Mark Read

Varanasi

Varanasi is the India of your imagination. This is one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities, and one of the holiest in Hinduism. Pilgrims come to the Ganges here to wash away sins in the sacred waters, to cremate their loved ones, or simply to die here, hoping for liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

Most visitors agree Varanasi is magical – but not for the faint-hearted. Intimate rituals of life and death take place in public, and the sights, sounds and smells of the mazelike old town can be intense. Still, the so-called City of Light is one of the most colorful and fascinating places on earth. Strolling the ghats or watching sunrise from a boat on the Ganges are a highlight, and confronting the reality and ritual of death can be a powerful experience.

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Explore: Varanasi's river and music

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