Explore Varanasi: The Spiritual Capital Of India!
Varanasi, popularly known by the names Banaras or Kashi is a city situated on the Ganges river in the Uttar Pradesh state of India. With a glorious history that dates back to the 11th century B.C., Varanasi is regarded as the spiritual capital of India.
People belonging to the Hindu religion visit here in huge numbers for taking bath in the holy Ganges river and performing funeral rites. Apart from the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi is also the city where Banaras Hindu University, India’s first modern residential university is situated.
The Banarasi silk saris, renowned for its brocades with gold and silver threadwork, is also quite popular among saree lovers across the country.
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Best Places To Visit In Varanasi
Are you under the wrong notion that visiting Varanasi is all about seeing temples? Then you are thoroughly mistaken. In this blog, we take you through the top 14 must-see tourist spots in Varanasi. Apart from temples, there is an amazing palace, fort, and museum in this city that you just cannot afford to miss.
A spectacular ghat worth visiting, Dasaswamedh Ghat is situated on the Ganga river. As per beliefs, two Hindu legends are associated with this Ghat. As per one version, Brahma created the Ghat in order to welcome Shiva and as per the other, Brahma sacrificed ten horses during the Dasa-Ashwamedha yajna that was held here.
Located close to the Vishwanath Temple, Dasaswamedh Ghat was built by Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao way back in 1748.
Every day after sunset, Ganga Aarti, a ritual is performed here. It is a beautiful sight worth watching as prayers are offered to the Ganges river where several priests holding deepams in their hands move them up and down in a rhythmic manner according to the tune of bhajans. The Ganga Aarti lasts for 45 minutes.
Special aartis are also performed on Tuesdays and during religious festivals. Due to the variation in sunset timing, Aarti begins around 7 pm during summer and at about 6 pm in winter.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
One of India’s oldest temples, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located in Vishwanath Gali of Varanasi. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is also one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples.
Visited by tourists from all around the world, it is believed that the temple was built in the 18th century by Ahalya Bai of the Holkar dynasty. The three gold-coated domes at the temple will leave you awestruck for sure. As per popular beliefs, if you make a wish after seeing the golden chakra, it would come true.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple opens at 2.30 a.m. daily. There are several aartis held here such as the Mangala Aarti, the Bhoga Aarti, Sandhya Aarti, Shingara Aarti, and Shayana Aarti. By buying the ‘Sugam Darshan’ tickets in advance, you can get rid of the long queues and large crowds. The months of October through March are the ideal times to visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
Assi Ghat Varanasi
The southernmost ghat in Varanasi, Assi Ghat is renowned as a place where long-term foreign students, researchers, and tourists live. Tourists visit Assi Ghat mainly to be part of festival celebrations and during Shivratri, the Ghat accommodates close to 22500 people. During the Dev Deepawali festival, the count of tourists crosses a whopping 600,000.
At Assi Ghat, you can witness the beautiful Subah-e-Banaras, an early morning 2-hour session that starts before sunrise. Apart from that, there are several fun activities that you would definitely enjoy. Starting from the boat ride to going up in the air in a hot-air balloon where you get an aerial view of Assi ghat, the leisure activities are endless. Also, you can experience the daily talent show in the evening and try out a variety of cuisines from the restaurants situated nearby.
Also known by the names Chandrakanta Chunargarh and Charanadri, the Chunar Fort is located in the Mirzapur district. Situated on the rocky bank of Ganga, the history of Chunar Fort dates back to 56 BC. Maharaja Vikramaditya, the King of Ujjain, built the fort.
At an elevation of 280 feet (85 m) above sea level, the Chunar Fort stands on a rock. This rock is a part detached from the Vindhya range. The first thing that grabs the attention of any visitor is the huge ramparts of the fort overlooking the river. These ramparts were built using local sandstone that is being quarried in this region even today.
The other attractions include the citadel mounted with several cannons, the oriel windows with “S”-shaped brackets, and the wonderful knot motif design. The other aspects that are worth exploring include Sonwa Mandap – the open-air pavilion and Bharti Nath’s samadhi.
