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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

Varanasi at dawn

As we row along the Ganges, you’ll see unique architecture slowly bathed in light…

By Bhanu Pratap Singh Bhati
Tour Guide in Varanasi

It’s a 5.15am start time but it’s worth it to watch this ancient city wake in the morning light. The people here are learned in all forms of art from yoga to literature, a characteristic that dates back to ancient times when Varansi was called Kashi. The city is one of the oldest in the world and many believe it was founded by Lord Shiva himself.

Varanasi is a spiritual mecca due to its location on the River Ganges. People travel here from all over to take a dip in its holy water. The highpoint for me is when you see all the people from different walks of life moving like a tide towards the water. As we drive and get closer to the river, you witness everyone coming together in elation– some even running towards the river chanting and singing.

When we get to the banks there are a couple of chai stalls where you can share a cup of tea with the local people. Then we meet our boatmen who are waiting to help you into the rowing boat, a spacious vessel fitted with white linen cushioned seating and ample space.

You’ll soon see why Varanasi is known as a city of light and beautiful sunrises. As we row past the main portion of the 88 ghats (flights of stairs that lead to the Ganges) you’ll see unique architecture slowly bathed in light. Other times it’s hazy which adds to the location’s mystique. Most of the ghats were rebuilt in the 18th century after being destroyed by the Mughal invasion. They’re just beautiful in the majestic sun when people welcome the morning with yoga, chatting or meditating in the water-side ashrams.

When we return to dry land, we walk around the narrow lanes to experience the old town before any of the shops open. There are a couple of beautiful temples, one we call the Temple of Porridge, run by a third-generation monk who serves breakfast to all the travellers who’ve made the pilgrimage to Varanasi. There’s no rich or poor here, just people who come to worship.

 

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Alfred & Bhanu Pratap Singh Bhati

Bhanu has worked as a freelance tour guide since 2009 and has assisted the BBC on wildlife documentaries in India. He lives in the blue city of Jodhpur, Rajasthan with his entire family; his parents, his wife, Anuradha, daughter Harshnandani, two older brothers and their families.