What Dreams May Come from Varanasi


July 14th, 2010 by Calvin Sun


I’m now in Varanasi and I can’t describe how chaotic this place is next to such beauty of the Ganges river. But before you read this entry, I should preface it with a scene from a movie that inspired me to travel to Varanasi in the first place. Watch this first, and the following pictures below will resonate with you more.



Shoot me again if i say this one more time…nothing on this journey or my previous trips — not even my last month-long trip to India — has prepared me for Varanasi. Sorry Vietnam, sorry Cambodia, sorry Indonesia, you were all fantastic but how can I compare the images I tried to take in your countries with the one day of pictures I’ve gotten simply by walking along one river?

Where in previous cities I had to seek beauty, or be aware for it, here beauty seeks you. No wonder this is the holy capital of Hinduism; the fervor of the people here permeates…beyond all the incessant touts, you can find peace in a city named Varanasi.


Back alleys of Varanasi

The main ghats

A closer look


Every night beginning at 7pm there’s an aarti fire & dance ceremony that takes place at Dasaswamedh Ghat. This is a must for anyone visiting Varanasi.

When I came upon Dasaswamedh Ghat and heard the music, all my senses came alive. The air felt electric. Whether it was because I had just recently woken from a nap or I was severely dehydrated, I became dizzy with emotion. Some of you may accuse this nightly ritual being designed partly as a tourist trap but I couldn’t help it: I had lost myself in dazzling color. 

I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way again.


Nightly Hindu ganga aarti fire & dance ceremony with puja

The noise, the sounds, was unforgettable

Close up of the ritual

This kid perfected the ability to laugh one moment, and then putting on sad puppy eyes within a split second to ask for money

Religious fervor by the Ganges

On my way to the burning ghats

Corpses being cremated at the burning ghats


The next morning I was reading online how safe bathing water is supposed to have less than 500 faecal coliform bacteria per litre (yeah I occupy myself with great reading material). But there’s a point to looking that up: The Ganges river by Varanasi is measured to have over 1.5 million faecal coliform bacteria per litre of water:



I guess the picture above gives credence to the power of a *conditioned* human immune system.


I like this man

This family was pretty swell too

Munshi Ghat


Bodies being washed in the Ganges prior to cremation. Look closely enough, one of the bodies is covered by an orange shawl:


How you doin’ goat? How’s your mother?

At the southern Assi Ghat

I guess this is local drinking water

Bodies being cremated at the Harishchandra Ghat

A close up on a funeral pyre

Eat. Pray. Love.

On my way back up north

The location of last night’s Aarti Ceremony by day

Gotta love his shorts

- At time of posting in Varanasi, India, it was 89.6 °F -

Humidity: 75% | Wind Speed: 6km/hr | Cloud Cover: few clouds

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2 Responses to “What Dreams May Come from Varanasi”

  1. Hi.

    First of all… sorry about my poor English.

    I’m going to varanasi by the same inspiration. Can you believe it? I have researched my trip to varanasi, so then I found “What Dreams May Come from Varanasi”.

    It was the movie only that made you decide to go for it? How did you like to be there? May I ask some advice for the trip?

     It was interesting to find someone with the same insight. Most of the people just watch the movie and go out for pizza.

    thanks for attention.

    luiz felipe Zanini

    Sao Paulo – Brazil

  2. [...] be splitting upe group from th and heading to Varanasi after being inspired by many stories about how awesome the place is. Anya, Joyce and myself will pursue the original plan that will lead us to Dharamsala by the end of [...]

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