Wading through Varanasi

28th Jul 2015
Photo of Wading through Varanasi 1/4 by Arushi
View of River Ganges from Hotel Jukaso Ganges
Photo of Wading through Varanasi 2/4 by Arushi
Ramnagar Fort
Photo of Wading through Varanasi 3/4 by Arushi
View of River Ganges from Hotel Jukaso Ganges
Photo of Wading through Varanasi 4/4 by Arushi
Rising waters

Varanasi is not a city for the faint-hearted. Having said that, Varanasi is a once in a lifetime experience that perhaps no other Indian city can give. Do NOT go in the monsoon season because the river rises to dangerous levels and you will not be able to explore the city on boats which is something you absolutely must experience while there. It gets really hot and humid so be armed with sunnies, caps , lots of water, extra change of clothes because you will want to shower after a day out on the streets. 

Also, carry comfortable shoes because there's a lot of walking involved if you want to truly experience the city. Get your hotel to provide a guide if possible. A local who knows the streets will be great because if you're on your own, it can get pretty confusing.

Also, when at Kashi Vishwanath temple, the Pande's will absolutely take over your darshan. Stay far away from them and do your darshan at your own pace. There are shops all along the temple road which have lockers so that you can safely keep your belongings. 

Avoid Ramnagar Fort. There's nothing there. There are vintage cars and carriages etc but they are very poorly preserved. The fort itself doesn't have much it. If at all you want to go there for a few picture opportunities do not spend more than 45 minutes at the place. 

Varanasi is a truly authentically Indian experience. Imagine Chandani chowk, only at a city wide scale and much more crowded. However, double the charm of Chadani chowk and food that is a gastronomic delight. For foodie options, definitely try out Ram Bhandaar. He sits for breakfast and is sold out within a matter of hours. 

This temple dedicated to Hanuman ji is small but peaceful. You will not experience the rush that one invariably witnesses at Kashi Vishwanath temple. Avoid going on a saturday as it will be jam packed. It's great because you can take your time and do darshan for as long or less a time as you wish. A must visit for devotees and even otherwise.
The Evening Ganga Aarti is a splendor in itself. Reach on time and you'll be able to get good seats, either atop buildings or on boats. I was lucky enough to get a place just 10 steps away from where the Aarti was taking place. It starts at around 7 in the evening and lasts for roughly about one hour. Again, a must see event as it symbolizes the very essence of Varanasi.
Subah-e-Banaras is a cultural and spiritual programme that takes place every morning on Assi Ghat. It comprises of hindustani classical music and dance as well as a morning Yoga session. People participate most whole heartedly in this and watching the sunrise is a sight to behold. Do note that it happens at 5 in the morning so you'll have to rise super early to be able to experience this. I'd recommend it because there's just a lot of peace it brings to watch the sun rising as you sit on the ghat.
A must visit. Sarnath is around an hour's drive from the Varanasi airport and it is well worth the visit. It is the site where Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon. It's surrounded by beautifully maintained gardens. There are guides there that give a pretty accurate description of the history and background of Sarnath. You can hire them for a measly amount of 30 Rs. Also, check out the museum that is just a few meters away. Don't shop at the shop the guides take you too. The shopkeepers will try to fleece you and make an extra buck or two.
Lassi made with actual fruits and flavourings. They have an extensive variety of flavours and it's a huge serving so order cautiously. Extremely delicious and worth every penny.
BHU is one of the oldest Universities in India. Once you enter the Uni premises, it will be completely different from the Varanasi you're used to. It's beautifully maintained and very quaint in its look. there's a museum there in the Archaeology department which is good. Also, a Shri Vishwanathan Temple inside the university premises which is good, if you are religious.