I visited Varanasi twice in 2016, first in June and later in October. Despite being a chaotic city, it has become one of my favorite places in India.
Varanasi is the oldest city of India. Archaeologist calculate that it has been continuously inhabited for at least four thousand years. It is located next to the Ganges and it is considered one of the sacred cities of Hinduism. Its narrow streets and alleys form a labyrinth full of people, shops, animals, bikes, motorcycles and waste. When walking, you have to watch carefully what you step on.
The most venerated Hindu god in Varanasi is Shiva. There are hundreds of temples dedicated to him, almost one in every corner. During my first trip to Varanasi, I went to the Kanthwala Mandir, also know as Nepali temple. It was built in the 19th century A. D. by the Kind of Nepal. It is built with terracotta, stone and wood.
Inside the temples and in the streets, it is very common to find Lingams. A Lingam is an abstract representation of the god Shiva and a symbol of the male energy. It is often represented along with the yoni, a symbol of the goddess, or the female creative energy. Together, the represent the oneness of life.
There are other famous landmarks in the city, such as the Alamgir Mosque, which was was built in the 17th Century A.D. by the emperor Aurangazeb. It is located in Panchganga Gath and it offers a quite and peaceful atmosphere, such a contrast to the rest of the city.
In my second visit, I happened to stay at a hotel that is next to the Jantar Mantar. This structure is an observatory was built in the year 1737 by Maharaja Jai Singh II. This is one of the five that the Maharaja built; the others were built in Jaipur, Mathura, New Delhi and Ujjain.
The city is interesting and full of surprises. However, the most important activities take place by the river. I´ll talk more about it in my next post.