It was during those wee hours of the day when I stepped out of my hostel in BHU (Banaras Hindu University) with those cold winter breezes blowing gently over my face that carried along with them the mesmerizing ‘raatrani’ fragrance rendering the entire surroundings blissful and aromatic.
Here are some of the best highlights of why Varanasi was such an enchanting experience for me:
1. Winter morning Kulhad Tea
I was out on my favorite ‘Subah-e-Banaras’ tour in my favorite December dawn. The tour started off with those irresistible ‘Kulhad Tea’ sips under the beautiful canopy of that obscuring fog that blended with the lovely silver light of the tall street lamps twinkling high enough right at the centre of the crossing. This was just a perfect kick-off to explore the perpetual mysticism of this holy city, the one and only Banaras!
2. The Ghats of Varanasi
I first arrived at the famous Assi Ghat. It was such a serene experience to be there at that lively stretch of the divine Ganges river flowing smoothly and calmly by that endless curve of consecutively attached Ghats. As the tour continued, I just kept walking with my hands deep inside my pockets and my mind drenched completely in the bliss and divinity of that entire set up.
The ancient constructions and the historical monuments stretching throughout the ghats made up of rocks and stones have their own special stories to tell. The likes of Scindia Ghat, Maan Singh Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat are all special and divine in their own historical ways.
Tulsi Ghat is the one where Goswami Tulsidas, the most revered disciple of Hanuman is believed to have written a major portion of the holy Ramcharitmanas. Likewise, Manikarnika Ghat is where the cremation of dead bodies is done rendering ‘Moksha’ to the souls.
3. A memorable sunrise at the Ghats
By the time I reached Rajghat, the most awaited and eye soothing sunrise was already on its way to transcend the beauty of the entire place to another level. The saffron sun rays had started descending over the surface of the Ganges water very quietly which is always a delight to watch. The saffron ripples stretched all the way from the opposite shore. The rays of light gradually ascended to cover the entire set up, painting every single echelons of the ghat into saffron and pale. It was one of the most heart warming experiences I have ever had.
4. Historical Hindu temples and monuments
Thereafter, I moved on to offer my morning prayer to Baba Vishwanath in the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple at Gyanvapi. It’s one of the most famous and ancient Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas.
Later on, I paid a visit to the famous Kaal Bhairav Mandir in the vicinity followed by the ancient Maan Singh Haveli, Sankat Mochan Mandir, Tulsi Manas Mandir, Durga Temple at Durgakund. Quite interestingly, contrary to the common convention of temples being contained within houses, this city is believed to contain houses within temples.
5. A Foodie’s paradise
Before I stretched my journey further, the irresistible smell of the famous ‘kachori-jalebi’ of Banaras which had by then started being prepared and sold on the lovely streets, was already floating in the air. I gave in to my temptation to quench my taste buds. Some of the most famous ‘Banarasi street food items’ which comprises of Dahi-Lassi, Mishrambu, Banarasi Paan, Kashi Chat and many such more famous pieces of foods which can never be ignored once visiting this city full of joy and spirit.
Such is the magic and charm of this very place. Varanasi has a peculiar lifestyle and carelessness in its air which portrays a mystic way of life surrendering one’s entire being and selfishness to the supreme power. Only here I feel I could understand and live the real essence of human existence and spiritual climax. It accords you the most unselfish and everlasting acceptance and brings you the closest to feel the divine power of the cosmos. Come, feel the bliss because ‘ye hai Banaras meri jaan’