Varanasi

Varanasi is popularly known as Kashi and Banaras and it is one of the holiest cities of India situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is positioned charmingly on the west bank of Holy Ganges River. It has got its name from two sacred rivers Varuna situated at the north and Assi situated at the south of the city. The city is mentioned in the sacred epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is also called the land of Moksh; the significance lies in the faith of the people i.e. those who die in Kashi will achieve salvation or Moksh.

The city is crowded by numbers of devotees every day all-round the year. It is a perfect place for those who are stirred by Hindu beliefs, traditions, cultures and notions. It is also regarded as a holy city by Buddhists and Jains. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and probably the oldest of India. Varanasi is also renowned as a hub of silk weaving.

The Paan, a mixture of betel leaves, areca nut, tobacco and lime, is a common chewing addiction in India but in Varanasi it reaches artistic levels. There are a number of enchanting temples in the city that showcases the customs and religious belief of the Hindus. The city is also a major hub of art, craft, education as well as culture.

Weather

April to June is the summer season and the temperature ranges between 32°C and 46°C. It is not the best time to visit Varanasi.

July to September is the monsoon season. The city receives average rainfall during the season.

Winter season starts from November and lasts till March. The city becomes very cool during this period and the temperature even comes down to five degrees Celsius. Cold wind coming from the Himalayan region makes the environment even colder. This is definitely the best time to visit Varanasi.

How to Reach

Varanasi airport is well connected with all the major cities of the country. The city is also well connected by rail.

The city mainly has two major railway stations; Varanasi railway station and Kashi railway station.

Varanasi being a prominent city of Uttar Pradesh is connected by neighboring states through road.

Key attractions/Sightseeing

Jantar Mantar: Jantar Mantar is an observatory. It was built by Jai Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur in the year 1737. He was an admirer of science and his zeal for astronomy led to the foundation of this huge edifice. It was built with the motive of calculating the local time and the height of a place as per the movement of the Sun, stars and planets and to determine eclipses. The place is well-known for its numerous structures in different shapes that have specialized function for astronomical measurements in Varanasi.

Durga Mandir: The Durga Mandir (Temple) is situated in Ramnagar of Banaras (or Varanasi). It is believed that it was built 500 years ago which is under control of royal family of Banaras State currently. This temple is devoted to Hindu deity Durga. The temple has a large stone built pond with it. The Durga Mandir boasts of its fine stone works, which is a fabulous example of north Indian stone work arts. The temple is based on square shape. It has a square campus. The main building of temple is built of a square shaped stage. The shape of building is also square. The temple has a huge square pond in front of it. The pond is with stone stairs in all sides and four watch pillars on each corner. There is a shade made of stone also at one side of the pond. The stone work on the walls of temple building also emphasizes the square shape. The temple wall has designs built in square shaped blocks and ornamental scrawls.

Bharat Mata Temple: The Bharat Mata Temple is a unique amalgamation of patriotism and spiritualism. Located in Varanasi, the temple is a grand display of Mother India but not in the form of any deity or Goddess but as a marble-carved relief map that amazingly pin-points the geographical beauty of undivided India. The temple was built by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt and Durga Prasad Khatri and was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. The map is an intricately-carved marble work with immense expertise and subtlety involved in bringing-out the beauty of rivers, mountains, plains, oceans and landscapes, giving it a near-real feel. It is housed in a pentagonal-shaped temple that stands on 5 distinct pillars, depicting the basic elements of nature that converge at the top, symbolizing Supreme Power.

Kalbhairav Temple: It is the ancient temple of Varanasi situated near the Head Post Office, VishesharGanj. It is believed that no one can stay in Kashi without the permission of God KalBhairav popularly known as the “Kotwal of Varanasi”.

Mrityunjay Mahadev Temple: On the route of Daranagar to Kalbhairav temple this temple of Lord Shiva is situated. Just besides this temple there is a Well of much religious importance, whose water is said to be mixture of several underground streams and good for eliminating several diseases.

Annapoorna Devi Temple: It is the most well-known temple dedicated to Goddess Annapurna. It is situated adjacent to Kashi Vishwanath temple. The two are separated by only a few yards. Annapurna is regarded as the queen of Varanasi alongside her husband Vishweshwar (Shiva), the King of Varanasi. In the temple, at noon time, food offerings to the Goddess are distributed to the elderly and disabled daily. During the Autumn Navaratri food is distributed on a larger scale.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the most important place to see in Varanasi. The history of this sacred shrine can be traced back to 3500 years. The temple is one of the 12th Jyotirlingas, which are considered the holiest Shiva temples. The Linga is the presiding deity here and the temple is quadrangle, surrounded by temples of other gods. The temple once had a golden spire and domes; hence it was also called the Golden Temple.

Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple: Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is one of the sacred temples of Hindu god Hanuman in the city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. The temple is unique in a way that both Rama and Hanuman statues face each other.

