Varanasi is one of the most visited religious destinations in India, thanks to its historic ghats, splendid temples and the distinct flavour of the city itself. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, a fact that makes it even more fascinating as a popular tourist spot in India.
It is the river Ganga though, which lends the city its identity. Indeed, the city and the river have become synonymous with each other. Much of the daily life in the city revolves around the Ganga, and it finds a strong presence in the everyday conversations and lifestyle of the people.
We had planned to visit Varanasi before catching the train for Ranchi while returning from Prayagraj. Besides visiting and praying at the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple, we planned for an evening river cruise in Varanasi. Going for the evening cruise has its advantages, one of which is that it allows you to enjoy some incredible sightseeing. Besides enjoying the views of the setting sun, we shall be able to witness the Ganga Aarti. Isn’t it exciting that now we can explore Varanasi in one more way? It is a never seen experience of Varanasi for me.
I checked on the internet. Alaknanda Cruise, the double-decker luxury cruise is a new addition to the must-do tourist activities in Varanasi. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched the cruise service Alakanada in Varanasi on 2 September 2018. I booked tickets for us online. The fabulous views of the river Ganga, the ancient Ghats and the Ganga Aarti are the top three attractions of Varanasi tourism.
Continuing from my previous post, we went to the Kashi Vishwanath temple early in the morning of 28 November 2022. In the afternoon, I walked around the city leisurely to feel the old Kashi charm here, which is so typical of this city. On my return to our hotel room, we checked out of the hotel and left for the Ravidas Ghat for the cruise.
The cruise was to start from Ravidas Ghat at 5:30 PM. We accordingly reached the Ghat at 5 PM and went around the beautiful park. Maintained by the government of Uttar Pradesh, the park is the memorial of the spiritual master Sant Ravidas. The centrally placed platform with a statue of the saint provides a surreal ambience to Sant Ravidas Park in the evening.
The Ravidas Park is on the bank of the river Ganga and the ghat is known as the Ravidas Ghat due to is proximity to the house of saint Ravidas. Ravidas was an Indian mystic poet-saint of the bhakti movement during the 15th to 16th century CE. Most scholars believe that Guru Ravidas met Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. He is revered in the Sikh scripture, and 41 of Guru Ravidas’ poems are included in the Adi Granth.
As the 30-metre-long modern liner floats lyrically on the calm holy waters of the river Ganga, Varanasi starts to reveal itself, one layer at a time.
Varanasi teems with life. And death! The Hindu cremation ghats – Harishchandra Ghat and Manikarnika Ghat are not easy places to be in. It silences you! The famous Manikarnika Ghat is the most pious cremation ground in India. Hindus firmly hold the belief that if someone breathes his/her last in Kashi and is also cremated in Manikarnika Ghat, he/she is released from the unending cycle of life and birth and attains Moksha or Nirvana.
It was getting time for the world-famous Ganga Aarti at the Dashaswamedh Ghat, which is performed daily. Every evening, the pujaris or priests bring the Dashaswamedh Ghat alive with Ganga aarti. Ganga Aarti is perhaps the most important event related to the holy river. It involves the chanting of hymns, fire, flower, and more. The idea is to show gratitude and respect to the river, and ask for its blessings.
The view and sensation of being able to witness it gave me goosebumps. It is something everyone should have on their bucket list. Watching such a beautiful scene felt quite satisfying. After witnessing the Ganga Aarti from the liner, the boat returned to the boarding point — Ravidas Ghat. It was a memorable cruise and we all enjoyed it very much.
On returning to the Ravidas Ghat where I bought a Floating Diya and which Tania and I lit and offered it to the river, and watched it float away in silence.
After the cruise, the ladies went for their shopping. We visited the Sankat Mochan temple, followed by a lovely, superfast, marvellous dinner at the Sagar Ratna restaurant in Lanka. Sonu bhaiya and my aunt dropped us at the Deen Dayal Upadhyay junction in Mughal Sarai. They returned to Prayagraj as we headed towards the platform to catch the Rajdhani Express for Ranchi.