Abhishek! 🙂 Surely will join the page!
What an interesting place. Thanks for touring us around! 🙂
My pleasure! Stay tuned for part 2:)
Sure did, I subscribed to your page. Cheers to more of your great travel photos. 🙂
Seems that you have researched the place with your presence but Every place has pros and cons. A nice piece with amazing pics
Loved the pictures. I have been to Benaras myself and the place continues to linger around in your memories. I unfortunately missed the evening aarti.
Thanks!:) Have you documented your visit? would love to read!
I have one interesting photo blog coming up. So will share the link with you when it is up and running.
Just started blogging so that body of work is very minuscule. However I have managed to document 2 amazing travel journey’s – would love you to have a look at them.
1) Kerala – https://littlemissdolittleblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/kerala-budget-travel-under-inr-2000-a-day/
2) Pondicherry – https://littlemissdolittleblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/12/paradise-of-solitude-pondicherry-where-life-happens-2/
Great photos again! Keep them coming 🙂
Beautifully composed photographs with more beautiful perspective. Nostalgia grips me at the sight of the evening artis on the bank of the river. Feeling to get lost time and again in the congested lanes and bylanes of this holy city.
Thanks so much! 🙂 Glad to know that the post made you nostalgic:) Part 2 will be up soon!
Thank you too. Waiting for your Part 2 to have another dip in the sweet memories.
Although photographs are still images, but the one put up here, indeed, are breathing life. For a moment you can imagine and hear the scene.
Thanks so much 🙂
please have a look at my blog and give a suggestion too
hereby i share my blog link with you
Thanks Hardik! Surely will:)
Thank you for sharing your journey.. The place is beautiful and an amazing photography skills capturing all the emotions around. I w ill definitely keep on coming back to quench my thirst for adventures and maybe.. more travelling in the coming years!
Thank you so much! 🙂
So breath-takingly beautiful….mesmerizing!!!!! Thank you for sharing 🙂
Thanks a lot 🙂
Reblogged this on Mark Geoffrey Kirshner and commented:
The evening Arti in Banaras is something I want to experience soon. Love the pictures and the flow of your writing!
Thank you so much! Hope you get to see and experience the Aarti!
Wonderful post! Beautiful captures…Made me a notch more proud of my country ! This was really awesome!
That is so good to hear 🙂 Thanks so much Ruchira!
I am not a travelblogger..You can check my blog, will realise that I write completely different stuffs..Yet, India and its scenario intrigues me each time we travel..Thank you for refreshing that love! This was lovely !
feeling happy to see my home city here
Really nice piece, camera work is very commendable must say. All in all a great refresher. I had been to to Benaras in 2004 and the memories came rushing back.
Thanks a lot! Have you documented your journey? would love to read!
Well yes have documented em but not published em yet.
Culturally Rich Varanasi! Beautiful pictures.
An enriching and voluptuous visual tour of world heritage!
Thanks so much! 🙂
Amazing photos.inspite of living in India I’ve never visited Varanasi.
Your photos awakened a strong desire to reach here as soon as possible..
loved your post…..:-)
Thanks a lot! Glad you liked it!
Brilliant pictures and exciting words! Thanks for sharing 🙂
The pleasure is mine 🙂
The culture, color and mystery this country exudes in its every brick is AMAZING. Your photos have taken me to another world, I must say QuirkyWanderer! Can’t wait for more of your posts!!
I am so happy to read this! 🙂 Thanks so much 🙂
Wonderful pictures. Truly inspiring. I plan to go there end of the year and hope it will be as mystical as you experienced it. Enjoy your stay!
Thanks! 🙂 Let me know if you need any help 🙂
As my grandfather was brought up in the holy city I gather that your description quite matches the storied he told me about the holy city. Thank you for such a beautiful description through both writing and photoraphs. I can now imagine a background for my grandfather’s stories. I want to visit the place even more now.
