Varanasi, India

Cathen Hall


Varanasi is located along the Ganges River in northeast India. Just over two-hundred twenty miles from the Nepal border this holy city lies. Home to one of the most densely populated places in the world, contributing to the pollution in the river. The city is located south east of the capital city New Delhi. The bend in the river played a huge role in location.

History and Sacredness

Varanasi is the holiest city in the Hindu religion and shows the most dramatic and public displays of warship. The river itself has gone from a fantastic fishing river with people relying on it for income, to a polluted state filled with corpses, drifting burned body parts and raw sewage, and various chemicals. The cities' air is thick with smoke from the continuously burning fires consuming several thousand bodies a month. Ashes left over are shoveled into the Ganges. Every year millions of pilgrims show their most private moments of religious life here by bathing and making offerings. Even in the polluted water these moments are still sacred because they have so much meaning.

The narrow streets and walkways are choked with people especially during any festivals. Cows wander in the streets and may be decorated, they are holy in India and traffic will wait for them to cross a road. A sleeping cow can block a whole walkway, they are so narrow. The river banks here are sacred and if you die here you free your soul from the cycle of life and death, or otherwise known as Moksha. Moksha is not a place, but a goal and is equivalent to Buddhist enlightment. The bend in the river has meaning too. The first to build temples could make them face the rising and setting sun while also facing the river.

What is Varanasi

A large city on the banks of the Ganges river. This city is the center off the Hindu religion. Not too far from Nepal this city has one of the most polluted rivers and yet the same river feeds almost the entire country still. Not just chemicals are in the water, but things most people would rather not swim with, things that make fishing impossible. Once filled with life, now filled with stuff that could literally kill you along with death. Even with these unpleasant conditions, the Hindu religion is still practiced here just like it has been for hundreds of years. Upon first look this place would seem like a very sad place, but looking into the heart of it, that is not so.