I’d never really faced death so closely until we arrived in Varanasi. This enchanting, unforgetble place is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Built along the holy river Ganges, it's here that the beginnings and endings of life are woven together to create something truly extraordinary.
Many Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi offers Moshka – freedom from the cycle of birth and death in order to reach nirvana. Thousands of pilgrims travel here every day to prepare themselves for death. People bathe in the Ganges, drink from it to cleanse their sins and offer their cremated loved ones to the holy water. It's no doubt that this can be an overwhelming place - the demanding heat, burning corpses and endless hassle can leave you feeling both physically/emotionally tired. But we promise It's more than worth it to persevere!
Strolling along the Ghats is a fascinating, almost twisted-dream for anyone who loves to people watch. From children’s swimming lessons in the river to groups of mourning families and wandering sadhus –it’s incredible to witness a place bursting with so much life and death in one single moment.
And so, Varanasi instills such an indescribable feeling in so many of its visitors. To see these intimate acts of religion displayed so publically is so contrasting to our own private culture. But intensity aside, it’s hard not to be astounded by this crazy, magical city that celebrates both life and death in such a unique way.
Although strolling along the Ghats and through the ever-winding alleys is a great way to see the city, a sunrise/sunset boat ride is the most popular way to see the streams of life that run through the Ganges. We joined a sunset boat ride which slowly rode us along the Ghats, ending with a perfect view of the famous evening ceremony.
As hundreds of people sung from the Ghats, the golden fires reflecting upon the water and clouds of smoke filling the air, this definitely felt like one of the most surreal experiences of our lives so far. We didn't even take any photos as we were so consumed by the whole moment – either way I’m not sure they could do it justice!
No surprises - we also found some delicious food in Varanasi, including (probably) the best Lassis in the world from ‘Blue Lassi Shop’. For those new to Lassi, this is a tasty Indian drink made with fresh yoghurt, water and often fruits and spices.
Blue Lassi Shop is no secret to Varanasi, in fact it’s got a pretty legendary reputation as being one of the oldest joints in the city to churn out incredible Lassis. Served in rustic clay pots with mounds of delicate toppings and a spoon – each Lassi is incredibly thick, creamy and so tasty. Definitely the best Lassi we had in the whole of India. There’s a huge amount of flavour options – we tried quite a few, but our favourite was this perfect mango and coconut one.
Blue Lassi is also famous amongst travellers for its strong Bhang Lassis. Drink one of these before a river boatride, and you're guaranteed to have a crazy, dazzling trip of a lifetime.
We also found some delicious dosas hidden away amongst the faded alleyways. Dosa is a thin, crispy pancake made from fermented rice. This one was stuffed with cashews and vegetables, served up with spicy samba and dreamy coconut chutney!
So happily tired and with our bellies satisfied, we left the wonder of Varanasi to head onwards to Agra. So for anyone planning a trip to India, make sure this city is on your list. This true experience of the senses is something you won’t forget for a very long time….