Varanasi is a popular destination among foreign tourists for many reasons. Some go there to attain spiritual enlightenment, some to learn classical Indian music and some others just to experience the intense ancient city of life & death. And yet some others go on to live the timeless Expat Life in Varanasi. Whatever be your reason, there is a lot to do in the city.
Handicraft works – Banarasi Saree, carpet, cotton & silk weaving, stone & wood carving, and quite a few more – are pretty big in Varanasi. There is no shortage of skills in this city of artisans, so you should be focussing on getting involved in building up a more fair and forward-thinking industry for the city’s future. Cheap and ‘fast’ Chinese production has taken its toll on the handicraft industry of Varanasi, forcing its craftsmen to adapt to newer, and often inferior, methods of production.
Ask yourself, “Can I salvage this crumbling industry?”. Unless you can actually use your prowess to contribute to the city’s economy, there is really no need for the industry to acquire foreign talents. Indian population is massive and its own citizens could use all possible job opportunities. If you have decided to make a difference, then jump right in and take charge.
Varanasi’s massive tourism industry, needless to say, has a lot to offer – 5-star hotels, restaurants, cafés, guest houses, trendy backpackers’ hostels, city walks, boat tours, and the in things – yoga & meditation tourism. This is the place to be with its everlasting, unique and challenging tourism sector.
Volunteering in different sizes and forms is the most popular kind of work that Varanasi Expats are involved in. There is a lot of poverty, discrimination and lack of education situation that can always use more and more help.
Teaching poor and underprivileged children is the most common practice. And then there is always opportunities to help empower women and people of lower castes and minor communities.
If you want to go a little out of the ordinary, try your hands out on the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Campaign launched by the Government of India. Varanasi is famous for its handicrafts. Thus supporting small craftsmen, weavers and silk farmers is an area in need of exploration.
Varanasi has plenty of apartments for rent, which, if you can find somehow, are going to be your best and cheapest options. However, the bureaucracy might be a bit of a pain in the bum if you are not moving in for the long-term. Most of the real estate and housing websites have inaccurate and misleading content, so your best bet would be to find an apartment when you are in the city. Local real estate agents, however, can be helpful. So keep that option open.
Hostels, Guest Houses & Lodges
There is a plethora of guest houses, paying guest houses and lodges in the city. A few new backpacker hostels have also popped-up in the recent years. Wandering through the streets of Varanasi, in the neighbourhood you prefer, would be a good idea to locate an accommodation provider and negotiate for long-term stay. It is vital to keep safety in mind though. Many of these places are unlicensed and hence it may not be sensible to stay there. A bit of online research should help you find a reasonably priced, clean, quiet and safe place to stay though.
Varanasi is known as the city of Shiva. And Shiva is known as the father of Meditation. It goes without saying, hence, that when you’re in Varanasi, you have to meditate. Although meditation does not particularly require a special place, doing so at the riverside in Varanasi can be a remarkable experience. Where better to meditate than in the utter chaos of life & death that Varanasi is? It’s definitely a great opportunity for expats living in Varanasi.
If you’re new to meditation or have zero knowledge and experience, there are ashrams in the old city that can teach you at least the basics if indulging wholly is too much for you. Albeit, to be honest, we highly recommend going full-fledged with it because otherwise it makes no sense to get involved at all.
Buddha’s Vipassana is the classic meditation technique. But for the ‘modern human’ Osho’s unconventional meditation techniques may be more viable.
Yoga, a physical, mental and spiritual discipline which originated in the pre-vedic India over 2,000 years ago has gained huge popularity in the western cultures since the 20th century. Varanasi, with its enormous attraction to foreign tourists, therefore has also evolved the modern-age yoga industry.
There are plentiful small- and medium-sized yoga institutes nestled in the Varanasi old-city alleyways. It is recommended to explore a school of your liking and enrol yourself to learn yoga in its not-so-westernized form.
Much like meditation, half-hearted yoga practices will not bring you much joy or well-being. Jump into it if you must!
Varanasi is also famous for its classical music. Scholars from around the world visit the city to learn music. Krishna’s flute, Saraswati’s Veena; or the Tabla, Santoor or Sitar – there is plentiful to learn.
Again, a bit of research should proffer assemblage of small music schools and private teachers nuzzled up in the alleys of Kashi.
You might want to check out the Varanasi Expats community website.