How and why does one small patch of river and land spanning a mere few hundred metres become the holiest site in all of the country? The answer—faith. What else can explain the millions of Hindus from across the country who make the coveted pilgrimage to the brown placid waters of the River Ganges washing 2,100-year-old steps in a pilgrimage town nestled in the plains of Uttarakhand. Day and night. Hail or rain. Year after year. For thousands of years. Continue reading →
No, I did not fall in love with Varanasi at first sight as I had been led to believe would happen by the countless travel glossies and blogs I’d read which eulogised its charms. In fact, I hated it at first sight.
It was crowded, dirty, and noisy. Touts pulled me in desperate attempts in all directions to try and sell me boat rides and Banarasi sarees. Rickshaw drivers were ready to rip me off for a 10-minute canter. The sweetmeat shops had “unsanitary” written all over it in CAPS.
I was booked for three days in Varanasi—the land between the Varuna and Assi tributaries which join the River Ganga, or Ganges in English nomenclature, to form the north and south borders of the city. Its name was corrupted to Benaras during the British Raj.
My heart dreaded the stay as soon as I entered the precincts, pleading: “Let’s just cut the trip short and go back to the serenity and comfort of home.” A small voice in me whispered: “No. Varanasi does not happen every day. Live through it.” Continue reading →