Getting lost in the alleys of Varanasi

I am lost.

I am totally, completely, hopelessly lost. I have been wandering in the alleys and lanes, which I think leads to my hotel in Varanasi for the last 30 minutes or so, and when I cross the shop selling polyester Benarasi “silk” saris for the 4th time, I realise that I have been going around in circles.

There is no doubt about it. I am lost.

It has been a lovely morning. I visited the serene and calm ruins of Sarnath with a guide, a car and a driver, and after the tour got dropped off at the Gadowlia Chauraha, from where many alleys led to my hotel. I turn down the guide’s offer of escorting me back to the hotel. He is worried that I will not be able to make my way through the twisting, narrow alleyways. But I am confident that I can find my way back as I have been in and out of those alleyways some 5-6 times in the last 3 days, albeit with an escort.

I decide not return to my hotel right away. First, I have a glass of lassi topped with some fresh malai and then another 🙂 Then I decide to go to a bookshop that I had seen in the area on my previous forays out of the alleyways. I know that it is not far, and sure enough within 10 minutes I am in the City Book Shop, one of the oldest bookshops in Varanasi, browsing through the books and picking out the ones to buy. I spend nearly an hour there.

Isn’t the balcony lovely? I think this is where I took the first wrong turning and then another and then another…

When I come out of the bookshop, I notice an alley opposite it. I confidently enter it and start walking towards where I think my hotel is. Within seconds I am distracted by the balcony of a beautiful house (see photo on the left) and I am lost. Literally. I take a turn to photograph it better and get distracted by other sights in turn.

At that point, I am not really perturbed as I know that ultimately I would find my way to the hotel. The next half an hour is fantastic as I am too busy delighting in and photographing the sights that interest me.

I love the textures in this photo. I had to wait for a little while to have this little lane clear of people and other animals.
This brother and sister pair refused to be photographed and I had to be content with taking this shot of them walking by this stunning house
But not this little boy ! He happily posed for me
And this man completely ignored me !
A spire of what is probably a private temple stands out against the whitewashed walls
This temple looks positively ancient. The lane is so narrow that I do not have the space to negotiate and take a better picture
An open air shrine
Sunlight falls on another roadside shrine. This alley had to be the narrowest that I had to negotiate as it was just about wide for one person
Gopinath Kasera making metal containers for conducting havans
I want a door like this for my home !

Whether one believes in the mythology or history or both of Varanasi there is no doubt that it is an ancient city. A city that many have passed through. It is a rather thrilling to walk through every twist and turn and wonder about all those who have walked these lanes before me.

I might have continued wandering about in these lanes and alleys if not for a rather… er… pressing issue. I needed to use the washroom. So it was then that I finally decided to ask for directions. The shopkeeper of the polyester Benarasi “silk” sari shop obligingly pointed me in right direction and about 30 m down that way and a left turn later, I saw the by now familiar steps of Chausatthi Ghat leading to the Ganga and my hotel, Sita Guest House.

I am no longer lost 🙂

The steps of the Chausatthi Ghat

If you like to go beyond temples, the ghats and the Ganga Aarti in Varanasi; love traditional architecture; can turn a blind eye to cows, dogs, garbage, and what not; do not mind the claustrophobia-inducing narrow alleyways; then this “walk” is for you. Go on, wander about and get lost in the alleyways of Varanasi 🙂

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

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30 thoughts on “Getting lost in the alleys of Varanasi

    1. Welcome here, Vishnu, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Varanasi or Benares or Kashi, if you prefer to use that, is an amazing place and I can’t believe that I have actually written 5 posts on my trip there.

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  1. I have to go alone to experience this kind of ‘getting lost’ experience as the L&M prefers a no-nonsense tour these days quite unlike his younger years. 🙂 I have posted a link to your Varanasi series in my latest one. It is a wonderful series — loved the ghat pictures in the earlier one and this one is unbelievable 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much, Zephyr. I am so glad that you liked the series. To be honest, when I decided to visit Varanasi, it was as a tourist. But I have come away with something else, something that I have not been able to put down in words yet, something that will probably take a little while to be able to express. 🙂

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      1. That is the effect of these places. They make you realise how small in the bigger scheme of things you are. I have not been able to put all that I felt in words either. That’s why I have warned everyone to be prepared for full length posts on the snippets 😀

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    1. Welcome here, Maitreyee, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. For someone, who has not visited Varanasi you have captured the yearning to go there very well. It’s beautiful. Thank you also for sharing that poem with me.

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    1. I’m so glad that you liked the post, and if it transported you to a place that you have not been to, then that is the real preaise for me. Thank you for stopping by and visiting. I hope that you will keep visiting.

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    1. Varanasi is special. And special in a way that I feel cannot be described in words. It is worldly and spiritual and material, at the same time. It is the mythological and holy Kashi and the present day chaotic Varanasi. And it has become one of my favourite cities too.

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  2. We got lost in Varanasi though! and unfortunately, i didnt have my camera with me then, so i never got around to writing about it! its the kind of place u can so easily get lost in! we were on our way back from the varahi temple that I lost my way and got separated from my hubby and inlaws..and we all spent about half an hour searching for each other! finally, i asked my way to the ghat and waited there and soon they came there too! and u brought back some wonderful memories too… of the food, esp!

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    1. I don’t mean to romanticise Varanasi, but it was a great place to get lost in. There was so much to see and take in. Though my hotel manager said that it is impossible to get lost in the alleys of Varanasi as they are all connected and will come out somewhere near a ghat !

      So what if you don’t have pictures, you can always write about the experience of getting lost !

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  3. Another ride on your words Sudha and Varanasi this time. That is where my Granddad stayed during his graduation. He speaks fondly of its little lanes and is rather disturbed every time he visits modern-day Varanasi. He says the place isn’t maintained well…

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    1. That’s true, Deboshree, and very sadly so. Some lanes are filthy and there are too many sick animals on the street, particularly dogs with skin infections. The way people dump rubbish onto the streets is unbelievable. And yet, this place has a charm which is unmatched by any holy place that I have visited.

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    1. hai this is lakshmana comenting on varanasi about ur blog is very nice. i have to see more like u . being tite shedule i miss a lot.happy to visit ur blog. thanks.

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