There is nothing like nostalgia. I wish I could also visit all those places, stories of which were narrated by my grand dad:) I am so happy you liked the post 🙂 Thank you!
So beautiful and colourful pictures of Varanasi, really Kudos to you. Enjoyed thoroughly. Waiting for second part.
I have also started writing about my visits to some places. Spare a minute and do visit. Thanks. https://rahulpradhanblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/the-opening-titles/
Thanks a lot Rahul. Will surely visit! 🙂
If you don’t mind, may I ask which camera do you use ??
Beautiful ! Been there. Magical and spiritual place that remains deep inside my soul
Thanks! 🙂 I would love to read your experience:)
I miss the nice parts of the older world. Not many, but we did make beautiful things and that is something that not many people appreciate. A beautiful post.
So true. And we travellers have a mad obsession to capture and see it all before it vanishes.
Thanks for reading!
Excellent read to me. It’s always good to read anything written about Varanasi. Thanks for Varanasi-pictures.
Thank you 🙂
As someone who loves to travel I very much enjoyed this post. Thank you very much! 💚
Thanks a lot! 🙂
Absolutely stunning, mesmerising! Please check out my blog if you’ve time 🙂 https://darrensharpewrites.wordpress.com and let me know your thoughts!
Thanks Darren! Sure will 🙂
Awesome post, the photos are great. What camera do you have?
Hi Alex these are iphone pics 🙂
Kerala is arguably the most beautiful state in India. 🙂
Agree. I have a poem posted on the beauty of KovalamI beach .. Please feel free to check that out .
Lovely! post. Great pictures. Its been quite a while since my Banaras visit but you made me relive those memories. Cheers!
Thanks! Glad you liked them:)
Would love to see more of world through your lens.
This has inspired me to add this city on my list . 🙂
I am so glad it has! Thanks!
Wow this is absolutely amazing! I’ll be visiting India in November 2017 and now I definitely can not wait!
Also, your photography is stunning!
Thanks Ronnie! Let me know if you need any help with your travel plan for India 🙂
Beautiful pics. Wish to have the opportunity to go to Varanasi someday.
Lots of pictures that speak volumes. Lovely blog..
You are Welcome. Checkout my blog and follow if you like at https://theoryxlandlife.wordpress.com/
Mesmerizing pictorial and verbal expression
Awaiting for part 2 ..
It was reading this piece! 🙂
Thanks! 🙂 Part 2 is up!
It was nice reading this piece! *
Loved the writing… and the photos!
Wow Divsi as Usual Lovely Post !!
Thanks for the beautiful post. I am now inspired to write about Lord Shiva, thanks to you.
Thanks for the appreciation 🙂
Hi, what a post…well I must few of the lines are so expressive which really compelled me to imagine:) 👍 even pictures are too expressive.
Finally adding my comment to the long list of glowing comments. Girl this was so fantastic! I have never been to Benares! My husband studied at BHU and shares with me fond tales of a filthy place that just grows around you and how he fell irrevocably in love with it! Your tale through the images was captivating to say the least! Going to how Part 2 can get any better….
Amazing pictures! Just too good. Very artistic
Amazing! You have wonderfully captured the beauty of Varanasi. The pictures are so vivid. I would love to visit there to have a similar experience.
I am so glad I made some good use of my study break! Love the pictures. Each of them could be weaved into such beautiful stories!
Great post and wonderful photos you took me there.
This post is beautiful.
Need to start reading ….
Simply brilliant. You captured the true essence of Varanasi
Thank so much! 🙂
You are welcome.
I quite loved the way you have captured a day in the life of Varanasi with your lovely pictures and narrative. While personally, I may not have like the chaos and the din, the way you narrate it on your blog is quite fantastic to say the least :D.
I love all the pictures, it really makes me want to visit India.
Hi Divyakshi! The pictures are excellent and from the way you described it, I’m sure the city lives and breathes the glory of Mahadev Shiv. I’m going there in a week’s time and needless to say, your posts are my benchmark to observing and seeing the city in a better light.