As the fiery ball of the sun began to rise over the eastern bank of the Ganges on our left-hand side, the lighted candles on banana leaves, offered in prayer to the gods, started to float past our boat. The oars lapped gently in the water as the high stepped bank, on our right hand side, gradually became a hive of industry. Woman’s saris, individually vivid as they were picked out by the sun’s earliest rays, were being readied for washing; men stood almost naked lathering themselves with soap; goats lay watching events unfold; religious rituals commenced; ablutions began; prayers were being said and people immersed themselves and each other in the Holy River, as smoke drifted across from a nearby cremation. The day had begun on the ghats at Varanasi.

A dawn boat ride on the Ganges is the highlight of any trip to Varanasi, also known as Banaras or Benares. Situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is a sacred centre of Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. However, for over 2,000 years it has been the religious capital of Hinduism more revered and sacred than all the other places of pilgrimage put together. Varanasi is known to devout Hindus as Kashi, the Luminous or the City of Light, one of the oldest living cities in the world.

julian200Julian has written articles on Middle Eastern and European architecture for the US magazine Skipping Stones. He has written travel articles that were published in The Toronto Globe and Mail, Fate Magazine, National Catholic Register, and Northwest Travel. Julian has also written articles for the In The Know Traveler, Go Nomad, InTravelmag, and Go World Travel websites. He has also taken many photographs that have appeared in travel guides by National Geographic, Thomas Cook and The Rough Guides. Examples of his work can be found at http://www.photographersdirect.com/sellers/details.asp?portfolio=13734