This was a trip to Varanasi with friends over a weekend. We travelled in November- I thought the weather was as pleasant as it gets.
Day 1: Ganga river
We arrived by flight early in the morning and took an auto-rickshaw to our place of stay.
After settling in and getting something to eat, we headed out to the old city of Varanasi for the rest of the day. The drive in a shared auto-rickshaw to the main city was memorable. The roads of the old city are extremely narrow and crowded. They are packed with cars, motorbikes, autos, people of foot and cows! The streets are also incredibly noisy with everyone honking at everyone else for seemingly no reason, and there was no traffic sense at all. I found the driving in Varansai quite fascinating. I would not recommend trying to rent a vehicle to drive here.
We were dropped off near the Ganga Mahal Ghat- these ghats are riverfront steps leading to the banks of the river ganga. The city has several such ghats and people bathe in the irver and pray on these ghats. Some of the ghats are famous for crematiojn as well, and we saw the cremation fires lit at those later in the evening.
At the first ghat, we saw boat rides along the Ganga beig offered. We booked a boat with one of the people there- about 10 of us in one boat rowed by a local. For the next hour and more, we enjoyed taking in the scenery of the Ganga ghats and the people worshipping along them.
The banks of the river are also a great place to see the veening aarti of the Ganga- we saw this later, once we had gotten off the boat though.
While on the boat, we saw a ghat or 2 that wer cremation sites, and we could see the fires burning from the water.
We ended our boat rise at the Kashi Vishwanath temple. There, we took in the colorful scenery, samples some paan from a local vendor (with tobacco!) and took some fascinating pictures of a holyman there.
The rest of the evening was spent exploring the various shop along the river- we sampled some excellent local sweets and some samosas. The puja shops in the area was also full of interesting paraphernelia.
This is also when we saw the ganga aarti - the evening prayer to the river.
After this, we had more to eat and called it a day.
Day 2: Sarnath
The next day was spent at Sarnath, about 10 kilometres north of Varanasi. It is an important place of pilgrimage among buddhists and has along history. We got there after brekfast in an auto-rickshaw.
Our first stop in Sarnath was the archeological museum. The musuem housed various ancient artifacts found in the area. We also purchased a neat guide book here that helped us get some context on the rest of the city when we saw the different monuments.
OUr next step was a compound housing the Archeological Buddhist remains of Sarnath. The site had a number of old broken down walls and pagodas, some better preserved than others. At many places you could see visiting buddhists had started covering the walls in gold foil, as is their custom (although there was a sign saying not to do so!)
There was also a large stupa in the park- the Dhamek Stupa, which was preserved in good condition.
Being an important place for Buddhists, there was also a Thai temple right opposite which had an impressive Buddha statue.
After a late lunch, our last stop for the the was the Chaukandi Stupa, another large ruin of s stupa from ancient times.
In the evening, we had more to eat and some shisha at the nearby restaurant and then made our way back to the Varansai airport in an uber.