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Ganges View

Colors of the Ganges
Varanasi is a city of beautiful chaos. Located on the banks of the Ganges River, it's one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and also one of the holiest. The river is the pulse of the city and it's worth setting your alarm so that you can be on the water for sunrise. Locals descend the ghats (the stairs leading down to the banks of the river) to bathe, pilgrims perform Hindu ceremonies, and women wash their laundry then hang it along the stairs to dry. Even more fascinating are the burning ghats that send plumes of smoke and flames into the air as they cremate the bodies of the dead.

Anyone visiting Varanasi must read Geoff Dyer's book "Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi." It perfectly captures the spirit of the city.

Sun Up on the Ganges
These early risers caught a spectacular sunrise on the River Ganges. Most locals and visitors journey to the river's edge in the dark, then board rickety wooden boats. The locals commute to work along the water. The tourists hit the water for the best views of Varanasi life along the ghats. Once the sun comes up, wander the streets in town and buy a lassi or cup of chai.

The Golden Hour
For those who have been to India, Varanasi was surely on your destinations list. For travelers planning to go in the future the case should be the same. The stories you will read and hear about Varanasi are all true: monkeys, cows, rivers, ghats, alleys, crowds, smells, corpses, cremations, touts, every bit of it. As the noted birthplace of the Hindu deity Shiva, this city on the water has been seen in Hindu texts for thousands of years. Thus, “the luminous one” is a propitious place for Hindus in India and throughout the world to come and rinse their sins off in the Ganges. It is also believed that dying and being cremated in Varanasi confirms the freedom of an individual’s soul from its cycle of wandering.

Varanasi, India

Puja Ceremony on the Ganges River at Night, Followed by a Sunrise Boat Ride on Mother Ganga

A beautiful daily ceremony right on the banks of the Ganges River.  Brahmin perform several rituals that are mesmerizing with the combination of music, bells, and drums.  Hundreds of worshipers came to witness the ceremony, several of whom openly welcomed us to participate.  It was probably the most spiritual experience of my life.  The following morning we returned to the river and went for a boat ride on the Ganges River in front of most of the major Ghats.  The pre-morning trip was so calming in contrast with the excitement of the night before.  Seeing people meditate on the Ghat steps along our trip was a reminder on how peaceful this moment was.  If you're visiting India - I highly encourage experiencing this for yourself!

Rituals: Pilgrims on Ganges
Women being rowed across the sacred Ganges River in Varanasi, India - on route to morning prayers.

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