Varanasi: The Eternal City

Aditi Kohli

Varanasi is a city that holds a charm all its own, unparallel, where spirituality becomes synonymous with peace and tranquility and rituals become a way of life. Varanasi has also been known as Kashi and Benaras, but is present name is a restoration of an ancient name               meaning the city between two rivers- the Varauana and Asi. Besides being a pilgrimage centre, it is considered an auspicious place to die, ensuring an instant routing to heaven. A city that flaunts itself as a travel destination for people across the globe, one that throws up the spectacle of confluence of multi-currents of nationalities, religions and beliefs. The mysticism and ancient look and feel, the sheer aura and a compelling environment of spirituality envelops Varanasi. Banaras is not a city but is a personality itself that has a charm, history and perfection in its own. Benaras is so interesting, as it seems to be a fiction character of a story.
It is amazing to see that in other parts of the world the birth of a person is celebrated but Benaras relishes the death as commemoration. Every individual of Benaras, wants to see himself at an apex. Even if he is facing troubles, he never complains. He has the courage to face the life. Chewing pan is the nature of every Banarasi. He has the fair to use terms like ‘abey’, jargon like ‘arey raja’. Having rabri with jalebi is a matter of pride. Here people speak in their native language but their demeanour is like that of a pure Banarasi. So it is hard to distinguish between hindus, muslims, Sikhs and christans. Today Varanasi is a centre of learning, especially for Sanskrit scholars and students flock here from all over the world. Varanasi has become the symbol of Hindu renaissance and has a special role in the development of Hindi – the National Language of India. The well known novelist Prem Chand and the literary figure Bhartendu Harischand have played their parts in this development. Tulsi Das the famous poet who wrote the hindi version of Ramayan known as ‘Ram Charit Manas’, also lived here for many years. Varanasi has also witnessed as the birth place of Rani Jhansi Bai. The narrow alleys situated on the river side of Ganges are mesmerizing. Walking there and over hanged tall buildings throw a beautiful picturesque. It’s a fascinating area to wander around. One of the best ways to get oriented in Varanasi is to experience  the most important ” The Dasaswamedh Ghat”.  According to a legend, it was Brahma who did Dasavamedh Yagna here. The second one is Panchganga Ghat, it is said about Panchganga Ghat  that it is confluence of five rivers, which though invisible, have their source inside Ganga. There are total 84 Ghats in Varanasi with their own importance and different legends. When we talk about Benaras and Ganga Ghats, it is impossible to skip the Mahashamshaan of the city i.e Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghats.
These are not only the cremation centres, but the gateway to nirvana. Puranas mention that although the whole Kashi is one big Mahashamshaan, it does not mean that purposeful cremation can take place anywhere in the city. Right from its journey from Gangotri to the Ganga Sagar, the mighty river is deemed to be ‘mother’, but the enthusiasm and feeling of ownership that people of Benaras seem to have with the Ganga is rare. The way the chants of “Ganga Maiya Ki Jai”, “Har Har Mahadev” , “Jai Kashi Vishwanath” echo through the holy city speaks volume.
The extent of Banaras is very vast. With Rs. 50/- sufficiency for a decent snaking session for a couple, it doesn’t cost much? The staple breakfast of Sambar-vada , Kachuri-jalebi complements “the united colors of food” of the city. A street with jostling crowds called the Vishwanath Gali –  a perfect blend for women to shop their favorite articles. Whether it is bangles, or items made up of wood and clay everything is present in the heart of the city. Multi storied houses, small shops in the same gali provides the visitors with the delicious Idli with sambar and hot and sweet chutney – a twist to your tongue. The shops of papad , pickles and meethi supari are also famous as souvenirs of Benaras. The world famous drink Thandai is a summer drink made of Melon seeds and  khas. It  makes you refreshing even in 40′ degrees. ‘Khaike pan benaras wala’ – the popular bollywood number of Amitabh Bachan has immortalized this celebrated local delicacy. Talking about Benaras, so how one can forget the world famous Benarasi Sarees . There are numerous stores of silk articles here.
Suvidha Saree Camp, at Dasasumedh Road Varanasi is one of the renowned stores of silk where one can find the finest silk articles on reasonable e prices. Benaras is a city of beliefs and belivers. Beliefs may believe rationale or reason, but connect direct to heart and soul. One & one doesn’t make eleven, but still people have their calculation right here. The magic of Benaras continues to cast spell on us, it’s impact & stories continue to hypnotize. The city is best called “the City of Lights”.