Millions of Hindus travel to the River Ganges for pilgrimage, to worship, to mourn and to die, and for tourists witnessing the circle of life and the people along the riverbanks it is an incredible and eye-opening experience. India is a place where you either love it or you hate it (but you are glad you still went). The most famous of the sights in north India are based around the ‘Golden Triangle’ and include: Delhi, the Taj Mahal and Agra to visit the Red Fort. Step away from the controlled chaos of these structural beauties and head over to the city of Varanasi.
In Varanasi the traffic is still chaotic and the smell of the streets is still uninviting but once you are on a boat in the middle of the River Ganges there is peace. Varanasi is home to hundreds of ‘ghats’ (steps down to the river), many of them dating back hundreds of years. We recommended visiting the most famous ‘ghat’, Dashashwamedh, which is one of the main ghats located near the Vishwanath Temple.
Most people do a sunset or a sunrise boat tour – we recommend both. It’s not just about watching the sun rise or set over the River Ganges, the banks are where locals do every day chores (like bathing or laundry), or they immerse themselves in the Holy Water of the river. Many people come to the city of Varanasi to die and be cremated along the water’s edge which is ironicly a highlight for tourists. Life goes 1000 times a minute in India, and the perfect way to watch it go by is sitting in a boat, in the middle of a river, quietly observing.
Once you are down at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, negotiate with a boat driver a price for the sunset/sunrise (don’t worry about finding a captain, people will come up to you!) At sunset you will be lucky enough to witness life along the river as well as a ceremony conducted by priests daily. This is called Agni Pooja (Worship to Fire), viewed best from your boat as it pulls back into the bottom of the ghat. The sunrise cruise will encounter morning rituals of locals along the river as well as witnessing the early morning cremations and the fire blazing before the sun rises.
Go to the RIVER GANGES:
Where: One of the best places to go to the River Ganges is from Varanasi.
When: India gets HOT in the middle of the year so try stick to the cooler months – November to March.
How to get there: You can fly, bus, train or drive into Varanasi! The best way to get around is by rickshaw or taxi.
Respect: When on the boat ride and taking photos please make sure you still respect peoples’ privacy and their sacred worshipping area. When close to the crematorium ghats please do not take photos as locals believe when you take a photo you could capture the spirit of the dead who are trying to cross over.
What to bring: When traveling on the river bring a small amount of money, camera and water.