Sankatha Temple: Near the Sindhia Ghat, there is an important temple of “Goddess of Remedy” Devi Sankatha. Inside its premises there is a huge statue of a Lion. Also there are nine temples of nine planets nearby to this temple.

Monkey Temple: Also known as Durga Temple, Monkey Temple is yet another popular temple in Varanasi. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga but is recognized as a Monkey Temple, due to excessive population of monkeys around it. It is believed the presiding deity was not man-made but appeared on its own. The temple is built by a Bengali Maharani in a Nagara style of architecture.

Kedareshvara Temple: It is the most important Shiva temple of the city. The stone linga here is said to have emerged spontaneously. The myth narrate that a pure hearted devotee of Shiva prayed for a chance to visit the famous Kedareshvara Shiva temple in the Himalayas. Shiva, who is the god of destruction, is always kind to his bhaktas (devotees). Shiva was touched by his bhakta’s piety and instead of bringing him to the mountain; Shiva brought his image to the bhakta. This image (linga) emerged out of a plate of rice and lentils. It can be still seen by the believers on the rough surface of the natural stone linga.

Tulsi Manas Temple: Located seven km from the Varanasi station, the Tulsi Manas Temple has a traditional and cultural history. It is established in that very place where the great Indian epic `Ramayana` was written. It was Goswami Tulsi Das who composed Ramayana in Hindi and named it `Ram Charit Manas`. Lord Rama is the deity worshipped at this temple. The temple is simply constructed. Verses from Ram Charit Manas spatter the walls of the temple. The complex philosophies of the Ramayana are described in sheer simplicity of words.

Alamgir Mosque: Alamgir mosque is famed for its exquisite architecture and enviable location. The mosque is situated on the edge of River Ganga and enjoys a picturesque scene. Said to be built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb who is believed to have demolished the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple and constructed this mosque in its place; Alamgir mosque is a fine piece of architecture.

Gyan Vapi Well: Adjacent to the Vishwanath Temple lays the ancient Gyan Vapi Well (Well of Wisdom). It is believed that the water of this well contains the linga from the original Vishwanath Temple, which was vandalized by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century. The Gyan Vapi mosque was built by Aurangzeb in the place where this temple was situated.

Panchganga Ghat: Panchganga Ghat is located at the confluence of five holy rivers (Panchganga). The rivers are The Ganga, The Saraswati, The Dhupapapa, The Yamuna and The Kirna. This Ghat is a major Hindu religious attraction in Varanasi. This is the place where Alamgir Mosque built by Mughal Aurangzeb is also located. It is believed that the mosque is constructed on a place where there was an ancient Vishnu temple. This Ghat is credited with eight water front locations for doing religious rituals.

Dasaswamedha Ghat: Reckoned to be the oldest ghat in Varanasi, Dasaswamedha Ghat is where all the action takes place. The ghat is situated near the Vishwanath temple and is famous for its evening aarti. Often crowded with sadhus, sanayasis, beggars and devotees, this ghat is an important landmark of Varanasi city. During the evening aarti, devotees leave earthen lamps in the water to float creating a beautiful scene which is unmatched.

Manikarnika Ghat: It is the most auspicious place for Hindus to be cremated here. One can watch cremations from the upper floor of a nearby building. Above the steps of the ghat there is a tank known as the Manikarnika Well. Here Parvati is said to have dropped her earring and Shiva had dug the tank to recover it and filling the depression with his sweat. The Charanpaduka, a slab of stone between the well and the ghat, bears footprints made by Vishnu. A temple dedicated to Ganesh is also situated here.

Assi Ghat: This sacred ghat is situated on the confluence of the River Ganga and Assi. The devotees bathe here prior to paying homage to a huge Shivalingam placed under a tree in close proximity to this ghat. The ghat is situated at the south of the city and therefore is less crowded.

Man Mandir Ghat: Man Mandir Ghat, dating back to 1600 and renovated in 19th century, was built by Raja Savai Man Singh and the Ghat is named after him. Man Mandir Ghat, originally known as Someshvara Ghat, has a fine balcony at the north end of the Ghat. A small observatory founded by Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur is also seen in this Ghat. This Ghat houses many famous temples such as Sthuladanta Vinayaka, Rameshwara and Someshwara temples. Someshwara lingam is the replica of Someshwara lingam in Somanath (Gujrat), one of the nine Jyotirlingas. Many Hindu devotees visit this Ghat to offer prayers to Someshwar.

Rana Mahala Ghat: Rana Mahala Ghat, built in 1670 AD, was built by the Udaipur ruler during that period and is located at the western side of Varanasi. The Ghat is perfectly placed on the banks of Ganges so that one can perform all religious rituals without much difficulty and can have a holy dip in the Ganges waters. This place is often visited by the Hindu devotees to perform purification of the mind and body. The Ghat is located at unspoiled and unpolluted surroundings. An ancient temple known as Vakratunda Vinayaka Temple, dedicated to Lord Ganapati, is placed at this Ghat. This temple attracts many tourists visiting Varanasi.

