Hardly ever do you get to view a picturesque chasm between frivolous modernity and vestiges of profound mythology. Varanasi is a mystic commentary for artists, poets and laureates, an ascetic disposition; a city of temples, authentic bhang, and Ghats. Varanasi juts into the holy Ganga and is thus, sacred to a devout Hindu or any religious aficionado. It is one of the oldest perennial settlements of the world and probably the oldest in India, and was revered as the cultural capital of North India.
An incipient exploration of the city understandably begins with temples. Each has a rich history of profligate dynasties and architectural prowess. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is cardinal to the cohort of religious architecture, partly because it enshrines one of the Jyotirlingas and other owing to the various cultures that have inherited it. It was built in its present form by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore after a series of resurrections and depredations due to serial Muslim invasions. A silver altar embraces the Linga, the main deity. The New Vishwanath temple or Birla Temple is a replica of the Old Vishwanath temple and is situated within the Banaras Hindu University campus. The Durgakund Temple has a fascinating lore to it. According to a local narrative, no human ever did the sculpting of the Durga idol. The mythological fables have been well documented and corroborated by many theological schools, as coherent with other Hindu texts.
Food covers the whole gamut from sophisticated restaurants to the local culinary. Pizzeria is a restaurant located on Assi Ghat. Besides the verve-drawing ambience, Italian pizza, a specialty is a welcome break from the American thick crust pizzas. The modest prices are ideal for hitchhikers or detour tourists. Phulwari pinned at Godowlia is a delight to the Mediterranean tongue. It is a pleasant break from the bustling market streets. Pita bread and humus with olives is a sheer indulgence. The travel dwelling choices include local Guest Houses, 5 star suites (The Gateway Hotel) and hostels.
Ghats an inseparable caricature for any traveler to Varanasi. They have been savored as photographs and venerable documentaries. About hundred Ghats exist. Numerous references about Assi ghat are found in early literature Particulalry in matsypurana, again purana, kurma purana, padma purana and kashi khanda. According to a belief goddess Durga after slaying demon Shumbha- Nishumbha had thrown her sword. The place, where sword (Khadga) had fallen resulted in flowing of big stream known as Asi river. Ashvamedha Ghat is the grandest of all ghats. According to a legend, Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses in a yajna. It is from this lore that the Ghat derives its name.
Benares is a conflation of esoteric food, mythology and intellectual inquisition. A city predisposed to welcome its visitors. One that satiates your senses in every palpable and spiritual convention.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpereira_net/2915721414/]