Varanasi is a holy city in Hinduism, being one of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus of all denominations and is one of seven most holy places for Hindus in India. Varanasi is the ideal opportunity to experience some of Hinduisms ancient and iconic rituals. The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's religious importance. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges remits sins and that dying in Varanasi ensures release of a person's soul from the cycle of its transmigrations. As the place where Siddhartha Gautama gave his first sermon to his disciples, Varanasi is also the city where Buddhism was founded. The rich cultural heritage and tradition of Varanasi makes it the cultural capital of India. For ages, Varanasi has been a center of learning of Indian philosophy, spiritualism, mysticism and other branches of education. Varanasi is essentially a melting pot of Indian culture. As a place of pilgrimage for many faiths Varanasi continually hosts an unusually rich diversity of religious practitioners and teachers who are not resident in the city.
Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats, steps leading to the banks of River Ganges. Most of the ghats are bathing ghats, while others are used as cremation sites. The most famous Ghat is the Dasadwamedh Ghat. There you can simultaneously witness the ceremony of a recently deceased Hindu’s ashes being immersed in the river while, nearby, another Brahmin priest orchestrates the naming ceremony of a newborn. At sunrise and sunset, you may take a boat ride on the river, offering an excellent view of all the activity on the Ghats - women bathing discreetly while still wearing their sarees, priests offering prayers as they immerse themselves in the holy water, men that are oblivious to their surroundings as they practice yoga or meditate on the banks of the Ganga. Each evening a group of priests perform Agni Pooja (Worship to Fire) wherein a dedication is made to Lord Shiva, River Ganga, Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the whole universe.