The American writer Mark Twain once wrote of Varanasi that it was older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looked twice as old as all of them put together.
Twain’s words still ring true today. It might be the way the rising sun makes everything glow in golden hues, but Varanasi has a distinct spirituality. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world and is believed to be the place where Buddha founded Buddhism.
Hindu pilgrims from across India and around the world make their way to the banks of the river to bathe in the sacred waters, praying as they pour water over themselves. For many, this is the trip of a lifetime.
Beyond its thousands of temples, both large and small, Varanasi is known for its funeral pyres that burn day and night.
Every Indian dream of being cremated here and witnessing the ceremony surrounding this sacred act gives one pause for thought about the circle of life. The departed are wrapped in shrouds and then submerged in the purifying waters of the Ganges before they are placed upon the wood.
At nighttime, the flames illuminate the mourners. It’s both emotionally moving and fascinating to bear witness to life’s final moment.