Windows open so that her centuries-old mysteries may be gazed upon with awe. Focus, ever elusive, the vision vanishes, disappearing through whatever portal by which it was created. It is only by allowing such experiences to flow through you in a constant stream of expression that India may be known.

“Tell everyone you meet you have been to Varanasi three, no, four times,” says the rickshaw driver, pointing emphatically. “They will think you know.” He spits red tobacco juice onto the dirt. “Everyone works on commission. No one is your friend. Silk pays forty-five percent. Forty-five percent,” he repeats.

Kashi, revered as the most sacred city in all of India, only became known as Varanasi in the eras following her birth. Her strong pulse, attracting centuries of wisdom, developed her heart into a core of religious faith and knowledge. Her magnificence matured into a powerful energy source, the cleansing force of the River Ganges washing away all wrongdoing, venerated by the devout as a center of re-birth. She is known by the ancients as Avimukta.

Sacked and looted, Varanasi was ravaged, raped of her riches. At the whims of the malevolent, decimated symbols of the sacred were replaced with alternate symbols of the same, trumping one god for another, in religious fervors of differing beliefs. Stone by stone her temples were destroyed. Stone by stone, her temples were re-built. Perseverance, conviction and indomitable will; the faithful will be rewarded.

It is in Varanasi that I hit a wall.