Varanasi – Contrasts, fascination, death – Part 2


It was still dark when we climbed down the stairs of the ghat, leading to the Gange river. The air was cold and we couldn’t see anything beyond the steps ahead, just a white cold haze, surrounding us. When we stopped, on the gray concrete lane leading from one ghat to the other, we suddenly heard a choir of laughter. We looked at each others confused… what was it, where did that laughter was coming from? We took a few steps to our right and we discovered the source: a group of maybe 7 people, including a child, all following a yoga teacher, laughing after each move.

“Laughter yoga” – an old Indian told us, seeing the confusion on our faces.

Laughter yoga, or Hasyayoga, is a type of yoga that involves voluntary laughing. It is believed that voluntary laughter has the same psychological and physiological benefits as spontaneous laughter and, the forced laughter will anyway soon transform into real laughter. It is a technique developed by the Indian physician Madan Kataria and it combines relaxation exercises with breathing techniques that prepare the lungs for laughter.

The laughter was contagious and before we knew it, we were also laughing.

However, we couldn’t stay too long, as our boat was waiting for us. The ambient was very heavy. Our boat was floating on the calm water of the river Ganga, while we were surrounded by a white mist, unable to see almost anything in front of us. It was very quiet, nobody was talking. All we could hear was the sound of wood burning on the shore, and sometimes, glimpses of smoke were breaking up the haze, allowing us to believe that we are not lost.



On the shore however, life was going on as usual: some people were taking their morning bath in the river, others were doing the washing up a few meters higher, a few others were praying. In front of us, two lovers were kissing in a boat.


After about an hour, another flour ceremony and a warming cup of chai, we headed back to the ghat where we started. Our tuk tuks were waiting for us to take us to the bakery where we would have breakfast. The cafe was small and cosy and the menu looked fantastic: hash brows, Marsala omelet, walnut bread, real coffee – what a treat! I even bought few of that bread to go, for a later snack.


After breakfast we were taken to a “textile neighborhood”, were and old man showed us the process of making fabric, from the early stages of selecting and dying the silk, through the process of manual embroider of the saris, until the finished product in the shop.



Varanasi is famous for the production of Banarasi saris, one of the finest sarees of India, worn on special occasions, like weddings. It takes between 15 days to 6 months to finish a Banarasi saree and they are always hand made.


We had the afternoon free, so we decided to find our way from the hotel to the ghats and walk along the river. This proved to be a very difficult task, as the streets of Varanasi are a true maze. We got lost many times and the map didn’t seem to help us. Every time we would ask someone which is the way to the river we would get a different reply. When we finally saw the water, we felt relieved. We strolled along the concrete promenade, passing by people sleeping, women washing their hair, children paying.


By the end of the walk it was just 3 of us left. We tried to see the sunset but again, the fog didn’t really let the sky put on a show. It was still very nice to just sit down and enjoy the view of the daily local life. It was pretty difficult to find a tuk tuk back to the hotel but we managed to negotiate and after 10 unsuccessful attempts, we were on our way back.


We had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. I didn’t expected much when I ordered Mushroom Methi Malai. But oh I was so wrong. It was delicious! The creamy sauce and the fresh taste of the fenugreek put this curry into top 3 the best meals I had in India.


Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.


  1. Wow, the pictures really bring your story to life. I can almost smell the food and hear the hustle and bustle of the crowded streets. Very impressed with this post. What an adventure!

  2. Oh my gosh, I would love to visit india!!! That saree fabric looked so beautiful. I just bought a used tunic from India and the beadwork and embroidery are so pretty. I love all the bright colors. I’m gonna go back and read more about your travels!

