Journey along the Ganges

Four cities on the banks of the holy river you should visit

Even if you have never before ventured to go on a trip to the magnificent country of India, the chances of you never having heard about the river Ganges are pretty slim. It is one of the world’s longest rivers and, according to Hindu mythology, is the daughter of the mountain God – the Himalaya. The river is of great cultural and religious significance for the whole Indian peoples. Not only do they believe that bathing in the river’s waters purifies one’s soul and heals the body, but the religious importance of the Ganges is so big that its banks are also used as cremation grounds. Those cremated there and their ashes immersed in the holy waters are believed to be granted instant salvation. All of this makes the Ganges a must for all tourists who wish to encounter all of India’s diverse beauty in terms of both culture and nature. However, this leads to an important question: Which city to visit in order to admire the holy river? Even though there are more than a dozen cities along the banks of the Ganges, following is a suggestion list of four cities that if you feel adventurous, you can even try and visit all.

Indian woman floating lamps in the Ganges
Indian woman floating lamps in the Ganges

1. Varanasi

Varanasi is the oldest city in India and known to many as the ‘religious capital of India’. It is also called the city of temples as there are more than 2000 temples and over 100 ghats (steps leading to the water of the Ganges). The banks of the Holy River at Varanasi are the most preferred cremation grounds. The city is visited by over one million pilgrims each year. Throughout the years, the city has been home to many prominent poets, religious leaders, philosophers and musicians. Even Buddha lived in Varanasi for a certain period of time and gave his first sermon there. Varanasi is a famous tourist destination with many shopping areas, some of which include Chowk, Gyan Vapi, Lahurabir and many more. A must is the ‘Old City’ with its winding, puzzle-like narrow streets. The indoor places of interest include the Archeological museum, the Bharat Kala Bhavan museum, the Jantar Mantar observatory and the Ramnagar Fort.

Varanasi ghats
Varanasi ghats

2. Kolkata

Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is a metropolitan city and among the ten most populated ones in India. As a matter of fact, it is the only megalopolis in the whole eastern part of India. One of the biggest tourist attractions in Kolkata are the pulled rickshaws which have been prohibited by the authorities many times but despite that, they are still widely used as they offer an easy means of transportation in the over-populated city. Kolkata is famous for its cinema. While Mumbai is the capital of commercial movies, Kolkata is known as the house of art films. Tourists’ favorite parts of the city are south of the Howrah Bridge in the areas around Chowringhe and BBD Bagh. Famous places of interest include the nation’s oldest museum, the Indian Museum, the Marble Palace and the Victoria Memorial. Also, the world’s second largest (and the biggest in India) stadium, Salt Lake Stadium, is situated in Kolkata.

Howrah Bridge from Howrah City side
Howrah Bridge from Howrah City side

3. Rishikesh

A holy city to Hindus, Rishikesh is situated at the foot of the Himalayas. The name of the city derives from the word ‘Hrisikesa’, which was a name of Vishnu and means ‘lord of the senses’. The city is sometimes referred to as the ‘world’s yoga capital’. There are many yoga schools which attract plenty of enthusiasts who believe that meditating in Rishikesh as well as plunging in the waters of the Ganges will bring them closer and faster to salvation. Famous places of interest include the Ram Jhula, the iron suspension bridge over the river Ganges as well as the now defunct ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi which even The Beatles visited in 1968. There, they composed over 40 songs. Rishikesh is also famous among people who are into rafting as the Ganges offers many rapids to test the enthusiasts’ skills and endurance.

Ram Jhula over the Ganges in Rishikesh
Ram Jhula over the Ganges in Rishikesh. Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

4. Allahabad

Allahabad is situated in the northeastern part of India, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and even though it has deep Hindu roots, the name of the city is Muslim. The city stands where the ‘sacred union’ of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati is made. Allahabad is the second oldest city in India. It contains many temples and palaces and is also known as the ‘City of Prime Ministers’ for seven out of thirteen prime minister of post-independence India belonged to Allahabad. The city hosts one of the biggest Hindu pilgrimages known as the Kumbh Mela. It is a religious gathering which takes place in Allahabad once every twelve years. Touristic sites include Anand Bhawan, Khusro Bagh, Thornhill Mayne memorial. The city is also home to more than a dozen temples and museums.

Besides the aforementioned four cities, there are also a couple more, which deserve to be mentioned and are, without a doubt, worth visiting: Patna, Kanpur, Haridwar, Munger, Jajmau. Anyways, be sure that whichever city you might decide to pay a visit to, you will be struck with the splendor and, at the same time, humility which only a marvelous country like India can offer.

Ella Andrews is a content writer from London, UK. She loves to discover highly varied customs and traditions. That’s why she always prefers to travel till different exotic destinations. She thinks that the biggest charm of India is the culture. She would be happy to visit India at least once again.VacationHomesIndia

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