The people born in Varanasi and the ones living in the city, hardly realize the fact that Mark Twain uttered in the glory of the city—“Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

I spent three years of my life in Varanasi. You come from any nation, any place, after you spend two days you will surely decide never to come back to this city again—bad roads, bad traffic, weird and insensitive happenings, etc. I abused the city every day. I hated it but couldn’t help loving it equally. Varanasi never holds the glamour as a city, but it does have a different charm that keeps calling people from all over the world every day. The city amazed me in very unusual ways. Some people, some odd places, something is there. That something keeps me calling back. Again and again.

In the evenings, I used to sit in the not so crowded ghats in quiet, my mind dissolved in its musings, a sudden tong…g of a bell in the nearby temples would bring me back to where I was seated, and I would simply leap into my imagination wondering about the ages Mark Twain stated. I would try to imagine how the ghats used to look like in the ancient years, and the gradual shift it underwent. Playfully, I would try to think about the people who might have had sat where I was sitting. Rajas in their royal garment with their lots of servants might have walked through this same place. The people who had been coming to Benares to die, since uncountable years, what could possibly be their emotions? Were they scared of death while walking through these ghats? Were they really happy on reaching Varanasi? The favorite part of my imagination would be about the Baaijis.

Varanasi is one of the claimed core most origin of Indian classical music and Kathak dance. But who would guess that these are the fruits of the forbidden places of ancient times—the brothel. In the ancient days in Varanasi and also in the other parts of India, prostitution included dancing and singing. I always loved to imagine those dancers, the Baaijis, decorated in their royal garments, with heavy anklets jingling as they walked through these very ghats. Many of them might have sat here like me in the evenings, and shed tears of deepest anguish. Could a separated love be the cause of their tears? Or the separated lives from the outside world? Some of them might have thrown themselves in the river out of sadness.

It always gives a thrill in my heart when I think that there are eighty-eight ghats, not one or two but eighty-eight, each with uncountable number of stories and a history almost as old as civilization. One may ask, what is there to see in Varanasi? Honestly, the list wouldn’t go that long. Sometimes the answer would be just the riverfronts and the temples, and one may wonder what to see in the riverfronts. The charm that Varanasi possesses, only a traveller can feel it. One has to walk through narrow, dirty galis, streets, one has to breathe among the natives, eat amongst them, eat rabdi, lassi, jalebi, kachori, litti chokha, etc, visit the disordered, old markets like Dalmandi, walk in the ghats for hours and hours, befriend the ghat people, only then one might get a little glimpse of this beautiful place.