Ramnagar Fort & Museum
The Ramnagar Fort is a beautiful fortification located on the opposite bank of the Ganga, 14 km away from Varanasi, Built by Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 18th century, this fort palace is the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras.
A classic example of Mughal architecture, the fort is constructed using red sandstone. The other attractions include a temple dedicated to Ved Vyasa, the author of the Indian epic Mahabharata, and a museum that is worth exploring.
At the museum, you will find a rare collection of vintage Cars, palanquins, ivory work, swords, old guns, and antique clocks. The Durga Temple, Chhinnamastika Temple, and the temple of Dakshin Mukhi Hanuman are also situated inside the fort complex. Plan a visit to Ramnagar Fort in the month of October during the Dussehra season. The fort palace will be beatified at this time and its beauty just cannot be explained in words.
Flanked by the Dashashwamedh Ghat and the Scindia Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat is one of the holiest cremation grounds. Named after the Hindu goddess Sati’s earrings, the Ghat is situated alongside the river Ganges.
According to Hindu beliefs, when a human being is cremated here after death, his/her soul attains Moksha. Hence, you can find lots of elderly people spending their last days here so that their death becomes more meaningful and painless.
One of the oldest ghats in Varanasi, Manikarnika Ghat has found a mention in the Gupta inscription of the 5th century. There is a well at the Ghat called Manikarnika Kund which was built by Lord Vishnu. The Hindu genealogy registers at Varanasi are kept at Manikarnika Ghat. Last but not the least, you can also visit the Manikarnika shrine, a significant place of worship for the Shaktism sect of Hinduism.
The Alamgir Mosque is a perfect example of an amalgamation of Hindu-Muslim religious sentiments. The mosque stands out as the entire lower portion of the building functions as a Hindu temple.
Also known by the name “Beni Madhav-ka-Dharehara ”, the mosque is located at a place above the Panchaganga Ghat. There are broad steps at the Ghat that take you down to the Ganges. The mosque is located at the Panchaganga Ghat, the place where five streams join.
According to historians, Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor built a mosque long back in 1669 and named it Alamgir Mosque. After coming to power, he adopted the honorific title “Alamgir”. A wonderful blend of Islamic and Hindu architecture, the Alamgir Mosque is quite attractive with its high domes and minarets. In the month of October, the mosque becomes more beautiful as lamps will be lit on the top of a bamboo staff. This is done as a symbol of guidance to the ancestors.
The Banaras Silk Emporium
Are you a hardcore fan of silk sarees? Then you just cannot afford to miss the Banaras Silk Emporium, located at Budh Vihar Colony in Varanasi. Established in the year 2004, the Banaras Silk Emporium is a world-renowned manufacturer, wholesaler, and exporter of traditional silk sarees.
Exploring the exquisite collection of Banarasi silk sarees will leave you spellbound for sure. The other range of saree collections includes fashion designer sarees, fancy Banarasi sarees, and handloom silk sarees.
It was during the Mughal rule that the Banarasi saris gained immense popularity. During those times, the saris were adorned with beautiful Persian motifs and silk studded with gold and silver. Nowadays, Banarasi sarees have grown to be one of the most sought-after garments worldwide and are exported all across the globe.
The Banaras Silk Emporium is a one-stop shopping destination where you get a wide range of home furnishing materials such as stoles, bed covers, cushion covers, table covers, and much more.
Built by King Balwant Singh in honor of Lord Shiva, Shivala Ghat is one of the largest ghats in Varanasi. Nearby to the Ghat, there is a 19th-century palace constructed by Sanjay Vikram Shah, the Nepalese king which is worth visiting.
Mainly south Indian Hindus stay at Shivala Ghat. Recently the famous Mahindra Kabira Festival was held in Varanasi and Shivala Ghat was one of the venues.
Just 10 km away from Varanasi lies Sarnath, a place of religious importance. It was at Sarnath that Gautama Buddha taught his first sermon after attaining enlightenment and also the place where the Buddhist sangha was formed through the enlightenment of his first five disciples. Sarnath got its name from the word ‘Saranganatha’, meaning lord of deers. This place is sometimes referred to as Rishipatana or Mrigadaya also.
