Varanasi – a surreal experience – podcast and blog

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podcast Varanasi – mystical city on the Ganges

Varanasi, India is a city like no other in the world.

In fact, our time there seems like a bit of a dream now because it was so surreal, so unbelievable.

Just imagine taking a boat ride down the Ganges while people are cremated along its shores, pilgrims (who may have waited their whole lives to do so) bathe in its holy waters, laundry men beat white sheets against the rocks, hundreds line up on mats to practice yoga in such a sacred place, and the sun rises over the horizon to shine the first morning light on the whole misty scene.

buying candles at sunrise from a young boy

At night it is even more mystical!  Countless candles float on the surface, send adrift by people making wishes backed by the power of one of the most famous rivers in the world as rows and rows of boats line up under the moonlight to witness the religious festivals taking place at the famous Ghats along the river.  Mark Twain had it right when he said that Varanasi, ” is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

wishing upon a candle and setting it afloat on the Ganges

Varanasi is considered the most holy city on earth by the Hindus.  Buddhists also travel long distances to visit Sarnath, where Buddha conducted his first teachings.  Those who follow Jainism have their fair share of sacred places in Varanasi as well, including the Monkey Temple.

Speaking of monkeys, you will see and hear them scampering loudly over the tin roofs that cover a myriad of local shops in the maze of narrow alleyways that lead up to the Ganges.  We took the time to visit some young puppies there, and wished we could take them home with us.  Imagine raising a puppy who was born in such an amazing, surreal place!  Most of the locals thought we were crazy, as dogs are generally not treated a pets in India, but we hoped by loving them in front of the small children, some of our actions would rub off on the kids, who might watch out for the pups a bit.

We also enjoyed hanging out with some local university students, who were relieving the stress of exams by dumping banana shakes over each other's heads.  We preferred to drink the shakes instead, which were delicious and served at a local stall where they disappeared as fast as they could be made!  Banaras Hindu University is one of the top three largest residential universities in the world, and worth a visit to get a taste of the local college scene.

Want to learn more? Listen to our podcast to hear more about this magical, ancient city.

podcast Varanasi – mystical city on the Ganges

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Posted on: March 22, 2011 | Categories: Blog, Fun Facts - Cultures and Countries, India, Podcasts, Traditions


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