Soul Journal

Varanasi: The Spiritual Capital of India

Oct 16, 2019

#india  #travel  #yoga 

We hope you'll join us!

Feb 29 – March 13
Nicki Doane & Ashley Melin
Varanasi, Rishikesh, Dharamsala with an optional Taj Mahal overnight

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“Travel is more than just a seeing of sites. It’s a change that happens, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
We begin our Ultimate Spiritual Adventure in North India at the end of the revered Ganges River in the sacred city of Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world as well as the spiritual hub of India. Dating back to the 11th Century B.C, it was once known as Benares but changed its name changed in 1920 to Varanasi due to its location in between the Varuna and Assi Rivers. Varanasi has been a center for all religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Muslims – since the very beginning. At nearby Sarnath, Buddha preached his first sermon after attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. It's where the birth of Sikhism took place in the 16th C. It's one of the seven most sacred cities in India for Hindus who believe that dying there and getting cremated along the banks of the "holy" Ganges river allows one to break the cycle of rebirth and attain salvation.
Aarti Ceremony
Varanasi is one of our favorite place in India. The vibration literally pulsates with music playing 24/7. Chanting chanting chanting all the time. Conversely, death is very much in the open. When visiting the burning ghat in the early morning, often times there are several open cremations happening simultaneously. Ash falls in your hair. Families are seen shaving their heads to honor their loved one. Once in awhile, you might even see a body floating in the river! There are 5 types of people whose bodies aren’t cremated and simply put into the river tied by rocks: Sadhus, pregnant women, people bit by a cobra, children and lepers. Yet, in true India fashion as the land of contrasts, just around the corner from the main burning ghat is the best lassi place outside of Jaipur with countless flavors and a man who churns the delicious yogurt with his feet. You'll literally be enjoying a mango lassi while processions of families carrying their deceased relatives on stretchers pass by!?

Around every corner in Varanasi lies something fascinating - the maze of corridors in the Old City, Sri Ananda May Ma's quiet room for meditation, the Golden & Durga Temples, Benares Music Academy with the sweet sound of sitar, ceremonial bathing in the sacred Ganges, delicious Indian food. Every Saturday morning, there’s a free yoga class for all to enjoy just steps outside our hotel – men on one side, women on the other, family run silk factories in quaint neighborhoods where they have been producing the finest silks in India for eons.

Experiencing India is about experiencing the people and our group will have the good fortune to practice daily yoga with Nicki at our dear friend Deobrat Mishra's music school, Benares Academy of Music. Varanasi is a hub for Indian classical music and Deobrat and his father Sivanath Mishra hail from double digit lineage of sitar players and are two of the most renowned sitar players in India. Deobrat’s nephew, Prashant, is also one of the most renowned tablas players in India. They will delight us with a concert and anyone who wishes to take music lessons will be able to. Their school is an oasis amongst the chaos and our hOMe away from hOMe.