Varanasi – On the Roofs and in the Alleys of India’s Most Sacred Town

The town of Varanasi is magical. You can feel that you are arrived in a different place, a place with an energy and a charisma which pervade every street, every place, everything. A town where incredible things can happen.

Varanasi lies on the Gange riverbanks, in Uttar Pradesh, India. The town is popular for being a holy site where Hindus come to spend their last hours before passing to better life on the sacred river’s banks. But Varanasi is much more then this and its magic is rooted in his exceptional appearance, a labyrinth of small alleys with as only landmark the river.

Varanasi, India

Here the Gange is called ‘Mother Ganga’, which well expresses the sacrality of this river, and it is Varanasi’s major attraction. The town stretches along its banks and fits its variegated population among the ghat.

At first glance, the ghat are a simple staircase reaching the water. But walking around banks, during day or nighttime, you will recognize them as the principal daily life stage in Varanasi. Here people live, wash, cook, play, sing, pray, buy, sell, fish, pee and sleep.

Ghat - Varanasi, India

Get up early in the morning and take a boat at sunrise, when the morning fog blurs all the shapes and the colours, mixing them with the golden rising sun. Sail along the river, close to the ghat, and allow the magic of this place to intoxicate you. Do not mind the burning ghat, a sacred and well safeguarded place where Indians celebrate the funeral rites. Do not try to steal any picture, but take a look from far and show the due respect.

Leave Death at its own devices and pay your attention to Life, scintillating and surprising life emerging from the alleys.

Varanasi, India

Depart from the river and enter the labyrinth of tight roads and uncertain paths, sometimes just broad enough to allow one person to pass, or one of the many cows roaming in town. Here too life is frenetic and the town is animated by various and fascinating activities. Shops, artisans, temples, monks in parades, stray animals, dirt beyond imagination, hidden guest houses and praying gurus. The first confrontation is tough, uncomfortable, there is not much light, people are many and always in a hurry. But day after day you get used to it and you start to enjoy the charm of this ancestral labyrinth.

The river, the town and the roofs. The roofs are the last magic piece of Varanasi’s incredible puzzle made of crammed buildings. To find some relief, some fresh air, people use to climb the ceilings, flat and spacious. There are bars and restaurants, meeting points where to fly the kites, places fit for a party, or just roofs with some funny monkey which will offer you his company.

Varanasi, India

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