Varanasi is a mystical city in northern India’s state of Uttar Pradesh and is commonly known as India’s “City of Light”. Arguably one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world, Varanasi has maintained a reputation as a cultural center of education and knowledge for more than 3,000 years. For centuries, it has also been a pilgrimage destination for members of the Hindu faith. Varanasi, also known as Banares, is one of a small handful of holy cities related to the Hindu religion. While India has formally designated 22 official languages, in Varanasi, Hindi, Sanskrit, and English are widely spoken. Varanasi is known for producing legendary silk creations and is home to the prestigious Banares Hindu University. Pilgrims arriving in Varanasi on a spiritual voyage may come and bathe in one of the city’s ceremonial ghats.
Varanasi has roughly 90 ghats to accommodate residents and visitors. Ghats are steps located along the banks of the river leading down into the water. The River Ganges is considered to be holy and thus very attractive to pilgrims seeking spiritual clarity and revelation. The river’s sacred properties are also attractive for those looking to perform funeral ceremonies and rituals.
It is believed that releasing a loved one’s ashes into the Ganges River allows the deceased a direct pathway to heaven without the intermediate steps of reincarnation. This respite from reincarnation is known as “moksha”. The journey of spiritual clarity is further illustrated in the city by the many temples that line the streets as well as those located close to the Ganges River. Kashi Vishwanath, dedicated to the Lord Shiva, is one of the most famous temples in Varanasi and is definitely worth a visit.
Varanasi is a colorful city with a profound and fascinating spiritual center. For those who would like to be in tune with the mysticism sought by locals and pilgrims, Varanasi will be an unforgettable experience.