Get lost in our photos of Varanasi
Visiting this city is a photographers dream! The city is also known as Kashi, Banaras or Benares (Old name of Varanasi) If you spend some time looking at our photos of Varanasi you realise just what a fascinating city it is. There is more to the city than the ghat, Babnaras temples and busy city buzz. This was my second visit to the holy city, read more about my first visit where I met an astrologer in Varanasi.
The narrow alleys are colourful and rich with a spiritual essence. The Ghats carry aromas of different incense and the evening skies glow with a tranquil ambience. There is something different to discover around every corner.
Walking down the streets of Banaras
We missed our train to Varanasi and had 3 flights cancelled after being caught in the Kerala floods. We had no choice but to fly from TRV airport in Kerala, directly to Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport in Varanasi. After being stranded in Kerala, we missed our 2 days exploring Delhi but in a way it was a small blessing as we were dreading our 18 hour train ride to Varanasi.
Photographers, poets, writers, artist, pilgrims and spiritual seekers from all over the world flock to this city for inspiration and liberation. For four days we aimlessly wandered through the narrow lanes, busy streets and famous India Ghats capturing incredible pictures of Varanasi. This Varanasi photos gallery can only be an appetiser as to just how wonderful and far out the ancient holy city really is. All photos were captured using a GoPro Hero 6 and a Cannon EOS 1200D
According to city legend, Varanasi was founded by the Lord Shiva after he married Goddess Parvati and left his abode in the Himalayas.
A Broken down palace on Chet Singh Ghat
History of Varanasi
We found so much history of Varanasi while exploring the streets of the holy city, however no one knows for certain just how old the city really is.
The earliest archaeological evidence suggests that the settlement in Varanasi, along the Ganga valley started in the the 11th or 12th century BC. Can you imagine if the city walls could talk? Oh, the stories they could tell.
Varanasi ranks among the world oldest continually inhabited cities. There has been excavations in Ramnagar and Akatha, which is located around Varanasi. The remains suggest that the city settlements go back to 1800 BC.
Some of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world include:
- Damascus in Syria (9000BC)
- Jericho in Israel (6800BC)
- Alleppo in Syria (6000BC)
- Athens and Agros in Greece (5000BC)
- Rayy in Iran (approx 4000BC)
- Lupyang in China (2000BC)
Facts about river Ganges
Afternoon swim in the Ganges
If you search Google, you will find thousands of facts about the river Ganges. Here are a few that stuck out for us from the rest:
- The Ganges is believed to be approx 80,000 years old.
- The river is said to be the fifth most polluted river in the world.
- In 1896, Ernest Hanbury Hankin published a journal after testing the Ganages water. His finding claimed that when he put a sample of Bacteria Vibrio Cholerae (which causes deadly cholera) into the waters of Ganges it died within three hours. When he put the same bacteria into distilled water it was still present after 48 hours.
- The water does not host mosquito breeding and its water also prevents mosquito’s breeding in any water it is added to.
- In India, there is a common saying “If the Ganges thrives, India thrives and if the Ganges dies, India dies.”
- The average depth of the river is 16 meters and the maximum depth, 30 meters.
- Varanasi Ganges are visited by millions of people from every corner of the world to quench their thirst for knowledge and liberation.
Bathing in the Ganges in Varanasi
Sunset Varanasi ghats photo
The Ghats at Varanasi
What are Ghats? A flight of steps leading down to the banks of the river Ganges. There are approx 88 Ghats in Varanasi. Here are just a few ghats you may want to check out or avoid if you a bit sensitive.
- Assi Ghat – According to legends, goddess Durga threw her sword down this ghat after killing demon Shumbha- Nishumbha.
- Dasaswamedh Ghat – The famous Ganga Aarti ceremony takes place here every evening.
- Manikarnika Ghat – Bigger, more popular cremation ghat.
- Harishchandra ghat – Another cremation Ghat, sometimes referred as Adi Manikarnika, which means the original creation ground.
- Bhonsale Ghat – Stone building with small artistic windows at the top, and three heritage temples — Lakshminarayan Temple, Yameshwar Temple and Yamaditya Temple.
Alternatively, check out this list of all the different Ghats at Varanasi
The people of Varanasi
Varanasi (Kashi) is known as the religious capital of Hinduism. Both Hindus and non-Hindus from around the world visit Varanasi for different reasons.
Varanasi is visited for it’s traditions, spirituality, architecture, history and others travel to the city in search of the meaning of life. Some woman give birth to children on the ghats, people marry on the ghats and people come to die on the ghats.
One of the hotel managers told us that there is a very special power that surrounds the city. He has had people visit the city to find their soul mates believing those who live in the city may carry a spiritual charm while couples even visit the city to conceive believing the child will be blessed with powers.
It is clear that Varanasi is not just an ordinary city.
A holy man on the street corner
Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a person’s soul from the cycle of its transmigration (reincarnation).
Many Hindus come to the city to die, others save throughout their lives to ensure they can come to Varanasi and be cremated in the Ganges.
2 Generations of pilgrims walking through the busy steets of Banaras.
A large number of pilgrims visit the holy city from all parts of India and from all corners of the world. It is believed that the sacred river will cleanse them of their sufferings and wash their sins away. There are daily ceremonies and rituals performed on the banks of the Ganga and thousands of pilgrims come to the river for the “holy dip”.
Varanasi is mentioned in many Holy Scriptures like Puranas, Buddhist texts and in the Mahabharata. The most fascinating part of the holy city of Varanasi is that almost all the activities seem to revolve around river Ganges and it’s Ghats.
Walking down the alleys after collecting holy water from the Ganges
What is a Sadhu?
Sadhu in Varanasi
A sadhu is a religious ascetic, mendicant (monk) or any holy person in Hinduism and Jainism who has renounced the worldly life. It’s not just men who give up their lives, many woman do too but they are referred to as Sadhvi.
Sadhu’s may also be referred to as Saddu, Jogi, Sannyasi or Vairagi. They solely dedicate their lives to achieving liberation. This is known as the fourth and final stage of life. Liberation is reached through meditation and contemplation of Brahman. There are 4 to 5 million sadhus in India today.
Sadhu’s often wear simple clothing, such saffron coloured clothing in Hinduism, white or nothing in Jainism. This symbolises renunciation of worldly possessions.
There are many kinds of different Sadhu’s including Naga, Bandu, Yogi, Siwadas, Bakti and more. They are all trying to achieve religious illumination and liberation from the cycle of reincarnation.
One of the most interesting (and scary) sadhu’s we saw in Varanasi were Aghori’s. We recommend watching this short Aghori documentary from CNN which will explain more about their bizarre lifestyle which includes eating human flesh, drinking from a human skull and practising some out of the ordinary rituals. (Yikes! Make sure you have travel insurance just in case – get a quote from World Nomads here)
Varanasi temple photos
There are over 23 000 temples to be discovered in Varanasi. This offers photographers ample opportunities to capture the temples beauty and stunning architecture. Many of the temples reminded us that colour really is part of India’s language. Be mindful that not all temples allow photography inside. Always ask before taking photos inside any temples.
How incredible are the colours? Image of Varanasi temple we found while exploring.
Which temples in Varanasi should you visit?
- Annapurna Temple – The Goddess Parvati is worshipped as the giver of food and nourishment.
- Vishwanath Temple – One of the oldest and most sacred Hindu temples in India.
- Kathwala Temple – Famous for it’s exquisite architecture and wood work.
- Sankat Mochan Temple – This temple is also called as the Monkey temple because of the many monkeys inside the premises.
- Kaal Bhairav Temple – Believed to be the guardian of the city and is known as the protector of devotees that may be in trouble.
- Sarnath – One of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage centres in the country. 13 kilometres from the city of Varanasi and the Stupa of Sarnath is it’s greatest attraction.
Banaras city images
There is something interesting down every alley and often something out of the ordinary too. You can expect to find hundreds of shops to haggle, street foods of all kinds and even a few cosy restaurants to escape the busy streets.
Getting lost in the street mazes are half the adventure. Just make sure your camera is charged, invest in a good power bank and that you have the number of your hotel just in case you cant find your way back. People are very friendly and we often had shopkeepers help point us in the right direction. Here are some of our favourite Varanasi pictures around the narrow alleys.
There is something new to discover about Varanasi around every corner.
Varanasi picture of the narrow alley’s
Looking for pictures? Check out this update with more of our images of Varanasi city.
Loved capturing these Banaras city images
STAY AT A HOTEL ON THE GHATS
If you looking for a place to stay during your visit to Varanasi, then we can highly recommend Suryauday Haveli. Not only are they right on the ghats, but they offer a complementary evening boat ride to watch the evening Aarti ceremony and some awesome evening traditional music. Alternatively, check out Booking.com which has some great options to choose from and hundreds of reviews of different properties.
Hope you enjoyed our Banaras photo gallery. Have you been to Varanasi, did you enjoy visiting the city? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.
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