Varanasi: The Holy of the Holies

The eternal circle: birth, life, demise and repeat. What would be best way to liberate yourself from the confinement of your living form? Attainment of salvation or moksha is an age-old answer. Varanasi (Banaras) acts as a common destination for people seeking peace, tranquility or the meaning of life and what lies thereafter, even The Beatles would agree!

Legend has it that Varanasi (name derived from rivers Varuna and Assi) was established by Lord Shiva some five thousand years ago on the banks of the sacred river Ganges making it one of the oldest cities on earth. It has been mentioned in almost every holy book associated with Hindu mythology, like the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Rigveda.

Situated amidst the crowded lanes of Varanasi, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple enshrines the first of twelve Jyotirlingams of Lord Shiva. The Jyotirlingam, a blazing pillar of light, was used by lord Shiva to demonstrate his supremacy over the other gods. It is believed to have broken through the earth’s crust and flashed to the heavens. After being built in 1490 AD, the temple was rebuilt when it was destroyed during a Mughal invasion. It is said that whosoever dies here, accomplishes Shiva’s Tarak Tantra which helps refrain from longings, giving them a place in heaven.

The confluence of the holiest city and the holiest river in India creates an other-worldly environment especially during the evening aarti (light offering to the deity). Immersing one’s self into the Ganga and bowing down to the sun washes away your sins. An act often followed by an oath to lead life with utmost modesty.

At the ghats of Varanasi, you will witness the journey of a lifetime. It’s a wonderful yet overwhelming sight to witness a father sprinkling holy water on his newborn and a few feet away a son surrendering the ashes of his father. Anyone who has been to Varanasi has never returned unchanged, always a bit wiser.




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