Varanasi Voyages

Before leaving for Varanasi, we went on another field trip in Delhi, to see the ruins at the archeological park in Mehrauli. Our balcony at the guest house in Varanasi looked right out on the river Ganges. We spent the first night watching the sun set from our roof before venturing out to the river, where we wandered past the ghats and saw the nightly cremation rituals. The city was much more relaxed (and cleaner) than Delhi. Our morning boat ride took us past many of the same ghats we saw the night before, while watching the sun rise on the other side of the river. Although it was early, our morning ride was by far my favorite experience in Varanasi. We were taken by our guides up and down the river, past countless pilgrims who had come to bathe in the Ganges. Our guesthouse was also perfectly situated, next to the ghats but also close to the Monkey Temple, which we also visited. Despite the city's abundance of tourists, it was a peaceful and welcoming place. At Sarnath, according to mythology, Gautam Buddha first taught the Dharma which is considered Law for Buddhists. We stumbled upon other Buddhist shrines and statues at Sarnath as well.

Considered to be one of the oldest still-inhabited cities in the world, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is also the home to sacred sites in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. The Ganges river, despite its reputation as one of the dirtiest, is supposed to bring healing and salvation in Hindu mythology. We walked up and down its banks, passing by various cremation sites or “ghats.” We also mastered the art of squeezing eight people into one auto-rickshaw, a concept which most drivers would scoff at before we whipped out our Hindi skills by saying “Dekhiye!” (“Please watch!”) and proceeded to clamber in on top of one another until we were all inside. It was a city of adventures, one that I’ll never forget.