What’s in a name when you’re over 3000 years old? That’s the story of the world’s oldest living city.
Two tributaries, the Varuna and the Asi, meet here, before they flow into the River Ganges.
Three major faiths — Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism — acknowledge its importance.
Call it by any of its name — Kashi. Benaras. Varanasi. Some simply call it the City of Light, for it’s a place where the light enters your soul.
Varanasi has always drawn mystics and sages, philosophers, and priests, because of its connection to Lord Shiva, the all-powerful god of death and transformation in the Hindu Trinity. Some believe that he ascended to heaven in a bolt of lightning from Varanasi. Our guided evening walk takes you through several places and experiences, which embody the spirit of Shiva.
Varanasi was also known as Mahashamstana, which means ‘the cremation grounds of Lord Shiva’, and this walk is an intense revelation in the beliefs and customs of death and rebirth that are part of the Shiva legend.
Ease into Varanasi’s intense vibe with yoga and meditation, or try Vedic Chanting to elevate your spirit. Drift down the Ganges at dawn, as pilgrims make their way down the ghats to the edge of the water.
Beyond its spiritual dimension, Varanasi has always been at the forefront of education, pivotal social movements and cultural heritage.
It was the center of the Bhakti social reform movement during the 18th century, and poets and writers from this period, such as Tulsidas, Kabir, and Ravidas, spent a large part of their life here. A walk along the southernmost embankment near Assi Ghat brings this literary heritage to life. Follow in the footsteps of Pandit Tulsidas, and discover the life of legendary poets, philosophers, and saints who shaped the city’s story. Like poetry, music is another aspect of the city’s artistic past.
The Benaras Gharana (school of Hindu Classical music) has produced some of India’s best artistes. A visit to a private family’s residence, gives you an insider’s perspective on how the art is passed down from parent to child.
Silk weaving is another art that descends one generation to the next. Interact with master weavers and learn how Benaras silk was sent by kings to Ancient Rome, China, and Babylon as a diplomatic overture in the 7th century BC. Today, handwoven Benaras silk struggles to compete with machine-made textiles. We work with an organization called Loom To Luxury, which works directly with artisans in over 25 villages around Varanasi to revive Benaras silk weaving and takes these handloom textiles to some of the top fashion houses in New York.
Depending on what stage you are at in life, chances are you’ll experience Varanasi very differently from everyone else.
For some it’s the pinnacle of the journey, while for others its simply another aspect of India. Joy or sorrow, enlightenment or fulfilment, the emotions are varied, but ultimately, it leaves a lasting impression on everyone who visits.