I recently visited Banaras in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Banaras which is also known as Kashi and Varanasi and also known as Mahadev ki Nagri ( City of Mahadev ) Yes, these 3 names are for a single place.
In this, I am trying to express my feelings ( I am very bad at expressing feelings). Some of you might find this exaggerating OR filmy, but people who know me very well will understand it.
So let’s begin.
What makes Banaras a Special Place?
- Maa Ganga. The Holiest River in India. I fell in love with the river the moment I saw it with my eyes.
- Banaras is the place of Lord Mahadev. In every Gali ( narrow street ) you will find a Shivlinga ( symbol of Lord Shiva ) in Banaras.
- Ghats ( River landing stairs ) – You can’t stop yourself from sitting on the Ghats and watching bots and Maa Ganga.
- Boats – Boats in the Maa Ganga.
- Ganga Aatrti – The most mesmerizing event I’ve ever seen.
- Food – Kachodi, Paan & Lassi
Why did I choose Banaras?
I was planning to go to Rishikesh in the beginning. But then there are two reasons I chose Banaras:
1. I am on a mission to visit 12 Jyotirlinga. In Banaras, there is one of them. So I chose that. So now I’ve completed a total of 8 Jyotirlingas.
2. The Ganga Snan ( take a bath in the river Ganga ). Ganga Snan has a great religious and spiritual significance in the Hindu religion. There is a saying that Ganga Snan helps cleanse the mind, body, and soul, and relieves people from their bad karma and suffering. So I wanted to take a bath in Maa Ganga.
I started my journey by train from my hometown to Mumbai. And from Mumbai, I took a flight and reached Varanasi. The flight takes around 2 hours. Varanasi has good connectivity to many cities by Air and Road.
Trial By GOD
Well, the journey was not that much easy which I told just above. I reached Mumbai airport, did my security check-in and was waiting for my flight. It was 4 hrs waiting for me for my flight to board.
But suddenly I got an SMS that my flight got cancelled due to some technical issue.
I contacted them at the given number and they offered me a full refund OR another flight. But another flight they offered me for the next day. I was like “I want to go Banaras anyhow.” and then I agreed to have a next-day flight.
Then I stayed a night at a nearby hotel and went to the airport the next day. Then I reached Banaras.
So you know without Mahadev’s permission, we are not allowed to visit them 🙂
My Experience: Day-1
When I reached Varanasi, the first thing I did after getting off the plane was touch the Dharti of Varanasi and thanked Dhartimata “Thank you for allowing me to visit the place and bringing me safe here.”
Then I took the auto-rickshaw and reached my Hotel. BTW, I was travelling solo. I freshened up and then directly headed to Dashaswamegh Ghat.
It was already a time for Ganga Arti. When I reached at the Ghat, I was so surprised, a lot of people gathered at one place to attend Maa Ganga Arti. I am not able to explain how I felt there. I didn’t get a place to go close to the Poojaris who were performing. But I still stood at some place where I could see those Poojaris from afar.
Here is a glimpse of Ganga Arti:
I was so happy. Generally, I get angry by seeing this many people, but I don’t know why, I was not angry at all. I felt like just shout it out my happiness and tell the world how happy I was. I have never felt this kind of happiness before.
My words might seem filmy, but this is the truth guys.
I realized that people say “Banaras me sab dukh mit jate hai“. I really felt that. I completely forgot all my pain, suffering frustrations and all.
After having some bad events in my life last year, I was so depressed and I wanted to be myself again. And that thing already started happening when I attended Ganga Arti. And I was like “Is this for real? Is this really happening?“. I didn’t expect that to happen so fast.
Then I was a little confused that “Is that Maa Ganga OR Ganga Arti?” But I didn’t think a lot about that. I was just enjoying the moment because Maa Ganga was right in front of me and I couldn’t get away my eyes from her. It was evening and the atmosphere was very cold at that moment and Atrti was finished.
I ate a chat after that as I was so hungry. I didn’t realise that during the Arti, but as soon as it finished, I had to eat. So I bought a chat from a vendor on the Ghat. I sat on the stairs of the ghat and was eating chat and watching boats roaming in the River.
Suddenly I heard the voice of Boat sailors shouting about a Boat ride. I ran to him without any thought and sat in the Boat. The ride just started and I was like I am in the lap of Maa Ganga. What a feeling!! I am not good at expressing myself, so I don’t know how to explain this, but I was the happiest man I can say.
Here is a small footage of my Boat ride:
Once the ride was over, I headed to Kashi Vishwanath Temple ( the jyotirlinga ). I went to the temple by walking through the Ghats. Then I did Darshan of Mahadev. It took hardly 30 mins for the general queue. When I was in the queue, I was thinking of “I will wish this and that and all…” but when I came near to Shivlinga, I forgot everything. I just gave Bilipatra to Poojari standing in the temple, bowed down to the Shivlinga and came out of the queue.