Shivala Ghat: A ghat built by King Balwant Singh is believed to be a sacred place to have a holy dip. The Shivala Ghat, as the name suggests, is a religiously important Ghat with a presiding deity of Lord Shiva. A spectacular royal mansion built during the 19th century by Nepal King Sanjay Vikram Shah is a marvellous attraction located at this Ghat location. An attractive Shiva temple and Brahmendra Math, a spiritual center, are two other attractions located at this Ghat.

Tulsi Ghat: Tulsi Ghat, a prominent Ghat in Varanasi is a significant place is Varanasi. The poet Tulsi Das had written the famous scholarly religious work Ram Charit Manas spending many years in this holy ghat. The mythology says that when the manuscript of his work fell in to the holy water of Ganga, it float aloft without sinking.

Ramnagar Fort: Ramnagar Fort is situated across the river beyond the Asi ghat. Built in the 17th century, this fort has been the home to royals of Varanasi for over 400 years. Although almost in ruins today, the palace still retains its charm. One can still witness the ornamented swords, photographs of tiger shoots and visits by the King and Queen of Belgium can be seen decorated on the wall. The Durbar Hall of the fort is converted into a museum, where several objects like palanquins and elephant howdahs are on display.

Sarnath: Sarnath is the main place to visit around Varanasi. It is a sacred pilgrimage and tourist spot in the country. Sarnath is only 10 km away from Varanasi. It is one of the four most significant Buddhist pilgrimage places in India; Sarnath is the place where Lord Buddha first covey his lecture after attaining “nirvana”. Tourist spots in Sarnath include the deer park, Dhamek Stupa, Dharmarajika Stupa, Chaukhandi Stupa, Ashoka Pillar and Sarnath Archeological Museum.

Sarnath Buddhist Temples: There are a number of twentieth century Buddhist temples in Sarnath. Many of these Buddhist temples at Sarnath are built and maintained by monks from Tibet, China and Japan but the main Buddhist temple is the Mulagandhakuti Vihar. The main shrine (vihara), called the Mulagandakuti, is said to be located at the place where Buddha used to stay during his visits to Sarnath. There is a carved sandstone railing inside the temple. In the Mulagandhakuti Vihara there is also a Buddha walk. This modern Buddhist temple is 110 feet high with an image of Buddha inside it. Buddhist relics discovered at Taxila are enshrined in this ‘Mulagandhkuti Vihara’. There are also fine paintings on the walls of this temple by Japanese artist Kosetsu Nosu. Buddhist services are conducted there. Besides the Mulagandhakuti Vihara temple there are Chinese, Burmese and Jain temples nearby.

Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary: It’s a breathtakingly beautiful picnic spot in the Chandraprabha forests 70 km. from Varanasi, within which are the Rajdari and Devdari waterfalls. The park established in 1957, sprawls over 960 hectares. It serves as an ideal habitat for a host of animal species including Leopard, Beer, Cheetal, Chausingha and others.

Chunar Fort: Tucked away 40 km from Varanasi, Chunar is the place where religion, history and nature intermingle. Situated in the Vindhya ranges on the banks of holy river Ganga, its scenic and calm atmosphere enchants visitors. The massive Chunar fort is standing at a height of 80′ to 175′ from the ground level and spread over a massive area of 34,000 sq. feet. Inside the fort is an interesting Sun dial, a deep well and an open pavilion called the Sonwa Mandap.

Kaimur Wildlife Sanctury: Barely 3 km from Robertsganj, Kaimur is a 500 sq. km spread of forests with a variety of wildlife. Beauty of Sone and Echo valley are best witnessed her. It was established in 1982 and abounds in leopard, black buck, Chittal, Chinkara, Ratel, Peafowl and Blue-bull.

Waterfalls in Varanasi: Tanda fall, Wyndham fall, upper and lower khajuri reservoirs (all 14 km from Mirzapur), Sirsi fall (46 km from Mirzapur), Jargo reservoir (15 km from Chunar), Siddhanath Ki Dari (18 km from Chunar) and Mukkha fall (40 km from Robertsganj), are some of the water falls that are favored picnic spot by nature-lovers.

Pre historic Rock Paintings: The Vindhya and the Kaimur ranges have at least 250 rock art sites spread across them. The cave paintings range from the mesolithic to the meolithic and chalcolothic ages. Among important cave painting sites found in the region are – the Panchmukhi caves (8 km from Robertsganj), Kauva Khoh rock shelters (near Churk) Lakhania caves (22 km from Robertsganj) Lakhma caves (near Mau Kalan village).

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