Varanasi, blessed with the presence of the mighty river Ganga flowing seamlessly through its banks, is the spiritual capital of India. Previously known as Banaras or Kashi, the city is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. It’s a magical place full of secrets and surprises. The Ganga Aarti, which takes place every sunset, is a visual treat, transcending to spiritual tranquility. The oil lamps lit across the river banks, and the chanting of the holy mantras cast a spell on your soul. Thousands of pilgrims throng on the banks of the river every year since the Hindus believe that a dip in this holy river atones you for all your sins. It’s a miraculous and colorful place which will tuck your heart with the sacredness and spiritual fulfillment, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. The most intimate rituals of life and death take place in the open here.
It has a flourishing trade, and the exquisite Banarasi Sarees is a must in every Indian woman’s closet. Varanasi is also known for its sweets and famous Banarasi paan (betel leaf). Both are very dear to the traditional people.
Just a few miles away from the Varanasi, Sarnath is located which is a spiritual place for Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains. It is believed that after attaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon in Sarnath.
Ganga Aarti: Ganga is Mother Goddess and a Holy river for Hindus. Every evening, Ganga Aarti is performed by a group of saffron-clad Hindu priests standing in a row while facing the river. It starts with loud mantras, blowing of conches, followed by lighting lamps and circling them in a clockwise manner while singing the songs in praise of Mother Ganga.
Subah-e-Benaras: ‘Subah-e-Banaras’ is a spiritual and a cultural extravaganza that you get to witness at no other spiritual place in India. It takes place at Assi Ghat and begins before sunrise with one-hour yoga session followed by two-hour music recital and a yagya. The view of the sunrise in the backdrop makes the whole experience even more mesmerizing.
Morning Boat Ride: Witnessing the sun rising over water horizon while taking a ride in the rowing boat along the holy river Ganga is a quintessential Varanasi experience. The early morning sunlight is invigorating and the reflection of the sun looks captivating in the river. The boat crosses many ghats and gives us a chance to observe many puja rituals unfolding before us.
Manikarnika Ghat: A very famous story in Hindu mythology which is about the self-sacrifice of Mata Sati makes Manikarnika Ghat be one of the holiest ghats alongside the river Ganga. It’s a burning ghat as it is believed that if a dead are cremated here, its soul finds salvation.
Panchganga Ghat: Panchganga Ghat is named so because it is believed to be built on the confluence of five holy rivers namely, Ganges, Saraswati, Dhupapapa, Yamuna, and Kirna. Out of these five, only Ganga remains visible and the other four are said to have disappeared in the ground.
Alam Giri Mosque: Located above Panchganga ghat, Alam Giri Mosque was built in 17th century by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The mosque was built over the ruins of a Hindu temple and hence, its design is also a blend of Islamic and Hindu architecture.
Bindu Madhav Temple: In Varanasi, Bindu Madhav Temple is the most ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple is housed in a simple building whose exterior looks like any other house in the lanes of Varanasi. The original Bindu Madhav Temple was demolished by Aurangzeb and Alam Giri Mosque was built on its ruins.
Laxmi Chai: Laxmi Chai is a local eatery and one of the oldest tea shops in Varanasi. The owner, Laxmi, has been running the business for more than five decades. It’s a sin for chai lovers to leave Varanasi without having Laxmi’s tea and malai toast.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the most popular Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple has been constructed and destroyed many times in the history. The current structure was built by Maratha ruler Ahilya Bai Holkar in the 17th century. The temple also has a great mythological meaning associated with it.
Sarnath: As mentioned earlier that after attaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, Lord Buddha delivered his first sermons to his five disciples in Sarnath in 528 B.C. Sarnath is one of the key sites on the Buddhist circuit along with Bodhgaya, Kushinagar, Vaishali, and Lumbini.
Guests will be expected to arrive in Varanasi around 12 noon. After having lunch and taking some rest, we will go to Silk Sari Factory. Silk Saris made in Varanasi are among the finest saris in India. Even with the advent of new fashion, every now and then, these saris have stood true to the title of ‘Old is Gold’. In factory, we’ll get an opportunity to get acquainted with the silk sari trade in Varanasi and how these striking saris are manufactured.
Afterwards, we will go to Dashashwamedh Ghat to witness the grand Ganga Aarti. The experience is so vigorous that you will feel as if your body and mind have been recharged with new energy and thoughts. It’s been said that witnessing Ganga Aarti at the Ghats is once in a lifetime experience and touches one’s heart and soul so deeply that they are left with a positive spiritual impact.
If you are a photographer, then you definitely get to make tens of postcard photos during this experience. Post this; we will head to one of the oldest cafes in Assi Ghat to have our dinner. Pizzeria is one of the most preferred Italian cafes in that area which is more than 70 years old, have been left in ruins countless times by floods, but still surviving and serving delectable Italian cuisine.
Today, we will start our day early (around 5 am) and leave for Assi Ghat, where we will watch Subah-e-Benaras. It’s an enthralling experience with the beautiful sunrise over the river, yoga, and a soothing music session. Starting our day with such peace is definitely going to make it better and better. The best way to catch the essence of Varanasi is to travel down the Ganges by boat in the dawn and experience the enchanting of temple bells, watching Benares from the environs of a gently swaying boat. Hence, we will go for a rowing boat ride along the ghats. This is going to be another opportunity for photographers to make some more wallpaper like pictures. A boat ride will be followed by an authentic Banarasi breakfast. We will take some rest until lunch.
In the evening, we will visit Manikarnika Ghat, Panchganga Ghat, Alam Giri Mosque and Bindu Madhav Temple. All four landmarks are located quite close to each other and have interesting mythological and historical stories associated that justifies their present day significance.
Before dinner, we will head to Laxmi Chai which is one of the most famous and the oldest tea stalls in Varanasi. It is known to serve authentic chai and scrumptious malai and butter toast.
Before breakfast, we will go Kashi Vishwanath Temple. It’s wise to visit the temple as early as one can as being a revered temple, it experiences a heavy rush of devotees. After this visit and breakfast, we will leave for Sarnath for a half day tour.
The history of Sarnath began even before the arrival of Lord Buddha there in 528 B.C. Mythology has different stories about its importance. One of them says that angels descended upon earth to declare the birth to five hundred holy men who went up in the air and vanished. Their remains fell into the ground making Sarnath a revered place. We will visit Dhamek Stupa, Chaukhandi, Archeological Museum, Ashoka Pillar, Jain Temple, Deer Park or Isipatana. All these monuments come together to tell all the associated historical and mythological tales. The city was completely ransacked by Turkish Muslims in the 12th century and was restored by Britishers in 18th century when they ‘rediscovered’ it during excavations.
Ex – Varanasi: 12000 INR
The group size will be limited to a maximum of 16 people: 15 participants + 1 facilitator and a minimum of 6 people: 5 participants + 1 facilitator.
• 60 days before the trip: 90% refund
• 60-41 days before the trip: 70% refund
• 40-21 days before the trip: 50% refund
• 20-11 days before the trip: 30% refund
• 10-5 days before the trip: 10% refund
• Less than 5 days before the trip: No Refund
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