    1. Thank you! 🙂
      The fabrics you get in India are so nice, the scarfs especially. You can get genuine silk scarfs for only a few pounds. And they are so pretty! 🙂

    1. India is full of shocking details, it’s a country of contrasts, where dirt and poverty lives among stunning architectural jewels. I would say India is an experience and you have to be prepared to deal with the feelings of the things you will see. That’s why I can never say about India that is a country that I love or that is a country that I hate. There are so many aspects of it and so many things that will make you cry while you’re there, especially the situation of the children.

  3. What a beautiful description. What an amazing adventure, and great pictures. The meal looked so rich and creamy, I could almost taste it. Very well written.

    1. Thank you! 🙂 The curry was amazing! I have tried having the same one back in the UK but it never tasted like the one I had in India. The taste was mild and fresh and combined with mushrooms it was full of interesting flavours that I haven’t taste before.

  4. The pictures as well as the description made me feel like I, myself, was in there with you. The fog made the pictures more picturesque. I enjoyed reading this article as I was peaking to the culture of other place. 🙂

  5. Wow, this really brought me back to my time in Varanasi. So beautiful! Your pictures are incredible! I could really relate to all of this.

  6. Great post and amazing photography! I It made me feel like i was there. India has always be on my travelling bucket list. Also, i never though something like laughing yoga existed. How cool!

  7. Varanasi has always intrigued me since my childhood. So much of contrast in one land. Death, birth and celebration…

    At one end it is considered the land of ‘moksh’ where as per Hindu’s religious belief one whose ashes immerse in this water is said to reach ‘Vaikunth’ the abode of God.

    On the other, it houses the best creative hands that weave the most exotic silk hand loom, the Banarasi’s. This is a fabric that adorns many new brides on their wedding day.

    While on the third it is believed that water from this river when sprinkled on a new born and the mother purify them thereby making them eternal in bond in this lifetime.

    Your post brings many if these alive! Extremely well captured.


    1. Thank you SuhaelAmrita for this wonderful comment! I would have loved to get to learn more about Varanasi while I was there, to somehow experience the local life better. It’s such a different place, fascinating really because of all the traditionas and the beliefs.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, the breakfast was amazing! It’s weird how much you get to appreciate a good cup of coffee after drinking only coffee imitations for two weeks, haha. 🙂

  8. We travelled in India for about 5 weeks but didn’t make it to Varanasi which is a real shame! I watched a documentary not too long ago – it must be such a fascinating place to visit. I have done Hasyayoga before – it was sooo terribly awkward in the beginning but you slowly get used to it and the feeling afterwards is amazing :)!

    1. I recommend you to go back to India and visit Varanasi. It’s such a special place, with ugly and beautiful, with good and bad, and somehow it makes you appreciate your life! 🙂

  9. Gone were the days everything was done by hand? Nowadays, machines, machines. LOL! They are so beautiful. Somehow, the photos bring to life the saris.

    Now that bicycle… Somehow, it conveys the atmosphere of the place.

  10. This post gave me chills at the beginning (when you talked about the laughter yoga with the combination of those powerful, dark images) and I quite enjoyed the rest of it, seeing a small portion of another world through the eyes of a blogger. 🙂

  11. Oh my God. I just love this post. The pictures will just tell you everything. The information provided is so good at the same time sad. I love Banarasi Sarees, now I love it more just because of the “hands” involved in making them.

  12. It was such an amazing post. I live in India but I’ve never been to varanasi but i will someday, seeing all these pictures made me realize that we have so much things to explore in India.

  13. Is this where you have traveled? The pictures remind me of what my hometown looks like in the morning. I’ve heard of laughter yoga before, and from a psychological perspective, I feel that it works. Another thing I’ve heard is that just smiling more often, like in a mirror, helps you feel happier. I want to try laughter yoga!

  14. I would like to try laughter yoga, I have often found when me and my friends pretend to laugh we end up laughing and it feels good. That picture of the lovers kissing on the boat was so sweet.

  15. Joanna, the pictures told such a story! I loved hearing of your adventure and learning more about Varanasi. I have heard of laughter yoga but never tried it but I may try it soon.

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