The Timeless Beauty of Kashi

Through a Traveler’s Lens

8 min readDec 26, 2023

Months before my visit, I meticulously crafted a detailed travel plan, outlining every aspect of my upcoming journey titled “Exploring Kashi: Beyond the Ghats — A Traveler’s Guide”.

Did I stick to it? Well, you’ll uncover as you journey along with me...

Why Kashi?

The allure of Kashi has resonated through centuries, drawing pilgrims, scholars, and wanderers alike. This, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, boasts a rich tapestry of history and spirituality. The river Ganga, believed to have the power to cleanse sins, flows majestically through the heart of the city. The ghats along the river have witnessed countless rituals, ceremonies, and the meandering flow of time.

The love story of Shiva and Sati adds a touch of divine romance to Kashi’s narrative. The sacred Ganga, bearing witness to their celestial love, continues to flow, carrying the spiritual energy that has drawn seekers to Kashi for centuries.

Attracted by the tales of its history and the enchanting reels, I embarked on a two-day photo-documentary journey to capture the essence of this timeless place.

A Photographer’s Perspective

Being a photographer, I’ve explored many places through my lens, but my two-day journey to Kashi in December 2023 was truly unique. Kashi, also known as Varanasi or Benaras, has a charm that’s different from any other place I’ve photographed before. This trip wasn’t just about taking pictures; it was like discovering a whole new world.

The very essence of Kashi lies in its divergence from the ordinary. The narrow lanes, adorned with centuries-old structures, evoke a sense of timelessness that is unparalleled. Each step taken within this city feels like a stride through history, and every corner holds secrets etched in the weathered walls.

The people of Kashi present a unique portrait, their faces narrating tales of devotion, resilience, and an enduring connection to traditions that have withstood the test of time. Unlike the bustling crowds of other places, the atmosphere here exudes a serene spirituality, casting a distinctive glow on the faces of those who call Kashi home. In a gesture of reverence, people prefer using the original name “Kashi” instead of Benaras or Varanasi. The air is often filled with the chant “Namah Parvati Pateh — Har Har Mahadev,” echoing from both locals and visitors alike.

Day 1: A Clash of Realities

When I arrived, the narrow streets and ancient buildings immediately caught my eye. The bustling streets, adorned with centuries-old structures and the hum of life, seemed like a different world altogether. However, my excitement quickly waned as I navigated through the somewhat unkempt streets, revealing a side less portrayed in the reels. With very few women around, I felt uncomfortable. It wasn’t what I expected, but it motivated me to uncover the real beauty of Kashi that goes beyond social media snapshots.

It took me nearly half a day to find suitable accommodation, settling near the Manikarnika Ghat, a spot that told stories of life and death intertwined. Kashi revealed itself to be a city full of contrasts and hidden stories waiting to be captured.

After getting fresh, I was ready to explore the heart of Kashi. Armed with my camera, I set out to document the city’s beauty, eager to capture moments that went beyond the confines of time. Each frame told a story, and the challenge lay not just in selecting the best shots but in preserving the unique charm of Kashi in every image.

My plan directed me towards Dashashwamedh Ghat around 5.30pm for the evening Aarti. While trying to figure out the way, a friendly boy approached me, questioning why I roamed around alone with my camera. As it turned out, he and three friends had also come to Kashi for the first time, hailing from Lucknow. Like me, they were searching for directions to the evening Arti.

We reached the ghat an hour before the Arti commenced and secured the centre most position in front of the stage. The venue was already bursting at the seams, with crowds filling every available space — from the buildings behind and all along the ghat to the boats on the river. As the Arti unfolded, the ethereal ambiance, illuminated by the flickering flames, etched an indelible mark on my soul. The details of that magical evening remain crisp and clear in my memory, even today.

In that moment, surrounded by the vibrant energy of Kashi, I realized that the real beauty of this city lies not just in its ancient structures and bustling streets but in the profound stories woven into its fabric. Each frame captured during the Arti became a testament to the unique charm of Kashi — a charm that transcends beyond social media and resides in the hearts of those fortunate enough to experience it first-hand.

Post Arti, we went to the city market, Gowdolia, and had dinner together. Following a friend’s suggestion, we headed back to Manikarnika for the night Arti at 8.30pm. This was a unique experience. I found it hard to decide whether to watch or capture it through my lens. I chose to see through my lens, capturing what I could and storing the rest in my memories forever.

The boys had a train to catch. We immortalized some memories in the form of pictures, promising to meet again on a future trip we might plan together. I stayed in Manikarnika a bit longer before leaving for my accommodation, soaking in the timeless atmosphere of Kashi.

Day 2: Falling in Love

Despite a less-than-ideal start, my second day in Kashi turned out to be nothing short of magical. Acting on my friend’s suggestion, I woke up at 4.00am and headed towards the Assi Ghat for the morning Arti. Arriving a little early, I found myself entranced by the beauty of the Ganga River. Walking along the Assi Ghat towards the riverbank, the stillness of the water captivated me, and I couldn’t bring myself to move. The enchanting scene with the flickering flames of the morning Arti created a serene atmosphere.

Every random, unframed click I took brought delight. I realized that in Kashi, I didn’t need to be a professional photographer to capture beautiful moments; I just had to press the shutter.

Wandering through the Ghats one by one, I returned to my accomodation, got freshened up, and set out again with my camera. Though the ancient Kashi Vishwanath Temple intimidated me with its long queues and hours of waiting, I decided to explore the New Kashi Vishwanath Temple instead. What did I like doing the most there? Well, ‘sitting idle’ in a corner. What about other temples in my itinerary? I leave it for my next visit.

I walked through the streets while returning back to the ghats capturing stories on the streets. This area didn’t feel like Kashi to me though; perhaps it was Varanasi, which for me was a modernized version of Kashi.

Feeling a pull towards the ghats, I made my way back and spent my remaining time there. With my camera, I delved into documenting Kashi’s diverse beauty, this time experiencing Arti prep from river Ganga on the boat. It wasn’t just about taking pretty pictures; it was about capturing the heart of a city that feels like it exists outside of time. From lively streets to peaceful ghats, each photo became a chapter in the visual story of Kashi.

Eventually, I reluctantly left for the railway station, starting my journey back home.

A Virtual Revisit: Cherishing Memories

A few days later, as I sifted through the thousand pictures I had captured, the challenge was not only in selecting the best shots but also in reliving the moments frozen in each frame. It was about preserving the real feeling of the moment and showcasing what makes Kashi special. After spending 3 days in the end, I settled on approximately 700 photos, each one telling a bit of the timeless charm of the city.

Kashi became a kind of one-sided love for me — a place that left a mark on my soul. It’s unlike any other place I’ve photographed before, and even when I’m far away, the memories of those two days stick with me. Each photo isn’t just a snapshot; it’s a piece of the unique spirit of Kashi, a city that stands out in its own special way.

While the city may have presented its challenges on day one, the sheer magic of day two, coupled with the captivating scenes that initially lured me here, turned my trip into a lifetime experience. Now, when I encounter reels showcasing Kashi, I no longer feel jealousy; instead, I find myself saying, “I know exactly where that place is.” Kashi is more than a destination; it’s a timeless sanctuary of memories that I will carry with me, forever.

The initial discomfort faded away, leaving behind a tapestry of experiences that now feels like a part of my own story.

A Poetic Sojourn…

Meet Gyanendra, Utkarsh, Alok and Nishak