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Kumbha Mela

Kumbha Mela in Allahabad

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the doorway between worlds...

Once named Benares and Kashi (City of Life), Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in India. Expected to be one of the oldest living cities in the world Varanasi has been the center for learning and civilization for over 2,000 years. It was Mark Twain that said "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, even older than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together".

The newer city itself is chaotic but once you move past that and go towards the river past the old town, things quiet down and the atmosphere by the ghats naturally invokes deep reflection on life. Here, the veils between the worlds are thin and life's most intimate rituals of birth and death take place. Newborns are blessed and welcomed, and the dead are cremated and sent to the inner worlds. This all takes place on the ghats along the Ganges river which truly represents the ebb and flow of life for millions of Hindus.

Meandering through the labyrinth of alleys called galis in the old part of Varanasi adjacent to the river is a fun, exploratory adventure in itself. Too narrow for vehicles, the alleys are a walking discovery of a simple life in India and an opportunity to truly encounter the locals.

To witness the sacred rituals along the Ganges and to bask in the sacredness of this holy city is one of India's most memorable experiences.

Varanasi at sunrise, boats on Ganges River