Varanasi, one of world's oldest living cities, is rightly called the religious capital of India. Also known as Banaras or Benaras, this holy city is located in the southeastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. It rests on the left bank of the holy river Ganga (Ganges), and is one of the seven sacred spots for Hindus. Every devout Hindu hopes to visit the city at least once in a lifetime, take a holy dip at the famous 'Ghats' of the Ganga, walk the pious Panchakosi road that bounds the city, and, if God wills, die here in old age.
Both Hindus and non-Hindus from around the world visit Varanasi for different reasons. Although Varanasi is popularly called the city of Shiva and Ganga, it is at once the city of temples, the city of 'ghats', the city of music, and the center for moksha or nirvana.
For every visitor, Varanasi has a different experience to offer. The gentle waters of the Ganges, the boat ride at sunrise, the high banks of the ancient "Ghats", the array of shrines, the meandering narrow serpentine alleys of the city, the myriad temple spires, the palaces at water's edge, the ashrams (hermitages) , the pavilions, the chanting of mantras, the fragrance of incense, the palm and cane parasols, the devotional hymns: all offer a kind of mystifying experience that is unique to the city of Shiva.
PLACES TO VISIT
RIVER FRONT: Varanasi lies along the sacred Ganges River and has a 4 km long river front with hordes of devotees performing rituals at all times of the day. The Ghats look the best at dawn and boats can also be hired at reasonable rates from the ‘Dashashwamedha’ ghat.
ALAMGIR MOSQUE: Popularly known as Beni Madhav Ka Darera, this mosque is a blend of Hindu and Mughal styles of architecture. It was built by Aurangzeb on the site of the Vishnu Temple and overlooks the Panchganga Ghat.
DURGA TEMPLE: About 2 km south of Varanasi, this 18th century Durga Temple is also called the Monkey Temple due to aggressive monkeys that reside here. It has been built in a common north Indian style with an ornate shikhara, with five segments symbolizing the elements, supported by finely carved columns. Durga represented as shakti or female power is clad in red, riding a tiger and fully armed with a sword, Shiva’s trident and Vishnu’s discus. A forked stake in the courtyard was used in the past during festivals to sacrifel goats. Non-Hindus are allowed to the courtyard but not into the inner sanctum.
VISHWANATH TEMPLE: Located within the premises of the Banaras Hindu University this temple built by the Birlas was planned by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. This temple is open to all people irrespective of caste or creed.
TULSI MANAS TEMPLE: Erected in 1964, this temple lies about 150 m south of this Durga Temple. It is dedicated to Lord Rama and is situated where Tulsidas, the great medieval saint, is believed to have written the great epic, Shri Ramcharitmanas. The two-tier walls are engraved with verses and scenes from this epic.
BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY: One of the oldest educational centres of India, this university was was founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in 1917 for the study of Sanskrit, Indian art, culture and music. The university campus extends over five square kms and contains the Bharat Kala Bhavan. The Bhavan has a beautiful collection of miniature paintings, sculptures dating from the first to the fifteenth centuries along with old photographs of Varanasi and brocade textiles. The campus premises also houses the New Vishwanatha Temple.
MUSEUM: Located in Sarnath about 10 km from Varanasi, the Archaeological Museum houses a part of the Ashokan pillar. It also has figures and sculptures ranging from the Mauryan, Kushana and Gupta periods excavated at Sarnath dating from the 9th to 12th centuries.
HOW TO GET HERE
Varanasi airport is well connected with all the major cities of the country. One does not need to worry how to reach Varanasi by air as it has very good connectivity. Get easy flights from Delhi to Varanasi, Flights from Mumbai to Varanasi and other cities.
The Uttar Pradesh State Buses as well as the private bus services makes it possible for all to access the city with ease and at a reasonable cost. It solves the query of many who are worried about how to reach Varanasi by road. There are frequent buses from Varanasi to the Allahabad (120 km), Gorakhpur (165 km), Patna (215 km), Lucknow (270 km) and Ranchi (325 km) from Varanasi.
The city is well connected by rail and hence it solves the issue of how to reach Varanasi. The city mainly has two major railway stations that connect it to all the major cities and towns of the country. Varanasi railway station and Kashi railway station, these two are the main railheads which make it possible for all to reach the city with ease.