The Heart, Soul and Spiritual Center of India.
Varanasi, also known as Benares, Banaras, or Kashi, is located along the banks of the famous Ganges River in northern India.
A great combination of art and history makes Varanasi a center of Indian cultures and spiritual heart. It is also the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism.
It was my first time to visit Varanasi, and in my imagination, India is a country every Buddhists would like to go once in their lifetime. We realized that we needed to have a plan for Varanasi, so we searched for information online, only to find out that no website could really prepare for what to expect. The only way that can describe how you would feel in Varanasi is just by going and get a real experience. Take it easy and lets the fun begin!
We took a 12.00 am. flight from Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok and arrived at Varanasi around 4.00 pm. We met our tour guide at the airport, his name is Sumet. After collecting our luggage, he took us straight to check-in at the Ramada Plaza JHV Varanasi Hotel. We were excited about everything we’d seen along the way to the hotel. It looked different from our country.
In Varanasi, you can hear car honking everywhere, all the time, and those coming for the first time like us might ask the same question: “what’s this cow doing here!!” You can expect to see them anytime, anywhere and everywhere in town.
We spent 4 days doing only one thing in Varanasi. Yes, it was all about photo shooting. I couldn’t believe that I walked around with 4kg camera bag on my shoulder while we were capturing photos 6 hours a day for 3 days!
Aarti Ceremony at the Ganges River
On the first day after check-in, we told our guide Sumet that we would like to see Aarti Ceremony at Ganges River today. Sumet took us straight to the Dasaswamedh Ghat as the ceremony would start at 6.30pm. Aarti Ceremony is a famous Hindu fire ceremony, it is held on a platform close to the river at the same time every day. When we arrived, we found hundreds of visitors who already reserved all the space they could. If you want to get a good seat, you should come early.
The Ganges River – The Centre of Spirituality
The famous Ganges river is the most famous landmark in India. It flows 2,700 km from the Himalaya mountains to the Bay of Bengal in northern India and Bangladesh. Every day, people come to visit it to wash away their sins in the sacred water.
We spent our second day walking along the Ghats, observing people’s life, giving us more photo opportunities. The Ganges River is a unique experience as we never saw anything like this anywhere else before. We could snapshots at every moment, from people bathing in the river to the fantastic architecture. One of the other highlights was to get lost within the small back lanes.
We now understand why people say that traveling to India should be in the bucket list of any street photographer.
Sarnath & The Archaeological Museum
The next day, we visited Sarnath, located about 10 km from Varanasi. Sarnath, also known as Mrigadava, Migadāya, Rishipattana, and Isipatana, is a very spiritual & historic site where Buddha began his teachings after attaining enlightenment. The place was very peaceful, and the stupa was really impressive. We also visited the archaeological museum and its well-managed display of carving and statues.
Capturing Street Life in Local Villages
Visiting local villages was in our must-do list. We asked Sumet to take us outside town as we preferred to see how people live their life away from Varanasi. Local people were friendly and enjoyed being in our frame, they smiled and posed instantly when our camera was pointed at them. Walking through local markets was also our favorite part, people seemed to be very happy and gave us big smiles.
The spectacular culture and people I’ve seen during our 4 days trip really make Varanasi the most unique and fascinating city among all the countries I’ve been visiting, Any street photographer will say “Wow, Amazing Varanasi!