Some experiences are unforgettable and they leave impressions of a lifetime. Varanasi will forever remain one of those experiences for me. The quote, “Travel-it leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller” is applicable for Varanasi. The holy city in my eyes creates moments; captures our feelings, emotions, vulnerability, and awe in ways more than one. It creates mini-stories which when strung together become a wealth of experiences and there’s no better way to enjoy them, other than roaming through the winding lanes of Varanasi. I have always considered storytelling to be the most important aspect of travel writing and Varanasi does full justice to it. The city is an all sensory explosion of visual delights and disgusts and has a polarizing effect on its visitors. Most hate it, yet nobody can deny the sheer magnetic power Varanasi has over its travelers. It is a charm that is palpable from the first moment, grows stronger by the hour, and overpowers you in such a way that you cannot help but walk around dung splattered lanes with your eyes wide open.

a man walks past dyed clothes in Varanasi

Varanasi is made up of colourful moments like this

Varanasi: where life and death become one

Sure, the open sewer repels you, the string of persistent beggars get on your nerves, and your senses balk at the sight of burning human corpses. You nearly gag at the smell of torched flesh, yet cannot peel your eyes away from the burning pyres. A deep realization hits you as people nonchalantly march past you carrying the dead on their shoulders and you slowly begin to understand that this city has truly captured the essence of life or shall I say death because, in Varanasi, they somehow become one. As I mentioned before, Varanasi is a place like no other. In no other city, does peace co-habit so serenely with death and no morbid institution gives you a sense of completeness as Varanasi does. That is why, expertise in storytelling is of utmost importance for anybody who is attempting to write a travelogue about Varanasi, because otherwise how can you describe one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities in words and not feel inadequate? Varanasi is an impossible-to-explain emotion, an intense love-hate relationship, and nearly everybody who has visited it has their own slices or stories of the outrageously colourful “City of Life”, Kashi.

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A view of the Varanasi ghats

The city pulsating with life

Arti at Varanasi ghat

The ultimate place to die.

Varanasi is all about stories and moments

Needless to say, I too have a bundle of stories and impressions about this incredible place. My Varanasi is all about hidden niches and exquisite falling light. Despite being deeply non-religious, I found divinity there at every twist and turn and it is one wildly tangled city. From electrical wires, lanes, traffic, markets, ghats, souls, colours, life and death, everything seems twisted and inexplicably jumbled in Varanasi and the city’s pulsating nucleus of a heart radiates lifeblood into them all. It is one destination, which took me years to make up my mind to visit and I left Benaras wanting more. The city bombarded me into numbness with such intense experiences that today Varanasi is for me is all about “Moments”.

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Varanasi is like an all sensory explosion.

Varanasi is like an all sensory explosion.

Free-falling into Varanasi

Moments that bedazzled me, left me speechless, shocked me into understanding the deeper “bigger picture” of life and disgusted me beyond words. All of them are difficult to describe in words and that’s why I decided to create this series called “My Varanasi”. In the following days, I will be sharing a lot of “My Varanasi” moments in words, captions and images and while, I will try to describe my experiences as much as possible in texts, most of the talking will be done by photographs. Benaras leaves no stone unturned when it comes to shocking its visitors in a most unforgettable way and this new year, let me revive My Varanasi moments as spent in the holy city in the middle of a cold, foggy winter. So come, let me take you for a ride (literally), let me take you to My Varanasi.

Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world.

Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world.

Varanasi ghats has hotels

It is a place full of antiquity,

Varanasi has dingy lanes

Beautiful falling lights,

Ganges boat ride in Varanasi

Liberation,

Photogenic moments, acceptance of fate,

a sadhu at Varanasi ghat

Enlightenment,

Burning ghats in Varanasi

And revolting shock.

Varanasi blue lassi shop

Highly commercialized and very touristy,

a man in front of a mural in Varanasi

Varanasi is a paradise

For street photographers.

an old kite seller in Varanasi

The city’s old school charm endears

While its crushing humanity makes one feel like escaping.

varanasi lane at night

So come experience Varanasi

And indulge in its unapologetic traditions,

Ancient lifestyle,

Architectural heritage,

And culinary delights.

Varanasi mawa seller

Come, experience life.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE