Located along the west bank of the holy River Ganges, Varanasi Uttar Pradesh is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage. One of the oldest cities in the world, it has stood as a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Even amid the storms of modernity, the city has preserved its traditions and rituals of Hindu philosophy that they have been following since ancient times.
Millions of pilgrims from distant lands take a Varanasi Tour in search of divinity. Also called Benaras, it is lined with Ghats that stretch right across the banks of the Ganga. Watching them branch off into myriad narrow lanes is a great way to know the integral part of this city. According to Hindu belief, Benaras or Varanasi is the cosmic center of the Universe.
Varanasi, finds a mention in the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. It was already an old city and a flourishing trade centre when Rome was founded. About 10 km from away is Sarnath that received Lord Buddha and his first sermon in 500 BC. Varanasi is famous for its Betel Leaf (paan) and silk saris, which are dream creations of brocade embroidery. Boating in the Ganges and moving around the Ghats is an experience of a lifetime.
Various Varanasi Tour Packages are available to visit the age-old temples, ghats, enjoy a boat ride on Ganga and end the day with the legendary Ganga Arti ceremony. Sarnath will be an added attraction.
Tourist Attractions in Varanasi
The Famous Ghats
The long chain of ghats in Varanasi are one of the most frequently sites, where pilgrims bathe for spiritual purification. There are about 88 ghats in the city and each of them is marked by a lingam. Most popular among them are Dasaswamedh Ghat, Manikarnika/Harishchandra ghats (cremation) and Assi Ghat which are thronged by people for a holy bath. Sunrise and early morning chores of locals, priests offering puja and people doing meditation and yoga are common sites.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
One of the most famous temples in Varanasi, as well as India, this temple is the abode of Lord Shiva and His 12th Jyotirlinga. It was built in 1780 by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of the Indore. Also known as the Golden temple, the complex has Kaal Bhairav, Avimukteshwara, Vishnu, Vinayaka and Virupaksh Gauri temples that are visited by thousands of devotees everyday.
Durga Mata Temple
The 18th century Durga Temple is also known as Monkey Temple due to the presence of monkeys who live here. Goddess Durga, the embodiment of shakti or female power is the presiding deity here. She is clad in red, rides a tiger and is armed with Lord Shiva's trident, Vishnu's discus and a sword. It was constructed by a Bengali Maharani in north Indian Style with multi tiered shikhara.
Bharat Mata Temple
Unlike any other temple in the pilgrim city, this unique temple worships Mother India. Inside is a huge relief map in marble of undivided India instead of any idol. Located in the campus of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith, this temple was constructed in 1936 by freedom fighter Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta. It was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi.
The Alamgir Mosque is also known as Beni Madhav Ka Darera and is a blend of the Hindu and Mughal styles of the architecture. The mosque was built by Aurangzeb on the site of the Vishnu Temple.
Tulsi Manas Temple
This temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and is believed to be the place where Saint Tulsidas used to live. This is also the place he is said to have penned down the great epic 'Shri Ramcharitmanas'.
New Vishwanath Temple
The temple is located in the premises of the Banaras Hindu University and was by the Birlas. It was planned by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and is open to all irrespective of caste or creed.
Banaras Hindu University
One of the oldest educational centres in India, the Banaras Hindu University was built in 1917. It has a campus spread over five square kilometers. Inside the campus is Bharat Kala Bhavan which has a fine collection of miniature paintings, sculptures from first to fifteenth centuries. Galleries here are full of old photographs of Varanasi and its famous brocade textile.
The Ramnagar Fort
The 18th century sandstone-fortified structure was built by the king of Varanasi. A pleasing structure, some part of the fort is a museum called Sarawati Bhawan. It displays a rare collection of ivory products, vintage cars of America, medieval costumes, gold ornaments, silver works, sedan chairs, palanquins, old guns, elephant saddles and others. It continues to be the home of the present king of Benaras ? Maharaja Anant Narayan Singh. The fort can be reached by boat from Dashashwamedh Ghat.
Excursions in Varanasi
One of the holiest cities of India; Allahabad stands at the confluence of three rivers - Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati. About 135 km from Varanasi this confluence is called Triveni Sangam. This place since times immemorial has been the venue of many sacred fairs and rituals and attracts thousands of pilgrims throughout the year.
A major Buddhist centre, this is where Buddha delivered his first sermon and thereafter the first Sangha was formed. Here, he preached the message of the 'Middle Way' to Nirvana after achieving enlightenment at Bodhgaya. About 10 kilometer from Varanasi, this is also the place where Emperor Ashoka erected the famous Stupa, alongwith several other Buddhist structures.
Best Time to Visit
Summers (April to June) are a good time to visit Varanasi, though the temperatures rise up to 45?C. This is a great time to take a refreshing bath in the waters of Holy Ganga. The monsoon season which starts by late June or early July sees throngs of devotees who consider sawan (monsoon) the best time to visit Kashi Vishwanath. Winters (December and January) are pleasant for sightseeing though taking bath in the Ganga can be a difficult because of the fog and freezing cold water.
How to Reach
By Air: Varanasi airport is well connected with cities like Delhi and Mumbai. For International flights, Indira Gandhi International Airport is the nearest to Varanasi.
By Train: The Varanasi railway station is well connected to major cities of India via rail. From station, tourists can hire a taxi or a cab to explore the city.
By Road: UPSRTC (Uttar Pradesh State Transport) buses are easily available throughout Varanasi to go to the neighbouring states. Taxi/cabs are also easily available.
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