Then I sat in the temple compound and thanked Lord Shiva for bringing me there and thus this was my 8th Jyotirlinga Dashan completed. I just sat there for an hour without any thought. I was just looking at the temple and people. My mind was completely empty, no thought nothing. Everything was just fantastic.
Then I went to explore the Ghat where death is celebrated. That is Manikarnika Ghat. It is next to Kashi Vishwanath Temple’s Ghat. All the Ghats in Banaras are connected. We can walk through all the Ghats.
A Ghat where death is celebrated
I was standing at the Manikarnika Ghat with other people. A lot of dead bodies lying on the Chitas. I was looking at those Chitas and suddenly a thought came to my mind that this is the truth of Life. A few minutes ago I was so happy, feeling good like nothing happened to me and then I was sad by seeing all the burning bodies. But the thing is people celebrate death over there. There is a saying that “Death in Kashi is the freedom for the soul, a release from the constant cycle of rebirth“. So human gets the Moksha if he/she dies in the Kashi and we should celebrate the Moksha.
Well, this is hard to understand, but yeah the truth is that the celebration of death is a real thing.
On the Manikarnika Ghat, Chitas burn 24×7. Every 5 min a dead body comes to the Ghat for the final rituals.
Now it was night and I also travelled a lot, so I was hungry and tired. So started walking from Manikarnika and looking for restaurants. I was walking through Gali ( Narrow Street) of Banaras and it was an amazing experience. When you walk through this Gali, you will actually realise that this city is very very old. You will see old houses, old construction and old Ghats.
I found a restaurant and had dinner and went to the Hotel and Slept. That’s Day-1.
Day – 2
In the morning, I got ready and went to Laxmi Chai Bhandar. I saw the YouTube video about their Chai and special White Makhkhan ( butter ) Bread. I walked to it and had a couple of tea and White Makhkhan Bread.
Now today was the day when I could explore Banaras from the morning to evening. So I started walking randomly into Galis. I wanted to reach any of the Ghats, so I took any Gali which’s direction goes to the Ghat( of course I checked the direction on Google Maps). Once I knew the direction, I just kept walking and walking through the Galis. And it was a very narrow Galis where we can only walk. It was very congested but I was enjoying. I was also shooting through my camera. I was making a walking tour( Soon that video will be available on YouTube ).
Here is a glimpse of Banaras Gali:
After a few minutes, I reached a Ghat. Don’t know which Ghat it was, but then I started searching for a place where I could do a Gangasnan. Yes, Gangasnan. I was so excited about doing that. By little walking, I found a place where some locals were having Gangasnan. How lucky they are!!! They can do it every day.
I took off my clothes and went into the River. The water was very cold but after 1st Dupki, everything was easy. I had 3 to 4 Dupkis. I wish I could swim, but unfortunately, I don’t know how to swim. But at the same time, I was feeling so lucky that I got the opportunity to take a Gangasnan. Being a Hindu, it was one of the Best moments for me.
After that, I just sat there for a few minutes just for nothing. I was quiet and watching Maa Ganga. It was like silent talking, just me and Maa Ganga. I forgot everything, every problem, everything I had, my home, everything. I don’t know what was that, but it was like, I am the only one on this earth and that’s it. That feeling, I can’t explain via any words. It was just an experience, maybe everyone has on the Ghat of Banaras.
The calmness of the Ghat in the morning, the voice of the Maa Ganga was giving me peace.
I could sit the whole day there. But then I realised that I have only 2 days there. So I just stood up and started walking towards the Namo Ghat.
Walk on the Ghats of Banaras
I started to walk towards the Namo Ghat. It is probably the last Ghat of Banaras at one end. I walked for an hour through all the Ghats. During the walk, I was looking at the Ghats and found that each Ghat has its own personality.
– Kashi Vishwanath Ghat shows how massive a Ghat can be
– Manikarnika Ghat shows how we are going to leave the earth.
I was observing the events happening on the Ghats, and I can say I saw everything from a child’s birth to a person’s death.
I saw a Child’s Mundan, a newly married couple taking Ashirwad from Maa Ganga, and people enjoying the Ghat as well as on the boat ride. Some were sad, some were happy, Some were giving something, someone thanking. Kids playing, people crying, people laughing. Dogs were there, cats were there, birds were there, people building their boats, and everything you could imagine during your life can be seen on the Ghats.
One thing I did notice was that people come to forget their pain and problems, to bring themselves back. Yes, this sounds crazy, but I also went to bring back myself. I had some events in the last couple of years, and because of that, I am a different person now. I wanted to be myself like I was 3-4 years ago.
