Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kashi Yatra – My Journey to the town of Spiritual Wealth


Varanasi is known by three names- Kashi (The city of Sacred light) is the oldest name, followed by Benaras (Bereft of Sin) and currently Varanasi (Remover of Sin). Varanasi has been the most venerated pilgrimage for all devout Hindus since times immemorial. It stands on the banks of river Ganga, the holiest of all Indian rivers, which only adds to its legacy. The unique relationship between the sacred river and the city is the essence of Varanasi. Here, the Ganga is believed to have flown from heaven to wash away the worldly sins of humankind. The Ganges, which normally flows southeast, reverses its course and flows north for a while at Varanasi, which is considered very auspicious.

The city is mentioned in Holy Scriptures like Vamana Purana, Kashikhand, Narad Purana, Shiv Purana, Buddist texts and in the epic Mahabharata as well. Sarnath (10 km from Varanasi) is the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, and the city itself is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the 23rd Tirthankar. Therefore, Varanasi is a renowned pilgrimage for Buddhists and Jains as well.

 As soon as I stepped in Varanasi - The earthly abode of Lord Shiva, I could feel a deep sense of mysticism and divinity engulfing me. Varanasi - Named after the confluence of two tributaries of the Ganges, Varuna flowing towards the north and Asi to the south - it has attained immortality.


It is said that Varanasi resides on the Trishul (Trident), the weapon of Lord Shiva, and will not get destroyed even during Pralaya (End of world).  Kashi is Moksha (salvation) puri. People believe that the one, who is graced to die at Kashi, attains liberation and freedom from the cycle of re-birth.

This unique city inspires us to reflect about life, to ponder over creation and the insignificance of the temporal wealth in the face of death. Thus, I would say that to be in Varanasi is a soul stirring experience, an experience of self discovery, a journey through the present and the past in search of salvation…

How to Reach Varanasi

Varanasi is well connected with all the major cities by air, rail and road.

Babatpur airport is 22 kms out of the city and there are a number of flights from Delhi and Mumbai.

    There are three railway stations- Kashi, City and Varanasi Junction (also known as Varanasi Cantt), which is the main station. The city is served by trains from all metros and major cities across the country. Rail is definitely the most cost-efficient mode of travel and the most sought-after by people traveling from various parts of India. So make sure you book your tickets well in advance especially if you are traveling in the main season (October-March).

Buses are a good option if traveling from nearby places of Uttar Pradesh.

    Traveling within Varanasi, I feel that cycle- rickshaws are the best mode of transport. Though auto-rickshaws, unmetered are also a popular mode of transport. The rates for both of these are negotiable and they are found all over the city. Vehicular traffic is not allowed at the roads leading to Dashashwamedh and other ghats for most part of the day. Around the ghats, walking may often be the fastest mode of commuting as traffic jams are common.

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