Varanasi, India

People who have visited the vast country of India will tell you many things, and all of them different. Some focus on the poverty and sadness of the country, while others tell you about the amazing food, or the wonderful people. Everybody experiences a different India, which makes it an incredible place to visit.
Varanasi, in particular, is a magical and surreal experience that will leave you wanting more. Photographer Ashraful Arefin, born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, traveled through beautiful Varanasi and will leave you breathless with his mystical, storytelling photographs.  His journey to Varanasi was a solo one, and his experience may leave you thinking you’ll need some much needed spiritual “me time” in Varanasi too…

Arefin traveled to India in January for 7 days, where he was able to capture the misty atmosphere of Varanasi. Staying at Asha guest house, in Assi Ghat, he was able to capture the lives of the locals by walking the streets of Varanasi. And to no surprise, strolling through Varanasi is the best way to experience it.

India has many pros and cons to some travelers, but Arefin’s experience will have you leaning towards the pros. Pollution is one of India’s top dilemma’s, but don’t let that deter you from all of the wonders of India. The people are friendly, the street food is some of the best in the world, and its relatively inexpensive once you’re there. Your airfare may be pricey, but this country should be at the top of your list if you’re a budget traveler!

“I mostly had street foods and ate in local restaurants which are called ”Dhaba”s. The food was absolutely amazing and incredibly inexpensive, especially the street foods of Kolkata, it’s just too good for words.The chai and sweets are highly recommended. And of course it will be incomplete if I don’t mention the Lassi from the restaurant called Blue Lassi in Varanasi which is situated on the route to Manikarnika ghat.”

Varanasi is the holy city of India, a place where culture is abundant and where life and death are celebrated around every corner. Your senses will be overwhelmed, in a good way. Funeral processions, the gathering of friends and family, millions of shrines and temples, children running, and the pull of the River Ganges are just a few things you may experience in a day here.

“My entire trip was so amazing and there are many moments to treasure, but one particular thing which I enjoyed the most is my time spent at the ghats of Ganges during evening. Everyday at the end of the day I used to sat down at one of the steps, dipping my feet into the water of the holy Ganges and just feel that spiritual vibe of the place.”

The holy River Ganges hugs and holds the city of Varanasi, connecting together as one. It’s obvious that one cannot live without the other. The River Ganges may be one of the most polluted in the world, but that doesn’t stop anyone from using it! The river is a major hub for the end of several Hindu pilgrimages and is seen as a gateway to heaven for cremated remains. On a typical day, you will see people bathing (or washing their sins away) in the river, laundering their clothes, meditating, praying, or playing music on the banks of the river.

When we asked Arefin what his favorite moment was on his trip, it was clearly an unforgettable one.

“Being one of the oldest living city of the world, Varanasi has always been a magical and mystical place to me. So when I got the chance to travel to India this year, Varanasi was my first priority. I went there in January on a 7 day solo trip. The reason for choosing that time is, I have seen some beautiful photos of Varanasi during winter and wanted to capture some misty atmospheric photos. In mist it just turns into something very mystical and atmospheric! For me Varanasi is more than a city or a place to travel, It’s something to be felt deep within. There’s a certain peacefulness and spiritual feel to there even in the busiest ghats(a series of steps leading down to a body of water) of the river Ganges. The most interesting and fascinating thing anyone could experience is the obvious circle of life and death. Death is so normal and like a part of everyday life there! You can see live cremation of dead bodies happening almost every hour. That really makes you realise how uncertain our lives can be and at the end nothing will go with us. It’s like taking a spiritual journey. Another thing I loved about Varanasi is the people. So far everyone I met was very warm, helpful and very welcoming. And I loved the simplicity of their lives!”

Please visit ashrafularefin.com for more of Ashraful’s amazing photos  and for an inquiries, and make sure to follow him on Instagram: @monsieur_arefin and @ashrafularefin

 

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