An India Adventure to the Varanasi Vignettes


Recently, I attended a glitzy Travel Writers’ Conclave in Lucknow powered by a resurgent Uttar Pradesh Tourism. This was preceded by a visit to one of three nodal cities that comprise the newly-introduced Heritage Arc. In what appears to be an earnest bid to swell tourist footfalls to the state, the powers-that-be in the governing dispensation conjured up this concept to better the weather-beaten Golden Triangle.


Be that as it may, having already made my near-annual excursion to Agra, and having only recently concluded an assignment on Lucknow and around, I veered towards a never-seen Varanasi as my choice of destination. Now, anyone who knows the place will tell you two days are but an amuse bouche. A wholesome repast would mandate countless servings of her psychedelic sights, antiquated customs, soulful food, and heady sounds.  Meanwhile, here she is, quite possibly one of oldest, continually inhabited cities of the world. In pictures.

Priests walk down to the Ganga’s edge to complete a ritual during the morning prayers.


Yawning boats await custom for a ride along the animating ghats…..and, cleaning (at) the ghats is a must.


Water-borne hearses at the ready.


The Alamgir mosque sits cheek-by-jowl with temples, residences, and guesthouses.


Vermillion brightens early morning drabness at the riverbank.


The mud at these omnipresent wrestling akharas is infused with therapeutic herbs.


Sardarji Papad Wale in Kachori Gali – serving Varanasi since 1961.


Blue Lassi has been churning out fresh, creamy, fruit-laced lassi for nearly a century!


Inner city High Street.


Satvik slurp in sanitised surrounds.


Dhamek Stupa at antediluvian Sarnath.


Sarnath Serenity – the carvings on the stone surface hark back to the Gupta period.


Quintessential Varanasi street food – kachori and sabzi.


He demanded I take a picture. I obliged – he was pulling my weight, after all.


The squeaky clean and airy verandah at Granny’s Inn.


Power looms on their way to elbowing out traditional weavers. Where’s the electricity though?


Handwoven sarees – reason Kashi became Benaras, say some.


Shiva pervades all. From fun foods to funereal moods.


Awaiting Ganga Arti at Dasaswamedh Ghat.

Puneet Sidhu
Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, travel enthusiast and the author of Adrift: A junket junkie in Europe is the youngest of four siblings born into an aristocratic family of Punjab. Dogged in her resistance to conform, and with parental pressure easing sufficiently over the years, she had plenty of freedom of choice. And she chose travel.

She was born in Shimla, and spent her formative years at their home, Windsor Terrace, in Kasumpti while schooling at Convent of Jesus & Mary, Chelsea. The irrepressible wanderlust in her found her changing vocations midstream and she joined Singapore International Airlines to give wing to her passion. She has travelled extensively in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe, South Africa and SE Asia; simultaneously exploring the charms within India.

When she is not travelling, she is writing about it. Over the past decade or so, she has created an impressive writing repertoire for herself: as a columnist with Hindustan Times, as a book reviewer for The Tribune and as a contributor to travel magazines in India and overseas. Her work-in-progress, the documenting of colonial heritage along the Old Hindustan-Tibet Road, is an outcome of her long-standing romance with the Himalayas.
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