Note: This is an ante-dated post. (Date of actual events)
February 12 – 13, 2018. Many people have certain images that come to mind when India is brought up in conversations. Notwithstanding its massive population and great diversity, certain recurring themes are amplified by visual images in mass media in the way we imagine the country. Think of that and it all comes alive in Varanasi. It is crowded, it is chaotic, it is sacred, it is ancient, it is modern, it is pungent, it is fragrant. Varanasi is so many different things that trigger all your senses, from sight, to smell, to hearing. Most non-Indian travelers would either love it or hate it. It was, for me, a perfect introduction to my four-week voyage across two north Indian states.
I spent almost all of my time in Varanasi in the old part of the city. Note that Varanasi is sometimes described as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the planet. Walking through the narrow streets and the labyrinth of alleyways and coming across all the sights and sounds of the old city validated that impression. It was like being warped into an unfamiliar epoch. Once in a while you are reminded that you still belong to the present and it gives you a pleasant realization how things have been kept the way they’ve always been for hundreds of years in this city.
Certainly, the practices and beliefs of its people and the rest of the Hindu faithful are among the things that have not changed for centuries in Varanasi. Walking along the ghats along the Ganges, one would witness various facets of daily life and rituals that the people perform, with the river playing an important part.
I only spent two days in Varanasi, but it was sufficiently overwhelming and satisfying. After going through Varanasi, I was all too eager to discover the rest of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan as I proceed to the next part of my journey.
I took a night train from Varanasi to Agra. It was my first of many train journeys in India, and another befitting introduction to the chaos that is the massive Indian railway system.