Although I am loath to go on media and organised FAM trips; a word of advice from a well wisher made me say yes to the invite from Uttar Pradesh Tourism Board. I like exploring places in my own carefree style and have realised that the whirlwind operations of cramming in and ticking off places from a list is not what I am keen on doing.
It turned out to be a great decision. Among the three cities on offer, I opted for Varanasi and chose to spend more time on my own after the UP Tourism Travel Writers’ Conclave was over.
This way I could live by the ghats and experience Varanasi as it is meant to be experienced, for they say life in Kāshi has existed like this for over 2500 years.
Death in Kāshi is not a feared death. Death in Kāshi is death known and faced, transformed and transcended. ~ Banaras by Diana L. Eck.
Varanasi seems so devoid of space that people transact business in the smallest possible spaces. On the left is a paan wallah and on the right is a general store on wheels!
People go to various places in the world to live it up, but they come to Varanasi to die.
Varanasi resides in its narrow lanes and the ghats. Conversations and opinions flow freely in the chai addas and before you realise it ‘Your soul already has found home in Banaras.‘
The Mughals ran through Varanasi and destroyed the entire city. Although few buildings in Banaras are more than 200 years old, the city itself appears timeless.
Siesta time in Banaras. People will be seen lying down on every little space that they can find, someone will peruse you with a dreamy eye and will still try to tell you something. It seems to be an eternally poor city, and yet the heart is rich in Kāshi.
Aurangzeb destroyed the temples and erected Mosques on the same foundations, thus Hindus and Muslims co-exist side by side in Varanasi.
In the second photograph : You are never too far away from a Bombay Bhel Puri.
I was invited to Varanasi by Uttar Pradesh Tourism in Association with Lonely Planet Magazine India. Views as always are my own.