As the golden sun turns crimson and sinks into the arms of the Ganges, the river banks come alive with the chants of priests and chimes of temples. Amidst the chorus of tourists, pilgrims, and locals, you will find them. Huddled together in a corner, strumming on a John Lennon piece, a group of hippies finding peace in a few puffs on the bong (chillum). Sharing the same space will be a few ash-clad ascetics (sadhus) pretty much engaged in the same activity, sans the music. This is probably the most classic scene of a regular evening in Varanasi.
For the hippie on a hunt
India is not just about the Taj Mahal or the Backwaters. Move away from the exotic beaches, the solitude of Varanasi is spiritual. The flower-power days might be a thing of the past, but the hippies still exist. Only in a different generation and with a fresher perspective. And if you are that free soul, on the lookout for a colorful journey of life, then you have landed yourself in the right place.
Varanasi or erstwhile Benaras has been a dream destination for the ‘free bird’. For the hippies, this holy city has always been a refuge from the chaotic conundrum of the metros. Though the ‘religious capital of India’, this eclectic town is a world beyond the temples, prayers, and priests. Varanasi unravels its hidden layers to those who want to get under its skin.
The more you explore, the more you would be intrigued to discover the city. Book Varanasi cabs to get a taste of everything the city has to offer. Rest assured, this mysterious town of the Ganges has its way of leaving its seeker hungry for more.
Exploring Varanasi on a hippie’s feet
If you are on a path to seeking enlightenment, spend some time with the sadhus who spend their days and nights on the ghats (river banks). They might not speak your language but as you observe them and their ways of life, you would learn about life with a whole new perspective.
Let your creative side awaken on the banks of the holy Ganges. They say, there’s something eerily magical about the ghats of Varanasi. For hippies with a creative agenda, like music, art or writing, there’s no better place than on the banks of the Ganges. The bustling pilgrims, strange tourists, un-emoting sadhus and even the tramps, make for artistic inspirations.
Whether it’s the spiritual energy of the place or the hallowed vibes, you are sure to find peace, even amidst the bustling crowds.
Indulge in a ‘trip’ of ‘bhang’– naturally found and locally made hallucinogen, which is mixed with flavored and sweetened milk or lassi. Find them easily at the government-run ‘Bhang shops’ for a guilt-free and ‘liberating’ trip.
Ditch the shady guest houses and lodges, who claim to be ‘ideal for hippies’. Opt for a tourism department run traveler homes or better, a hostel – where you would find travelers with a similar perspective.
If the raucous crowds of the ghats and streets pose heavy on your head, disappear into the lanes and alleys of the town and engulf yourself in a solitary trance. It’s much needed if you are here to seek true nirvana.
Irrespective of what you seek in life, food is something one cannot forgo. Especially if you have had ‘an eventful night’. The Aahar Vihar Dhaba and the Chahat Restaurant, on the Allahabad highway, are places where you would find the kind of ambiance you are looking for. Book a car on rent in Varanasi to get around to the best eateries in town. You could also head to the Classic Café, which, actually is a hookah bar. Befriend some like-minded people and engross yourself in deep conversations while the wisps of flavored smoke drape you.
Varanasi is sacred yet spectacular, soulful yet surprising. And if you are a real hippie at heart, you will see the hidden layers of this fascinating city of India, in its true colors.