Temple bells, laughing waters, sacred rituals, and colourful pilgrims are just some of the features of this oldest holy city of India – Varanasi. That’s why a weekend trip from Mumbai to Varanasi was irresistible and I had to tick it off my bucket list.
Day 1: I reached in the afternoon and took the help of the travel desk at the hotel I stayed at – Rivatas by Ideal – and they immediately drew up my itinerary. The same day I took a boat ride along the ghats (which cost around Rs 2500-3000, although you should bargain and there are cheaper options as well in smaller boats than the one I took), and saw the sun go down behind the ghats from the river – a view to behold and capture in your memory as well as your cameras. Then we attended the evening Aarti of Dasaswamedh ghat, where (despite corona fears) multitudes had gathered to partake the beautiful ritual.
Day 2: Early morning, I took darshan at various temples, including the famous Kashi Vishwanath and Sankat Mochan. Had delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel I stayed at. By afternoon, we went to Sarnath, the holy pilgrim site for Budhhists across the world, where we saw Ashokan pillars and Dhamekh stupa, deer and bird park, and Sri Lankan temple and the spot where Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. We had lunch at Hotel Pinnacle Gate – the lunch was delicious and reasonably priced. We shopped for some Tibetan tidbits like a bag and I picked up a cotton saree at a shop run by a co-operative society for the betterment of villagers nearby. Then we returned to Varanasi and in time to attend the evening Aarti at Dasaswamedh Ghat to round off a mesmerising day.
Day 3: We headed to Vindhyvasani Devi temple en route to Prayag, where I took a dip in the holy waters of triveni sangam and offered a ritualistic pooja there. I saw a bit of Allahabad after that – including the Anand Bhavan – the residence of the Nehru family from yore – visited a Hanuman temple along the ghats and returned to Varanasi by evening (it’s around 3 hours by road).
Day 4: Attended this program called Subah Benaras on the ghats, visited the Benaras Hindu University campus, Birla Mandir and Sankat Mochan Mandir, before packing my bags and heading to the airport.
If you want to buy Benarasi saree, make sure to look out for a wholesaler who would give you the sarees at discounted rates.
I had a lovely short stay at Benaras, which makes me want to head back there at the first given opportunity. Kashi is the India of your dreams and imagination, the India which is standing still in time, holding on to its past, giving the country a beautiful present and securing its future.
Picture courtesy: Arunima Hoskote