VARANASI, UTTAR PRADESH
It is the duty of all Hindus to visit Varanasi at least once in their lifetime. As the sun rises over the River Ganges in the early morning, you may witness many of the faithful as they come to the ghats to pray and bathe. Colourful temples line the banks and a network of narrow alleys lead down to the water’s edge. All sense of modern life is lost as you absorb the ancient daily rituals, of river bathing, prayer and Aarti ceremonies. Varanasi can be overwhelming. It is teeming with people taking part in hundreds of daily ceremonies which celebrate every aspect of life from birth until death (there are ghats where the recently deceased are burnt in wooden pyres). However, this city will undoubtedly leave you with lasting memories of this most holy and quintessentially Indian city. Close to Varanasi is the Buddhist centre of Sarnath, where Budhha preached his first sermon. It is a spiritual place of stupas, shrines and temples, which unfortunately are now largely in ruin. The evening Aarti ceremony on the ghats is not to be missed and can be seen from the river bank or from a boat, but also take time to enjoy a guided walk in the streets of the old town.