This ancient city – over a thousand years old when Christ was born – is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit. Varanasi in northern India is the spiritual home of Hinduism and is dedicated to the dead and dying. Sometimes called the City of Light as well as the City of the Dead, it is considered a very good place to die because it offers moksha, freedom from the cycle of reincarnation.
Over a million people live in Varanasi, but many more visit so they can sit on the ghats (stairs) lining the banks of the Ganges and wash away their sins in the sacred river or cremate their loved ones.
In the 1890s Mark Twain described Varanasi as:
older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.
His words were quoted just a few days ago at a political rally in the city which is a reminder that despite its history and highly important religious role, it is still a functioning urban community in the world’s largest democracy. And I would love to visit. Anyone been?