Varanasi is the cultural capital of India. It is the place to come to study classical music of India. It is considered a small city in Indian terms of population. Only 3 million people live here as compared to 16 MILLION living in Delhi.
Pt. Shivnath Mishra (world renown sitarist) and his son, Deobrat Mishra:
(On an interesting side note about Delhi’s population, in addition to the 16 million, Arvind said there are about 6 million people not counted for. They are the people living on the streets, in the slums, the itinerant workers who are not registered city dwellers. In the 16th C, Shah Jehan moved his capital from Agra to Delhi (it was called Shah Jehanabad) and built the Red Fort and the Mosque. At that time, the city had a few thousand people living in it. There was not much infrastructure. Then in 1931, the British chose Delhi as their capital. At that time there were 70,000 people living there. An architect build roads to accommodate 700,000 people. They thought they were thinking big. No one could have ever imagined Delhi would grow to a population of 22 million.)
chai! cardamon tea:
Back to Varanasi, we are in Arvind’s hometown. He is so proud and happy to bring us here! Here are some Varansi city facts:
- This city has been around for over 5000 years. It is the oldest and longest continuously inhabited city in the world.
- It is the spiritual capital of India.
- It is very congested and the most densely inhabited city of India.
- It is the largest religious pilgrimage place on earth, more religious pilgrimages are made here compared to Mecca!
- 60,000 people visit daily.
- The left bank of the Ganga is the hometown of Shiva.
- 60% of the world’s carpets are made in Varanasi. However, not a single shop in Varanasi sells those carpets!! They are instead sold in America and Europe and elsewhere. It is a taboo and the superstition says that if a carpet shop is opened in the city, the business will die.
- 30% of the population make a living selling silk. There is a 3000 year old art of silk making in Varanasi.
- Dead bodies are brought from all over India to Varanasi for cremation.
- It is said that when one is cremated in Varanasi, Shiva places sacred words into the ear of the departed and frees him/her from having to go through fewer reincarnations and allows the person to live the next life with less pain.
- Bathing in the Ganga here is said to take away all your mental impurities.
- The city has 108 names. One of the names is Banares coming from Bana (always ready) and ras (juice of life) meaning that the city is always ready to serve you the “juice of life”.
- It is said that Varanasi links you with the divine. In fact, the whole time I was here, Kelley and I kept thinking that we had our cell phones on “vibrate” in our pockets…but my cell phone wasn’t with me! This place vibrates with energy.
- Varanasi comes from “Varana”= the river on the north and the “Asi” the river on the south..both rivers feed into the Ganga, forming this sacred place, this strong energetic vortex along the river
- There is an amazing image of Shiva sitting underneath the “cosmic egg”, underneath Varanasi, holding a trident upon which is balanced the “cosmic egg” and Varanasi. His hair is crazy because he is chanting OM and the vibration of the cosmic sound “OM” awakens the 7 chakras of the people up above in Varanasi!
- The city of Varanasi was completely destroyed three times. It was last demolished completely in 1682 by the Moghuls. Each time the city was destroyed, it was rebuilt and all the relics and temples were re-established on the EXACT sites as before because the sites are said to be sacred and hold certain energy. Science has shown that the sites of the temples and shrines have /are radiating centers of energy.
- There are 15 Solar Shrines (shrines dedicated to Surya, the sun god). This was originally Surya’s city, dedicated to the Sun God and later Surya was superimposed by Vishnu. They are one in the same.
- There is one Solar Shrine especially that is thought to be an ancient fertility center. A dip at the solar shrine insures fertility
- In Varanasi, the Sun is thought to be both masculine and feminine in energy: Masculine is the fire aspect and feminine is the liquid core of the sun.
- the Ganga in Varanasi flows in a crescent shape like the half moon on the forehead of Shiva
- Banares/Varanasi is where YOGA (=Spirituality) blends with BHOGA (material world)
detail from silk design:
Shopping in the silk factory:
silk maker at his loom:
boat ride along the Ganga:
Don emerging from his holy dip in the Ganga:
Cow entering silk shop!!:
In Varanasi, we experience being rooted in the PAST, practice being PRESENT, and live with hope and vision moving toward the FUTURE!