October 12, 2020

Kashi : A City Older Than History Itself…

Image courtesy : Quora

Special travelogue By ISHITA Tripathi 

Witness divinity in its truest forms

The city known as the capital of Hindu culture Kashi is the epitome of the most exquisite form of Indianness. People visit Kashi to discover the truth within their mortal bodies. The truth that keeps the world moving- with, or without us. The truth that has survived thousands of years and still stands with utmost magnificence. The holy city was called Benares during the British times.

You can visit Varanasi by road, rail or air. International flights are not available though. People from nearby cities like Delhi, Lucknow, Allahabad, or Kanpur prefer either the rail or road routes. But people visiting from Southern Indian cities like Hyderabad or Chennai can opt for a flight.

Where death is celebrated in the form of Nirvana- the end of all desires 

Image courtesy : Quora

Why people find solace in Kashi? This is the question that attracts people to this city from literally every nook and corner of the world. Rarely would you find people crying on the death of their near and dear ones. As the popular faith says, the people who die in Kashi, attain Moksha. 

Moksha or Nirvana, is the freedom from all delusions. Breaking out of the cycle of birth and death, is Nirvana. It is the state where mortals, who are an absolute zero, integrate with the infinite universe or Shiva. People come here and delve into the intoxication of nothingness- the first step to Shaivism.

Lose yourself into the narrow lanes, discover peace on the ghats and in temples

Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest cities. It has existed for ages and still continues to flourish. People believe that the city is blessed for immortality by Mahadev himself. The city has survived over civilizations, as it’s narrow by lanes testify. 

Image Courtesy : Google

The by lanes of Kashi speak tonnes of facts. The facts that speak of its age. The facts that have wraps of stories and folklore. You must visit the by lanes of Kashi and discover flourishing culture within the narrow pathways. Adding to the grandeur, ghats stand in full majesty. Some popular ghats of Kashi in close affinity with each other are-

  1. Assi Ghat
  2. Dashashwamedh Ghat
  3. Manikarnika Ghat
  4. Tulsi Ghat
  5. Harishchandra Ghat
  6. AhilyaBai Ghat
  7. Munshi Ghat
  8. Chet Singh Ghat

You can easily visit these with the help of Google maps, or a local tour guide. Optimum time to visit all these ghats is between one and two days, but few of them will call you back again, believe me. 

Further talking about religious sites, Kashi is popularly called the city of temples and ghats. Temples are the most sort out feature of the city after ghats. But few of them are more relevant-

  1. Kashi Vishwanath Temple
  2. Durgakund Temple
  3. BHU VT
  4. Tulsi Manas and Kal Bhairav Temples
  5. ISKCON and Birla Temples
  6. Tridev and Bharat Mata Temples
  7. Vishalakshi Shaktipeeth
  8. Shitala Mata Temple

Ideally, all the temples can be covered up in one day. But if you love to delve in the time and locations and take memories for life, the more time, the better would be my advice.

A maze with folds of history

Kashi is historically known as the birthplace of Maharani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi. Also, the city has played an active role in the Independence movement. Several important freedom fighters have resided in this ancient city. 

Image Courtesy : BHU

Chunar fort and Ramnagar fort are two very important historical sites to visit while you visit Kashi. The Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum is one such location that holds several artefacts of high historical value. Furthermore, the grand campus of Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya or BHU is historical in itself. It was established under the pious guidance of Shree Madan Mohan Malviya. The serenity of BHU campus makes it a must visit place. You can easily cover all the four locations in one day, with or without the guidance of a local tour guide.

One must buy fabric on your next Kashi visit is the Banarasi Handloom Silk. Sarees are an evergreen love among ladies. And when it comes to Banarasi Silk Sarees, women of all ages love them.

The city of mystics- The Naga

Nagas and Varanasi go hand in hand. They live there in huge numbers. These mystics have some very awkwardly interesting lifestyles. These sadhus or ascetics themselves complete their post death rituals like Dashmi, Terahvi and Pind Daan before joining the clan. 

Afterwards, they are no more related to any of their near and dear ones. The only motive for life becomes, Jap-Tap (Penance) and Dharma raksha (or the vow to protect the Hindu culture). They follow the Aghor tantric cult of worship. You can also read more about the Aghor cult in the Aghor library of Varanasi.

Cradle for several sweet tracks of Bollywood- Inspiration for Hindi Cinema

Some very memorable songs and movies have been shot in Varanasi. Ranging from Art to commercial, Kashi has offered a lot to the Hindi movie industry of Bollywood. 

Pic courtesy : Colour Yellow Productions

Art films like Masaan, Mohalla Assi, Mukti Bhawan, and Banaras come from the pious city of Varanasi. Commercial films like Laga Chunri Me Daag, Issaq, and Raanjhana were shot in Kashi. Adding to the feathers, foreign film makers have shot their movies in this city, “Water”, by Canadian film maker Deepa Mehta is one such example.

Next time you sing “tu ban ja gali Banaras ki…” to yourself or your beloved, remember it is a Kashi produce. 

Ideally, between three and five days are enough to visit and know Kashi. But to understand Kashi, human age is less. So, I would leave it up to you to decide how much time you want to spend in Kashi, the city of birth and death, love and war. ADIOS!

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