The lanes running parallel behind the ghats are equally interesting. Narrow lanes with shops on either side, temples full of devotees, markets buzzing with activities, busy food stalls dishing out local snacks pooris and kachoris with curry to the hungry visitors, hot jalebis make their way out of the kadai and make a quick stop in the sugar syrup before landing in a plate to be grabbed by the person with a sweet tooth – All the food stalls might grab your attention but a moment’s lapse might lead one to leave an imprint of your precious footstep on the freshly laid cow dung on the street; a cow at a distance surveys the shops for something interesting even as a baba waits for his cup of chai by the roadside tea-stall. Colourful cobbled-stone lanes with ancient residences and a few Akhadas (ashrams, and not the where the wrestlers practice) make their presence felt, only to those who care to walk and explore the by-lanes of the city. A mini south-Indian locality tucked away in the heart of these by-lanes is a photographer’s delight. Life along the ghats and the by-lanes is uncomplicated and mostly peaceful.
Drive away from the ghats, into the bustling city; the tuk-tuks, rickshaws, crowded streets, constantly honking vehicles and the dusty roads paint a different picture of the city. It’s typical busy city life. Varanasi is also the significant symbol of Religion & Traditions, Art & Culture, Education and many such. A different facet of this sacred city happens to be its role as the major industrial hub. It is known for perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture but most popular for its silk fabrics & sarees. A rickshaw ride in the city may offer a sneak peek into the city life of Varanasi and thereby completing an easy sightseeing formality, too. For those who dare to still curiously find they way in the streets, could be rewarded with some clickety-clack rhythmic loom-music, more from the power looms and very less enthusiastic clack from one of the last surviving handlooms. Else, the regular visits to the shopping streets and markets are the norm of any travel itinerary.
Morning Ganga aarti at the Assi ghat, sunrise boat ride, walking the steps of all the ghats while making my way through the narrow by-lanes and watching the activities silently perching on one of those steps at a distance, the shining lights and the oil lamps on the ghats shrouded by the darkness as the sunsets and the Sanskrit chants that bring alive the Dashashwamedh ghat once again during the evening aarti – Blissful! When you leave Varanasi, a piece of Varanasi, a big one at that, you take home along with you.