Varanasi and Sarnath

The city of Varanasi is probably the most important place in India to Hindus, whilst the ruins of Sarnath, some 10km away, mark the remains of a site of great importance to Buddhists. I stayed there for three days, some 8 years ago.
Dasaswamedh Ghat, Varanasi. Taken from the top of the steps (ghats). The River Ganges is the holiest river to Hindus, and Varanasi is the one of the holiest cities. Previously named Benares (and often so still called) and Kashi (City of Life), it is visited by Hindus in their millions who come to bathe in the Ganges to purify their souls. In a final journey, many are cremated here and their ashes cast into the river, believing that this will help to achieve liberation from rebirth.


The river Ganges from Dasaswamedh Ghat, Varanasi.


Stalls on the ghats at Varanasi. Varanasi never seems less than vibrant and colourful.


And another stall near the ghats.


Down at the ghats I was trailed by this cheerful young rogue demanding money to have his photo taken or to show me the sights or sell me souvenirs or lead me to stalls where I could purchase to my heart’s content or…whatever.


Street scene in Varanasi. The church in the middle distance is Saint Thomas’. This was taken quite early in the morning when I was on my way to the ghats. Early afternoon as I was returning, it was packed solid, traffic completely unable to move.


10km outside Varanasi lie the ruins of Sarnath. After the Buddha had achieved enlightenment at Bodhgaya, he came to Sarnarth – a walk of some 250kms or so, through what would have been highly dangerous country then – to seek out his former companions and in the Deer Park there he gave his first sermon, on the turning of the wheel of law. This comprises the Buddha’s path to Enlightenment: the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold path and the Middle Way. In the 3rd century BC, the emperor Ashoka, a convert to Buddhism after witnessing the terrible carnage of a war he had unleashed, built stupas and monasteries here as well as an engraved pillar. These survived until the end of the 12th century when they were destroyed during the Muslim invasions and not rediscovered until 1834 by a British archaeological team.



This altar stone in the ruins of Sarnath) is still being used by pilgrims for pujas.


Dhamekh Stupa at Sarnath . This solid cylindrical tower, 33m in height, supposedly marks the place where the Buddha gave his first sermon. The base is stone, covered in delicate carvings, and the upper part brick.


Carvings adorning the base of the Dhamekh Stupa.

63 thoughts on “Varanasi and Sarnath

  1. Oh Mick, this brings back such memories from 2014 when I spent some time in Varanasi. The moment I arrived, I meditated by the Ganges, a truly unique experience. But my favourite part of my time there was in Sarnath, the peace and quiet was more than welcome after many months living in the chaos of Dhaka in Bangladesh. Thanks for returning the memories to my mind’s eye.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, Varanasi has its own Vibrations. Not saying this ‘in comparision’ to Sarnath. I say this, despite being a Staunch Christian. Any Religious place imbibes So much Energy, the Very Atmosphere becomes wonderful. …Varanasi is turned much into commerce, selling things not just Needed and Spiritual, but also trinkets, which affect its atmosphere, I think! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Benaras has always been a very important place for Hindu religion as mentioned out by you. Benaras Hindu university was very important place for learning at certain point of time. Benaras is popular for Paan (I’m sure you must be knowing about it) and a popular variant of Mango – Langdaa!
    Nice pictures Mick! specially the one with pink building in background in Benaras and last picture from sarnath!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Paan is quite typical. I haven’t come across any foreigners trying a paan!! There is huge variety of mangoes in India, each region producing it’s own variant. And we call mango -king of all fruits!!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, his English was adequate for his purposes! I gave him a couple of rupees for taking the photo – usually i wouldn’t, but this time I didn’t follow my own rules!
      And yes, Sarnath is really a great place. Lots of history, and very interesting.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I have been to Varanasi many times, my Dear Mick. But never had time, nor the Inclination, to sit in meditation at the ghats! …A visit to Your site is always a chance to learn, oddly, about my own country! At least the scenes. Much Appreciated. Thanks and Regards. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow a lovely trip down memory lane and wonderful pics too.. incidentally thats my in laws the chance to visit it only once..still was mystical..m sure it would have been a magnificent place in its heyday..


  5. Do you think its something in the light. All photographs are very brightly coloured in India, don’t you think? Wonderful colours. I am enjoying the history and every so often I have to go and look things up. I am learning a lot. Did you go on your own and unguided? Just sort of back packing? You seem to have covered a lot of ground and, wonderfully, kept off the Tourist Trail πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jackie. Yes, the light certainly has something to do with it – strong and bright – and the vivid colours everywhere. I’m delighted that I’m stimulating your interest – I hope you don’t keep researching these things and finding gaping errors in my posts!
      Yes, on my own – sort of backpacking, but I do have a minimum standard of comfort required. I’m a great fan of the ‘Lonely Planet’ guide books to help me find my way around and visit what I really would like to see. Chatting to other people out there certainly helps, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you are braver than me but I will check out Lonely Planet. I am sure you do your research most thoroughly and if perchance I found an error, I would not speak of it. That would be most rude! I aim to enjoy your posts, not critique them!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Banaras or Kashi or Varanasi, I have to visit this place one day. I feel like going there many times but as it is said in hindu religion, “You can’t visit a place without an invitation not even a temple”. So here I am waiting for an invitation.
    Until then I am going to enjoy your stories about it πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never been to Varanasi but long to go there someday. Hopefully won’t be dead by then.
    There’s a beautiful Hindi Bollywood song with one line that goes something like, ‘a visit in your lifetime is a given. if not when alive then in death’, as a reference to people performing the last rites of the departed.
    It was great seeing India through your eyes. Do visit Delhi on your next trip. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ishaan Sharma

    Your post makes me want to go there…
    Though it would have changed a lot since when you went there.
    The Ganga has sadly been extremely polluted. The river has a high natural presence of bacteriophage and in the ancient days the river was able of cleaning cities upto ten kilometres away from the banks due to this property. But today even this mighty river is polluted by human actions.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ishaan Sharma

        There is a slight possibility it might actually have imprived since then. The government launched many schemes to save Ganga from pollution and Varanasi might be one of the few places it affected. But it is close to impossible to redirect all the sewage.
        I wonder if you went to the central temple. I guess it is called Kashi Vishwanath?

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.