Kashi- a sacred city that evokes spirituality
“Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”- Mark Twain
A magnificent place having the essence of spirituality and devotion that get etched in my heart for a lifetime. The city inhabited on the banks of the holy river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, popularly known as the ‘spiritual capital of India’.
Varanasi, also known as Benaras or Kashi has a rich and vibrant history which makes this place more interesting to explore. It is assumed that Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the globe to exist. The city is among the holiest of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism and Buddhism.
The city of Shiva
Varanasi derived its name from Kashi which means brightness, therefore it is also known as the ‘city of lights’. According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that the city was founded by Shiva himself. Besides, Aryans were the first who settled near the Ganges and made this city their religious and commercial capital.
Let’s dip into the religious journey
The sense of devotion wraps me as soon as my train reached the station. The city has an incredible spiritual aura which will evoke one’s inner peace. To visit the Ganga ghat before the sun rises, I took the hotel nearer to the ghat. The narrow roads, multiple temples and saints all around were already adding fuel to my excitement.
Having my breakfast along with very famous kulhad (earthen pot) tea I relaxed for a while. But the hotel owner didn’t inform me that I was also supposed to entertain the uninvited guests in the room. Yes, Varanasi is even famous for notorious monkeys. A monkey peeked from my window, jumping all around and I laugh my head off. He sat on my window till the time I offered some bananas, and now was the time to hop in the city to explore.
City of Temples
It’s more interesting when you visit any place and adopt what locals are doing at maximum, instead of going for the luxurious options. So through e- rickshaw, I reached the very famous Benaras Hindu University to behold the beauty of Birla Temple.
The temple popularly known as Shri Vishwanath mandir or New Vishwanath temple is famous for its commendable architecture and the serene beauty. With 77 m height, standing tall and completely made up of marble, will take your breath away. The wall having complete prose of Geeta inscribed on it is something wonderful to watch!
The dark maroon colour glorifying Goddess Durga is another top attraction. The Durga Temple or Durga Kund mandir was my next destination. Built from red stones and kund nearby, one can’t afford to take their eyes off. The temple witnesses a huge amount of devotees during the time of Durga Puja and it is believed that Goddess Durga protects Varanasi from any kind of problems.
My next stop was Sankat Mochan Temple dedicated to Hanuman, as the name suggests this temple ‘relieves from the troubles’. The temple depicts the selfless love of Hanuman who is an embodiment of true devotee of God Ram. Since it’s a temple of Hanuman you will be amazed to see the hundreds of monkeys running and hopping around the temple, which is fun to observe.
After visiting these temples now was the time to visit the place for which I was most thrilled about, yes the evening Ganga Aarti. For that, I went to Dashashwamedh Ghat, one of the main ghats in Varanasi having a spectacular view. It is believed to be the oldest ghats, made by Brahma himself to welcome Lord Shiva, according to Hindu mythology.
If you visit Varanasi and didn’t see this evening prayer then you missed the real essence. Dark all around, the chanting of mantras and the river Ganga reflecting the lights of aarti, this experience is truly incomparable. The grandiose Ganga aarti will make you relax and at the same time rejuvenate positive energy in you. The place was full of tourist and everyone was busy enjoying the incredible beautiful evening prayer. You can sit here for hours watching this captivating prayer!
Next morning I wake before the sun touched the horizon to take a dip in the holiest Ganga River. Since it was September, so it was raining slowly. The dark alleys, drizzling raindrops, I moved towards the Manikarnika Ghat. The ghat is commonly known as ‘burning ghat’ as here the dead bodies are brought and cremated from all around the country. Where death is celebrated at the macabre, presuming it as a gateway of heaven.
Here, death also has an end, as it is assumed burning dead bodies can give Moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth). With few dead bodies burning around, few ready to burn and log of woods were a common thing. Yes, here even death has its unique significance.
The roaring- over flooded Ganga with ghats fully immersed in water and dribbling raindrops making the scene spectacular yet horrifying. A holy dip in gushing cold water of river Ganga, away from the bustle and traffic of the city offered peace and serenity to my soul.
After this holy bath, wandering through the alley I reached one of the ancient temples of Lord Shiva, Kal Bhairav Temple. People believe in taking blessings from this God, if they visit in the city, which protects them from premature death and sadness. The ferocious God with a garland of human skulls is identified as the most aggressive form of Lord Shiva and even death is scared of this form.
I was bewildered to see the mammoth temple, people all around offering flowers despite early morning. The priests who were sitting with a fan of peacock feather waded off our sins. Taking the blessings and leaving my sins I ended the journey of Kashi.
Varanasi is truly a city of colour, devotion and eternal peace. A place where every nook and cranny is weaved with spirituality with an essence of tranquillity. This city has a blend of the noisy crowd yet you will unleash the overwhelming experience. Where you will see God being worshipped and dead bodies being burned.