At Sarnath, you can explore a wide range of tourist destinations such as Dhamek Stupa – the spot where Buddha’s first sermon was held, Mulagandha Kuti Vihar monastery, Chaukhandi Stupa, Sarnath Archeological Museum, Japanese temple, and the Tibetan Buddhist Monastery.
Monkey Temple (Durga Temple)
Durga Temple or Monkey Temple is a temple of religious significance, situated on the Sankat Mochan road. Constructed in the 18th century by Rani Bhabani of Natore, the temple is dedicated to the Goddess Durga. According to beliefs, the idol of Durga at the temple erupted on its own and was not man-made.
Built using the unique Nagara-style architecture, the beautiful multi-tiered spires of the temple will grab your attention for sure.
Adorned with red paint and ochre that perfectly matches Durga’s idol, the temple is visited by hundreds of pilgrims. The other features worth mentioning include the small sikharas used in construction and carved and engraved stones inside the temple.
Renowned for its Rajput style of architecture, Manmandir Ghat is one of the best places to visit in Varanasi. Situated just 5 km from the Varanasi Junction, the ghat lies on the banks of the river Ganga. Raja Man Singh of Jaipur constructed the Manmandir Ghat in the 1600s and hence the ghat was named after him.
He also built a palace at this place and brought the interesting astronomical instruments that are kept on display here. The sight of exquisite ornate window carvings at the palace will leave you mesmerized for sure. This palace is currently maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Banaras Hindu University
Founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in 1916, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is a temple of learning of international repute. BHU holds the distinction of being the largest residential university in Asia with more than 30,000 students, and 18,000 hostellers. This educational institution has also found a place among the eight public institutions declared as an Institute of Eminence by the India Government.
BHU’s main campus spans an area of 1,370 acres and its south campus is housed on 2,700 acres. There are 6 institutes, 14 faculties (streams), and about 140 departments at this university.
The various streams include Arts, Social Sciences, Commerce, Science Management Studies, Agricultural Science, Performing Arts, Law, Medical Science, and Environment and Sustainable Development.
Between the Dashaswamedh Ghat and the Rana Mahal Ghat, you will find the beautiful Darbhanga Ghat. This ghat is named after the royal family hailing from Darbhanga. Apart from the ghat, in the 1900s, the royal family also constructed a spectacular palace.
Situated near the bank of the river, the family built the palace with the objective of watching the rituals and other activities.
Like many other ghats, the Darbhanga Ghat also serves the purpose of an open crematorium. There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at this Ghat. This is also one of the best places to visit in Varanasi.
Best Time To Visit Varanasi
Plan a visit to Varanasi between November to March, during the winter season. With a cool climate, the temperature drops down even to five degrees Celsius. The cool wind coming from the Himalayan region makes the climate even cooler thus making it the best time to visit Varanasi.
How To Reach Varanasi
The nearest airport to Varanasi is the Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport, formerly known as the Varanasi Airport. From this airport, popular airline carriers such as Air India and IndiGo operate regular flights to all major Indian cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Goa, and Delhi. There are prepaid taxis available at the airport to commute to the city center.
There is excellent connectivity by road between Varanasi and cities such as Lucknow, Allahabad, Patna, Ranchi, and Gorakhpur. From Lucknow to Varanasi, there are both state-operated and private buses including luxury air-conditioned ones.
If you prefer a train journey, the Varanasi railway junction and Kashi railway station are the two major railway stations offering good connectivity with all major Indian cities. From these stations, auto rickshaws are easily available for commuting to the city center.
Hope you are super excited to explore the amazing tourist spots in Varanasi. Starting from the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple to Dasaswamedh Ghat and Banaras Hindu University to the Banaras Silk Emporium, Varanasi offers a never before experience to its visitors. It’s just that you have to plan the trip in advance so that you can cover all the major tourist spots in this city.
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