India’s holiest city is commonly known as Benares, the old name for the city and is situated on three rivers – the Varuna and the Assi (hence the name Varanasi) and of course the river Ganges, India’s holiest river. The main reason to visit Varanasi is to witness life on the Ganges.
Pictures of the Ganges River
The best way to experience the Ganges is to take a boat trip at sunrise. Take walk through the streets of Varanasi before reaching the river and the Ghats. A Ghat is a set of steps leading down to the Ganges or any other river. Take a boat at the busiest Ghat. Pictures and words can not explain what is happening here, with all the sounds and smells, nor can I describe the emotions I feel everytime I visit this place. People are praying, chanting, performing rituals, bathing, washing, doing laundry, brushing their teeth, shaving, doing yoga, meditating, singing, fishing – all on the ghats or in the river.
About the Ganges River Mother Ganges is India’s holiest place and the heart of the Hindu religion. The Hindus believe in reincarnation. We start off as a mosquito and work our way up to return as a human being. If you look at the population of India – 1.1 billion – and then at how many of those 1.1 billion live in poverty – around 250 million – then it is astonishing that the crime rate isn’t higher. In fact the crime rate is fairly low in comparison to the population and poverty . The reason is that most Indians have faith in the Hindu religion, which boasts 330 million Gods and Goddesses and promises a better life the next time around if we behave ourselves this time around and enjoy a good karma. However, many Indian Hindus consider life on Earth as suffering and have no wish to be reincarnated and return to this suffering. They want to achieve a state called Moksha or Nirvana, which means there soul has been set free and they are free of earthly suffering. To achieve this they have to die in Varanasi, be cremated on the banks of the Ganges and have their ashes thrown into this holiest of rivers. Varanasi is full of hospices, because when a hindu who wishes to achieve moksha gets seriously or terminally ill, they will come to varanasi and stay at a hospice, to wait to die. Many bathers, mourners and pilgrims have their heads shaved and recieve a blessing from the Brahmin Priests who can be as young as five.
- Holy Mother Ganges
On top of this many Hindus make the pilgrimage here to the Ganges to bathe and wash their sins away. Many Sadhus (holy men live here).