THE CITY OF SHIVA, THE CITY OF GHATS, THE CITY OF COLOUR— VARANASI IS A PHOTOGRAPHER’S DREAM, A HOLYMAN’S ABODE AND A TRAVELLER’S PARADISE.
We travel to Varanasi and revisit the beauty of the city
The historic city of Varanasi played host to a beautiful cultural festival last month. In its first edition, Banaras Utsav got people from across the country to visit the holy ghats, savour its local delicacies, shop for gorgeous Banarasi sarees, walk through the dusty bylanes of the city and of course participate in some thought provoking group discussions. In our little excursion to the city, Simply Delhi brings you what to or not to do when in you’re in the land of Shiva.
Though there are a number of budget and luxury hotels to chose from, we suggest you stay at Hotel Ganges View situated on the banks of Assi Ghat. Aesthetically done, this heritage property is one of the calmest places to be at in this busy, bustling and chaotic city.
Assi Ghat is one of the lesser commercialised ghats, so rest assured, you can walk around in peace. Sit by the temple steps—yes, there are a number of temples as you walk along the coast of this or any ghat in the city. Sip a hot cuppa served in earthen mugs from the local tea kiosk—it just adds to the rustic charm. But if you are spoilt for taste and miss your milkshakes and smoothies, then look for a sign board that reads Pizzeria Vatika. Claimed to be started by a French man many years ago but now run by locals, this café is the coolest thing to have happened to this city! Pastas, wood fire oven pizzas, smoothies and the much talked about apple pie, which is often carried back home with those who refrain from indulging in the mithai here, are the must-trys.
When in Varanasi, a boat ride on the ghats is a must, and there is no better time to do it than sunrise, so plan your day in advance. Ideally it would be best to get onto a traditional hand rowed boat at Dashashwamedh Ghat. Your boatman will make sure you listen to his fables and myths as you pass by a number of ghats, remain patient because it is entertaining. As you go deeper into the river, it gets calmer and everything comes to a stanstill.
Breakfast should be at one of the local kachodi aloo stalls, add in some jalebi and tea, and you’re in for a treat, which will cost you no more that Rs 20 per person. When in Banaras you ought to shop for sarees and silk. However, don’t be fooled. Try to visit the factories and avoid the retail outlets, but in case you can’t do bargain!
End your day by attending the serene Ganga arti, and watch the city come to rest after a long day.