Varanasi, once known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi, is a historical city in northern India. The city is sacred to Hindus and also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. In many ways Varanasi epitomizes the very best and worst aspects of India, and it can be a little overwhelming. However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganga at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world. Some people believe that Varanasi is a must see destination on any trip to northern India. The city can be scorchingly hot in the summer months so, if possible, time your visit to fall between October and March, and bring something warm to wear for chilly days and nights, instead. indian boatman at varanasi ganga river. oarsman rower at boat in india water, ganges. boat in water, man in asia, with hindu belief. sky, travel, people, ghat, blue, sacred, asian, exotic, rowboat, benares, architecture, steps, trip, male, landscape, outdoor, oar, Varanasi is not a city with distinct tourist destinations; the joy of the experience comes from watching the spectacle of life and death- on the river and in the eyes of the people who come to the Ganga- as well as in meandering through the alleys of the old city, trying to fathom the ways of a very mature culture. India is the largest country in the Indian Subcontinent and shares borders with Pakistan to the west, China and Nepal to the north, Bhutan to the north-east, and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. Sri Lanka lies to the south, Maldives to the south-west and Indonesia to the south-east of India in the Indian Ocean. India is the seventh largest country in the world by area and, with over a billion people, is second only to China in population, although its much higher birthrate makes it likely to reach pole position in less than ten years. It is an extremely diverse country, with vast differences in geography, climate, culture, language and ethnicity across its expanse, and prides itself on being the largest democracy on Earth. A ghat is a series of steps leading down to the river, used by bathers and pilgrims, and riverside Varanasi consists of a long sequence of these. It’s generally possible to walk directly between them, though near Manikarnika Ghat you’ll have to navigate your way up and around through the alleyways. The best option for viewing the ghats is to charter a boat and see them from the river. Hindus consider it auspicious to die in Varanasi, so some ghats are known as burning ghats, where bodies are cremated (in full view) before their ashes are eased into the Ganga.