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Colourful & Full Of Stories, Varanasi Should Be On Your List Of Getaways

    What Is It?

    If Varanasi had a form or figure, it would be called Shiva. The city that is said to be the home of the deity who not just did his tandav {divine dance} there, but was founded by himself as mythology would say it. But beyond the beliefs, there’s a lot more that Varanasi has got to offer. This colourful city is full of life and stories and we suggest you go exploring.

    How Do I Get There?

    An hour and 20 minutes by flight from Delhi {there are more than 15 flights daily}, you could also take a train here, but be prepared for a 19-hour journey.

    What's So Unique About It?

    Varanasi, Benaras or Kashi – call it what you may, came to be the holiest of all cities due to its pilgrimage and evidence of spiritual/religious amalgamation. One of the must-see here is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. One of the holiest temples dedicated to lord Shiva, the temple which cannot be seen from the outside goes unnoticed through the alleys which define Varanasi. As you enter the site though, you can see gold, stone and etchings which tell us tales of who all have donated, dedicated and designed the holy house. It has been and destroyed multiple times and finally completed in 1780 by the Maratha ruler Ahilya Bai Holker of Indore.

    When it comes to food, there’s no dearth of options here. One cannot go to this city and not have the famous paan. The little digestive made in a betel leaf and Areca nut combined with mukhwas {mouth freshener} is eaten by every inhabitant and represents a strong culture. Though, we wouldn’t suggest it to any tourist who has a weak gut and doesn’t want to walk on the wild side. We had one too many during our time there and can almost relive it again as we think of it. Other things to be eaten and tried include the chaat {street food} which its widely popular for. The gol gappas with yogurt in them, the kachori and papdi are must-haves.

    Also make sure you try the thandai. This milk-based creamy drink has multiple variations and needs no occasion to be consumed. With strong flavours of cardamom, nuts, saffron, black pepper, watermelon seeds, fennel and more, it’s delicious and is also a staple during festivals like Holi, Maha Shivratri and the ever-so-popular Kumbh Mela.

    Given how colourful this city is, there will be plenty of shopping attractions- from clothing {Benarasi saree, anyone?} to accessories, you will find a lot that will make for superb additions to your wardrobe.

    Anything Else?

    We chose to stay on the ghats and settled with the boutique property called Suryauday Hotel which has an old-world charm, and is a courtyard nestled in the Shivala ghats. The other hotel on the ghats which is worth dining/staying at is Brijrama Palace, which has a fort-like facade and interiors of the Maratha heritage.

    For a more luxurious and royal experience, Taj Hotels have acquired the Nadesar Palace in the city and converted its rooms into limited suites for the guests. From Jawahar Lal Nehru, His Holiness the Dalai Lama to many British royals have stayed there, and the property is truly a personalised expanse of land which provides yoga, croquet and carriage services amidst its mango orchards.