"even inside was just kinda like, bold and scary."
US Indian influencer Aparna Singh had an unfavourable opinion of Varanasi, India, however, this led to major backlash.
Aparna travelled to India to meet the manufacturer behind her jewellery brand Indian Goddess Boutique.
While she was there, she recorded a TikTok video titled Scariest city I ever visited: Varanasi, India.
In the clip, Aparna says: “The scariest city I have been to is Varanasi, India – Ganges River which is really polluted full of sewage.
“You see people are bathing in it. On the way to the hotel you see dead bodies being burned, and look at the hotel – how creepy does it look?
“You got to walk up 40 stairs and even inside was just kinda like, bold and scary.
“The door was creepy and the electric fences so monkeys don’t get in – and to go in and out of the hotel you have to go in this shady alley.
“You see people sleeping in the middle of the street and even dogs – yeah you guys this place is really creepy.”
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Over 10,000 people commented on the video, with many labelling it “disrespectful”.
One person said: “Maybe travel with an open mind?”
Another wrote: “Next time do your research beforehand and be open to new experiences without so much judgment.
The influencer responded: “I did my research, it was worse than I imagined and I was scared.”
One woman who visited Varanasi on a solo trip said:
“It is the most magical place to be because of cultural and historical heritage.
“I recommend everyone to visit it because you’ll never experience such atmosphere anywhere else.”
TikTok user Laav Patel said the “spooky music was so unnecessary”, adding that he was “so sorry” she had a bad experience.
He then addressed some of Aparna’s comments.
Laav said: “The reason why the Hindus bathe on the River Ganges is because it’s considered their holy sacred water and it is actually said that it removes all their papam – loosely translated as a sin.”
According to Laav, the reason so many funeral pyres are seen in Varanasi is because it is the only city where Hindus can get cremated 24 hours a day.
“Adding to that a lot of people come to die in this city, the reason being in the Hindu scriptures it is said that anyone that dies in this city are broken from the reincarnation cycle.”
He said as for those who “sleep on the streets” due to the millions of Indians coming into the city, it “drives in a lot of poor people from different states to beg”.
Laav did agree about how polluted the river is.
“A lot of political parties in the past have promised to get it cleaned up but we haven’t seen much change.”
The backlash forced Aparna – who is of Indian heritage – to apologise.
The influencer said:
“Like I said I would like to apologise because I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. I was simply just saying my experience.”
“Maybe it was the tone, the music. I have been travelling everywhere and I have been posting about Jaipur, I’ve been posting about Mumbai.
“Y’all don’t care about the good videos I post but as soon as I say the bad experience I had, it just blown up – TikTok, that’s how y’all are.”
Aparna said she meant “no harm or disrespect” and that some people just turned “nothing into something”.
“India is a beautiful country. I don’t like the comments, ‘I would never go to India.’
“It is a beautiful country but this specific area, it just wasn’t my vibe.
“I get the people who go there for a spiritual journey; it is a sacred city with a lot of history. I get it, but it just wasn’t my vibe.”