Boat, if arranged, is minimum 200Rs for 1 hour at dawn for 2 persons.
There is much to see in Varanasi. For a first introduction, just head off and walk along the ghats and see what the day has in store for you.
Kashi, or "City of Light’, where the eternal light of Shiva illumines the earth, is the holiest of Indian pilgrim cities. It is the home of Lord Shiva.
Devout pilgrims have come here for millennia to wash away their sins. It is also one of the holiest tirthas. A tirtha is literally a "crossing" or sacred place where mortals can cross over to the realm of the divine, and also a place where the gods and goddesses come to bathe on Earth. Many people return to Varanasi to wait for their death in the hope that they may achieve moksha, the salvation of the soul from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
Starting at the centre, Dashashwamedh (Ten horse sacrifice) Ghat, wander along by the waters edge northwards, eventually you will arrive at Manikarnika Ghat, the burning ghat for Hindus. You may sit for a little while and ponder your own longevity. Absolutely no photography is allowed. Photography and overt gawking intrude in the death. A popular short boat trip is to go from Dashashwamedh downriver past Manikarnika and back.
An interesting trip would be to take a cycle rickshaw to the south and see the Benares Hindu University, Durga Temple and of course the famous Sankat Mochan Temple which is known to foreigners as Monkey Temple. At that end of town, you are near to Assi ghat, (near to the river Assi) the southern-most ghat. You can then walk all the way back on the ghats to Dashashwamedh, the centre where public prayers are held every evening as sun goes down. (5 minutes walk from Monu Guest House!) If you tire on the way, you may like to haggle with a boatman to take you down stream (Ganga flows north in Varanasi). Peak times and peak prices are in the morning or the evening; rest is open to negotiation and sometimes gullibility.
Always agree full price you will have to pay before you enter this, or any other arrangement. Hate surprises! (Sir, the 100Rs price agreed was each, and you are two, so it is 200 Rs) Some modern peoples use digital video to record agreements.
If you ask us, we can give you approximate figure of what you may expect to pay as fair price, but it will always depend on you and your negotiating skills.
Naturally, being Varanasi, we have boatman contact, so if you want to avoid hassle of haggling, we can arrange a fixed price boat trip at a fixed time. They tend to price it by time, so expect a harsh attitude if you arrive half an hour late for a trip.
In all things, you must decide how much flexibility you require for your sanity. If you let them, they will stand on your neck and insist that now is the time and it must happen now. (Well they don’t want the fish to get off the hook!)
If you don't know, I would like to tell you why the name of Benaras became Varanasi. The oldest name of Varanasi was Kashi, because it is known as the Shiva city, City of Light, so that's why the Golden Temple here is known as Kashi Vishwanath Temple, then when British ruled on us they gave a new name which was Benaras, and then it became Varanasi. It was because there is one Varuna River and bridge here and the last Ghat of Varanasi is known as Assi Ghat, near to Assi River. So Varanasi is situated between both of them and this is why it is known as Varanasi, with it's two rivers Varuna and Assi
Whatever you do or do not do, you must be sure to pay your respects to Ganga at dawn. That is Lord Shiva’s favourite time of the day. For this reason, no building is allowed on the east bank of Ganga so that Lord Shiva’s view is not obscured. If your time is limited, do it early in your stay in case you may wish to repeat it.
Photography on the ghats at dawn will be most rewarding. The river is thick with boats filled with pilgrims and worshippers. You get great silhouettes against red sun at dawn. You may perhaps see someone drinking Holy River Ganges water, someone taking a deep bath in the river, someone bowing their head down towards the rising Sun, and you will be really surprised to see a naked Sadhu walking along the Ghats with his smoking pipes and wooden sticks if you are lucky. This all may shock you but that's all the fact and reality of Varanasi. Cricket is played in the most amazing pitches. Children loves cricket. Ball in the Ganga is a six. Also ball stolen by monkey, or eaten by goat. You will see classical strokes played in a tight alleyway, not to mention India’s famous spin bowlers. If you are any good, you may be able to negotiate a temporary contract.
A small pocket light would be of great service if you walk in the alleys after dark. Being a nuclear-free zone, the cow-shit does not of itself glow in the dark.
Lady walking alone at night after 11pm in Varanasi is not a quite good idea, so it is advisable to get back to your hotel before it gets too late.
Avoid all young boys who would always try to bring you at their uncle or brother's shops for their commission purposes, and also don't allow smokers or drug sellers to come on you. It is illegal, and they may certainly cheat you.
For that reason you may use words like Bhag Jao which means "go away" and Choop Raho which is "shut up" in English.
Published on Saturday 1 September 2012 by Monu