Varanasi, Ganges, India

Varanasi ghats and people seen from the Ganges River, India

Varanasi ghats, on the west bank of the River Ganges, Uttar Pradesh state, north India.

Why visit Varanasi?

Varanasi, also known as Benares, is one of India’s holiest cities and the one hundred ghats stepping down to the River Ganges are loaded with temples (in some cases overloaded as they are sinking into the river) venerated by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains and visited by 1, 000, 000 pilgrims a year.
Tourists love this epitome of Mother Ganga devotion as they float around on their little boats watching the daily washing, prayer and cremation rituals of hundreds of Indians. You could stay on the steps but pole position is afloat on the Ganges. The spectacle is extraordinary and unforgettable though may not appeal to sensitive types. But this is the sight tourists come for so if burning bodies offend then don’t travel here!

Boating on the River Ganges beside Varanasi ghats, Benares, India

One favourite way to view the extraordinary, kaleidoscopic and occasionally grotesque scenes on the Varanasi ghats is by boat on the Ganges.

Varanasi information

The banks of the Ganga (Ganges) are in the Old City, a maze of narrow, dilapidated and teeming lanes, but most tourist accommodation is situated further away in more spacious and tranquil quarters.

Washing in the Ganga River, Ganges, Varanasi, India

The Ganga River not only purifies the Indian soul and washes their clothes but also carries away their cremated bodies, so don’t drink the water!

Varanasi, the ‘city of lights’, was founded by the Hindu god Lord Shiva 5, 000 years ago according to legend, or by man around 3, 000 years ago according to archeologists.

The Ganga Aarti ritual, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi, India

The Ganga Aarti is a daily ritual performed on the Dashashwamedh Ghat.

Burning ghats, cremating bodies beside the ganges River, Varanasi, India

Burning ghats where bodies are cremated on piles of wood. They are then consigned to the Ganges.

Ramnagar Fort, home of the King of Varanasi, Iinking to Delhi Pictures

The city has few important buildings other than temples, with the exception of the 18thC Ramnagar Fort, home of the King of Varanasi.