The Ghats of Varanasi

Varanasi was top of our must-do list in India.  With H-J’s background in religious studies geekery and Dan’s lust for, well, everything, it was one of the most highly anticipated aspects of our time in India.  Everyone seems to have different feelings about Varanasi – some find it too touristy and showy, others feel it encapsulates the very essence of what it is to be Indian with many other folk lying anywhere in between.  Others still encounter wild spiritual journeys that leave them there for dozens of years, hairier and somewhere closer to enlightenment.  Regardless of the motivations for being there, we would hazard a guess to say that everyone takes something away.  Its hard to convey the reality of Varanasi with words so we’ll do our best to give you a guided tour via (mostly) pictures.  The ghats are an amazing part of the fabric of Varanasi, so what better place to start?


The word ghat refers to a series of steps leading down to a body of water, in most cases a holy river such as the Ganges, which courses through the city.  Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats and it is that daily life of the residents is showcased at it most intense, most visible and most accessible.   IMG_4644IMG_4737Of course, like most of the rest of the north of India, cows are everywhere.  “Beef, beef everywhere and not a bite to eat.”
IMG_4750 They live, bathe and die alongside their human counterparts.IMG_4704 IMG_4688 IMG_4743IMG_4649 IMG_4686Boats are the other noticeable feature here, constantly shuttling devotees and tourists along the fairly calm river.

IMG_4019 IMG_4714IMG_4734IMG_4026IMG_4004IMG_4902With less distance between the sacred and profane than most of us are perhaps used to, extreme spirituality lies alongside laundry.

IMG_4890 IMG_4016 IMG_4913The Ganges is a sacred river to Hindus along every fragment of its length. All along its course, Hindus bathe in its waters, paying homage to their ancestors and to their gods by cupping the water in their hands, lifting it and letting it fall back into the river; they offer flowers and rose petals and float shallow clay dishes filled with oil and lit with wicks.  When someone dies, ashes of the deceased can be brought to the river, or the body itself can be burnt on one of the cremation ghats.  The river is considered the embodiment of all sacred waters in Hindu mythology making it a pretty special and highly regarded place, drawing lay people and holy people alike.IMG_4942IMG_4038IMG_4944IMG_4915Religion, chores, play, commerce, art…everything exists alongside the water.IMG_4894IMG_4899IMG_4893 IMG_4731 IMG_4719 Now, before you all start to think that India has got to our brains and we’ve gone all reflective and serious and stuff, we’ll insert a bit of light relief, in the form of Dan getting sucked into a traditional touristy trade on the shores of India – snake plying!IMG_4917IMG_4928 IMG_4930 For a fee, Dan could even play with little snakey.  IMG_4931 Seems he has overcome his fear of snakes!IMG_4937 As with all good blogs, this must come to an end, and what more auspicious place to leave it than at the final ending for devotees – the burning ghat.  Photography is not allowed of the burning area but en route we caught some cool views of the piles of wood (used to create the pyres) and the surrounding areas. IMG_4046 IMG_4946A pretty amazing place to end up, don’t you think?


Categories: India, TravelTags: , , , , , , ,


  1. Amazing Post! India is beautiful, actually more than I expected. I am learning more and more through your eyes thank you so much!

  2. Wow, hahahah. The photo with the cows under the parasol is brilliant!

  3. great photos! – and your such a hotty HJ

  4. Great photos! I especially like the snakes… I’ve been to India twice but never made it to Varanasi. I would love to go when I return (hopefully) later this year. I’m in Korea now so I’ll be re-reading your posts from Korea for sure. It feels very rushed, crowded, and rough here- I suppose a bit like how India can be. I think I’m feeling it more because I just came from Japan where everyone was so polite and gentler. Be well and travel safe!

    • Korea can feel a bit rough round the edges – the people are far less polite and helpful than Japan, for sure! Its not the easiest country (comparatively to India though, its a breeze!) but there are some gems. How long will you be there for?

      Hope you get to Varanasi, its so worth it 🙂 We’ll have another post on it soon.

      • I arrived in Korea thinking that I’d spend about two or three months… haven’t fully committed to it yet. Looking forward to reading more about Varanasi!

  5. Lovely compositions in your photos! I was in Varanasi in early March, it’s such an amazing looking place! 🙂

  6. This reminded me very much of Asterix and the Magic Carpet…watziznehm…

  7. Absolute a fantastic post with amazing picture – gallery.
    yes! Varanasi is one of the most tourist destination in India.
    thanks for sharing your travel experience because it is very essential for tourist which want visit to Varanasi.

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