Varanasi, previously called both Benares and Kashi (City of Life) is a holy city where many Hindus come to wash away their sins in the Ganges or cremate a loved one. The city, located in the state of Uttar Pradesh is also the birthplace of Buddhism. This city is the spiritual heart of India.
To me, Varanasi is simply overwhelming. The drive from the airport to our homestay was about an hour in length and it gave me quite a first impression of Varanasi.
This city is teeming with people! It is jam packed! In a city with so many people, you can imagine that the noise level is also quite high. It is a cacophony of car horns, vendors, dogs, kids and motorcycles. The city is also full of animals! Everywhere you look is a cow, dog, pig, goat or all of the above! With so many animals around, people who are walking must really watch their steps or they may find they have trodden in something rather nasty!
The city is really polluted. Trash is EVERYWHERE. Driving by the Ganges River, trash lined the banks. Trash lines the streets as well. There are huge piles of trash from which the animals feed. It makes for a fairly stinky city.
Varanasi has a wide variety of vehicles: cars, taxis, busses, motorcycles, mopeds, tuk-tuks, bicycle rickshaws, bicycles, bicycle carts, cow-drawn carts, human-drawn carts and more! Just like Nepal, the rules of the road are quite simple:
* I honk because I am here.
* If you are bigger than me, I will move, if you are smaller than me - then get out of my way!
There are no set lanes or directions, we weave in and out of traffic just like we did in Nepal. It's like a city-wide game of chicken!
Driving to the Homestay, I saw a sight that reinforced just how important Varanasi is to those who have lost a loved one. Lovingly wrapped in cloths and strapped to the top of a Tuk-Tuk was a body that was being transported for cremation.
This city is overwhelming and I know it will be an adventure to explore!
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