Varanasi – Not for the faint of heart!
There are no words to describe the chaos and sensory overload of Varanasi. I happen to be there for the biggest festival of the city, Maha Shiv Ratri. Most Hindu cities celebrate this festival but it has special meaning in Varanasi since Lord Shiva resides here part time. This is a time for devotees of Shiva to let loose and party all day and night, with an intoxicant called bhang. After a day of watching the celebration, getting stuck in crowds of people, having blaring musical instruments in your face – I had a full on panic attack around 6pm. I stood in the crowd, sweating, palms went cold and I couldn’t move! Thank goodness I was with another tourist who quickly took me aside, sat me down until I had calmed down.
The craziness in Varanasi make Las Vegas seem normal. As much as I dislike Vegas I would take the gambling mecca over Varanasi any day. As you know the slot machines of Vegas ring in your ears long after you’ve exited the casino, here in Varanasi the temple bells ring loud in your ears for days!
Varanasi was on my must-go list for several years, it’s the oldest Hindu city alive. The fires that cremate the bodies on the Ganges have been blazing for centuries, this is the most sacred city for Hindus. I wanted to find spirituality here, a sense of calm and clarity. What I found was interesting Hindu mythology and how religion can turn the sanest person insane.
Do I recommend Varanasi? Or course! It’s the first time I’ve seen masses of people enslaved blindly by religion. I come from a city that is predominately atheist, I was in awe to see how religion influences the masses.
I suggest finding accommodation away from the Ghats for a peace of mind. I stayed at a Homestay 10 minutes away. It was my sanctuary from the chaos and the owner was very attentive to ensure you have a pleasant time in Varanasi. www.homestayvaranasi.in