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*It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace . . .

Don and I are in Montreal to spend Christmas with family. This post has nothing to do with Christmas. It’s about Varanasi. Because . . . . inspiration.

I wrote a little about Varanasi in a recent post of travel highlights, as well as in two posts that I published close to the time we were there in 2012. This time it’s a collection photos, some of which can be found in those three earlier posts, some of which are published here for the first time.

The religious and cultural heartbeat of India can be found in Varanasi, the most sacred city for Hindus . . . . Also known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi, Varanasi is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. Karen Macrae

Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together. Mark Twain

Hearing about Benares is different from reading about it; but seeing Benares is different from either hearing or reading. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

The city illumines truth and reveals reality. It does not bring new wonders into the scope of vision but enables one to see what is already there. Where this eternal light intersects the earth, it is known as Kashi. Diana L. Eck.

Enlightenment, and the death which comes before it, is the primary business of Varanasi. Tahir Shah

Here religious feeling reigns supreme, and no sensual thought ever seems to assail these beauteous mingled forms. They come into unconscious contact with each other but only heed the river, the sun, and the splendour of the morning in a dream of ecstasy. Pierre Loti

I would love to live near Haridwar or Varanasi since they are such holy spots for Hinduism. Julia Roberts

All India flocks thither on pilgrimage and pours its savings into the pockets of the priests in a generous stream, which never fails. Mark Twain

My first intellectual challenge was to try to understand this incredible city of Banaras (also called Varanasi) in India and its meaning for Hindus. Diana L. Eck

Early in the morning we crossed the ghat, where fires were still smouldering, and gazed, with our Western minds, into the Ganges. Mary Oliver

It is a strange city where you can feel like a dweller and an alien at the same time. Richa Chadda

Varanasi sits above the earth as a ‘crossing place’ . . . between this world and the ‘far shore’ of the transcendent Brahmin. Diana L Eck

I found Varanasi absolutely staggering. I have never seen anything like it before. The city just spills into the river Ganges… It’s really, really extraordinary! Brad Pitt

I think Banares is one of the most wonderful places I have ever seen. It has struck me that a Westerner feels in Banares very much as an Oriental must feel while he is planted down in the middle of London. Mark Twain

Benares is holy. Europe, grown superficial, hardly understands such truths anymore…..I feel nearer here than I have ever done to the heart of the world; here I feel everyday as if soon, perhaps even today, I would receive the grace of supreme revelation . . . The atmosphere of devotion which hangs above the river is improbable in strength; stronger than in any church that I have ever visited. Count Hermann Keyserling

Making a pilgrimage there in Banaras every day for a whole year, still she did not reach all the sacred places. For in Banaras there is a sacred place at every step. Padma Purdna, cited from D L Eck

Throughout December and January there are more than thirty holidays and celebrations in various countries around the world. So Happy Holidays everyone! Wishing you all health and happiness. May 2022 be better for us all.

Next post: Christmas – in Vancouver and Montreal.

*River by Joni Mitchell

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2021.