When I was walking, I had some tears, it was like shouting out all my pain out of my body and mind. It was a very very weird feeling. I wouldn’t stop myself crying. Well, I have no shame in saying I cried. I do feel men can cry too.
While walking I was feeling hungry, then I saw “Badnaam Chaiwala”.
And as a Chai Lover, I had to drink that tea. At that restaurant, songs from the 90s were playing, so that brought me to my childhood.
Enjoy the music:
Something Interesting Happened
So once I bought my Chai, I was looking for a seat, but almost all seats were occupied. There was one seat empty where a group of boys were sitting and I wanted to enjoy the tea by sitting. I asked them “Can I sit here?” and the boys were so welcoming, they said like “Ye Banaras hai bhai!!! Sab dost hai idhar. Aap bina puchhe baitho. Koi issue nahi.” ( This is Banaras brother. We all are friends. You don’t need to ask. )
Well, this kind of welcoming nature impressed me. They started talking with me like where are you from, when did you arrive and some basic info. One of the boys asked
He: Aap akele aye ho? ( Are you alone? )
Me: Haa ( Yes )
He: Yaha koi akela nahi hota. Bholenath naath hota hai sab k saath. ( No one is alone here. Lord Shiva is there with all of us )
Me: Ha ye to sahi bat hai. ( Yes, that is true )
We had some talks about Banaras during our Chai. It was a typical Indian Chay pe Charcha.
During that Charcha, we discussed visiting the Kaal Bhairava Temple. It is a must-have thing to do in Banaras. It is saying that without their permission, you can leave Banaras.
Visit to Kaal Bhairava Temple
After the chai finished, I walked to the Kaal Bhairava temple. I walked a lot on this trip. It was a long queue there. Another special thing happened there.
I was in the queue, and there was a huge crowd and did not want to take off my footwear at public place. So I was thinking of putting that in some shop, but I was hesitating to do that as I don’t want to purchase anything for the temple. Generally, that shopkeeper keeps our footwear if we purchase anything from them.
One boy sitting at the shop asked me to take off my footwear to his shop. I said, “I am not buying anything“. He said no issue, just keep it. Such a gentle gesture it was. I put it there, had my Darshan and came back to his shop.
I offered some money for his honesty, but that boy was way more honest than I thought. He didn’t take money. He said I won’t take money for nothing. I insisted him to take it, but he rejected my all offers. I was very delighted by that. I thanked him and prayed about him. ( May God bless that boy )
Then I went to Ghat again. Yes, I can’t get away from the Ghats. It was evening and boat people were shouting Assi Ghat. I didn’t have a plan to go there, but I took that as a Maa Ganga ka Bulava ( an Invitation from Maa Ganga ). I took the boat and reached the Assi Ghat. It was a time for Ganga Arti. I visited one Arti at Dashashwamegh Ghat and now I am witnessing the same on the Assi Ghat. As I was a little early, I had the privilege to watch the Arti from close.
A glimpse of Arti:
After Arti, I took the boat again and went to Dashswamegh Ghat, had dinner and went back to the hotel.
That was Day-2.
On day 3 again in the morning, first I went to the same Chaiwala had a couple of tea and bread and took a boat to Namo Ghat. I could walk OR rickshaw, but how can I miss a chance to have a Boat ride in Maa Ganga!! So I preferred a boat ride and reached Namo Ghat. From there I took a rickshaw now for Sarnath.
There, I visited the Sarnath Museum. It is the place where Lord Buddha gave his first Bodh ( lesson ). It is a very important place for Buddhist People. I saw very old monasteries there. I walked through the whole museum. It has a place where you will see a Deer park as well.
There is a very huge Stupa there.
I was there for about an hour only and then I went back to Namo Ghat again. Something was calling me back to the Ghats. I couldn’t spend more time in Sarnath. It was almost evening now. I reached at a Kashivishwanath and sat for a couple of hours just for nothing. I was just looking at the people and having tea.
Then it was time for Ganga Arti. As it was my last day at Banaras for me. The next day morning, I was leaving. After Arti, I did some small shopping for my home as a memory of Banaras. Then I had dinner and went to the Hotel.
The next day morning, I took a leave from Banaras and reached home at Night.
That’s all for Banaras.
What is the feeling after visiting Banaras?
Now I am back to my home and started my regular life, but things are different now. I am at home, but something of mine is there at Banaras. Maybe this was my first visit, that is why. I don’t know.
But now I am at home, there is a thought roaming in my mind that I should go there whenever I get a chance OR at least once a year. Why? I don’t know. I feel peace there, even if it is crowded. I am feeling so refreshed. I am like why didn’t I do that before? Life could have been different.
These thoughts you might not be able to understand and I can’t do about that. But I know some people will relate to this and they will understand it.
There are a lot of things I can share, but that will be a very very long writing, but in case you want to talk, you can reach out to me at: