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The Ghats – Varanasi, India

Pilgrims from all over India go to Varanasi to bathe in the river and clean their sins. Varanasi is such an important and sacred city that Hindus at least once in their lifetime try to visit it to take the bath ritual to complete the pilgrimage. This city is one of the oldest cities in the world being inhabited for 4000 years. Without a doubt, one of the activities that you must see at the Ghats is the bath ritual.  

Varanasi, the City of Light in old Hindu, is one of the holiest places of Hinduism. It has been for a long time and worldwide an inspiration for writers and artists thanks to its clarity. At sunrise, it’s the best moment to appreciate the city when people go to the sacred river to take a bath. Indeed, all the narrow and tangled streets will guide magnetically you to this river.

What are the Ghats?

The ghats are steps leading to the banks of the river, and they are full of life. Nearby there are stalls selling vegetables or religious items, pilgrim priests preaching, barbers shaving pilgrims and mourners, people meditating or doing yoga and even children playing cricket joyfully. But the main and the most conspicuous activity is pilgrims bathing to get rid of their sins.

Witness the Bathing Pilgrimage

Take a boat down the river to watch the bathing ritual in the best way. And the day you go,  you will have to haggle with a boatman. So get informed at the hotel to have the best idea about the price you will ask. Don’t forget to say if you want the price for a person or for the whole boat. If possible, write it down to avoid any problems in the future. The next day, you will see sacred cows wandering around freely and how the pilgrims bathe at five ghats to do the complete pilgrimage.

Even though we relate this bathing to something with a really powerful spiritual meaning, Hindus add a lot of joy to it. It won’t be hard to observe pilgrims laughing, splashing diving and playing with other in the water. It will take you a few hours to travel the whole river. Having in mind you will stop a few time to watch the pilgrims along the journey.  

Ask the boatman to leave you at Manikarnika Ghat. Then you come back on foot to where the boat started. This ghat is the cremation ghat. You cremated there, Hindus say that you can ensure your salvation. That is why many families bring the bodies of their loved ones to burn them at Varanasi. Then the ashes are swept into the river.

What Else Can You Do?

Not only is Varanasi City widely known for its ghats, but also for its temples. Many people will agree that your trip won’t be complete if you don’t visit any Varanasi. In fact, there are no excuses for not visiting them as they are spread almost anywhere. Another thing that you could do is bathing in the holiest Hindu River, the Ganges River.  According to the Hinduism tradition, you can warranty your salvation if clean your sins in the River.

Visiting the ghats when the festivals take place between September to December, it’s an unforgettable and spectacular experience. Some of the most popular festivals are the Ganga Festival, Kartik Purnima, Bharat Milap, Ram Lila. We definitely recommend that you go to Dasaswamedh Ghat around sunset at 5 p.m. to witness the daily Hindu ceremony of Ganga Aarti.

Another thing you can’t miss is observing the sunrise on a boat in the ghats. The panoramic view is splendidly full of a deep spiritual sense that will take over your body.

Finally, don’t limit yourself to the cremation and bathing activities. Indeed, there are 88 different ghats in all and each one of them has a particular meaning.   

How can you get there?

You can easily reach Varanasi either by plane, by bus or by express train. However, the experience of trying an old Indian train is worthwhile. And the trains tend to run daily at night and the railway stations are connected to the most important cities of India.

Where can you stay?

when it comes to accommodation you will have to choose between quality and location. If you stay near the ghats, the quality of the hotels is not really the best despite affordable. And those away from the ghats are more expensive but offer a better quality. And let me tell that the difference between the cheap hotels and the expensive hotel is abysmal.

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