The vegetarian paradise city where serving meat is prohibited by law

Varanasi

Credit, narvikk/Getty Images

Inhabited since at least 1800 BC, Varanasi is known to be among the oldest cities on the planet and one of the holiest to the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Hindus.

Every day, as the sound of temple bells echoes from above, tens of thousands of devotees descend the city’s 88 ghats steps and plunge into the Ganges River to wash away their sins.

Mourning relatives crowd Varanasi’s two cremation areas, where funeral pyres burn day and night, believing that Shiva himself whispers the mantra. Tarak (deliverance song) in the ears of all the cremated here, granting them moksha, or instant salvation.

But my reasons for traveling to Varanasi were quite different.