If a country can have a soul, India’s is here, in this astonishing city on the banks of the sacred river Ganges. Varanasi is a nexus of Hinduism, simultaneously a religion and an everyday way of life. Indelible is the experience of a slow, misty morning boat ride along the Ganges ghats, thronged by women in pink saris, businessmen in grey suits, skittering children, old beggars, and Brahmin grandees doing intent puja in the holiest waters in all creation.
A morning flight takes us southeast from Delhi to Varanasi. Because The Soul of India includes Varanasi in its itinerary, and ends in Mumbai, it’s unlikely that many guests will take advantage of this extension. However, if you become as smitten with the city as many of us are, we can gladly arrange for you to return to Varanasi at the itinerary’s end.
Varanasi is one of a handful of cities with a plausible claim to being the world’s oldest (Mark Twain said that it’s “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend”). What’s certain is that no other place on the planet can compare with Varanasi’s ceaseless, many-thousand-year traditions and the up-to-dateness with which it follows those traditions.
Previously, we try to describe Varanasi’s sheer liveliness and spiritual bustle, its air of antiquity mixed matter-of-factly with modern life. It’s a very Indian phenomenon, this easy communication of past and present, and nowhere is this unique time warping more dramatic than in Varanasi.
From our base at the Gateway Ganges, we’ll visit the holy Ganges in morning and evening, among pilgrims from all over the subcontinent and the world. And we’ll visit the city’s Monkey Temple and the Bharat Temple, inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. On Day 3 we’ll visit Sarnath, whose lapidary museum celebrates the site where Gautama Buddha first enunciated the Four Noble Truths after his enlightenment down the road at Bodh Gaya, then return to Delhi and day rooms in the Oberoi Gurgaon before our flights homeward.
Land arrangements, per person (2019)
Internal Flights: Delhi*/ Varanasi*/Delhi* – $850
*Denotes business class when available