Varanasi, also known as Kashi and Banaras, is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth. Situated in Uttar Pradesh on the banks of river Ganga, it is among the most revered religious destinations in India.
Varanasi got its name from two rivers – Varuna and Assi – which meet here. The word Kashi is derived from the word ‘Kas’ which means to shine. Varanasi is famous for the bathing ghats along the banks of river Ganga. Pilgrims throng these Ghats to take a holy dip and rid themselves of sins.
Varanasi has been synonymous with the majestic river Ganga and her numerous rivulets. The Ganga Aarti held every evening at Dasashwamedha Ghat is a sight to behold.
The Kashi Vishwanath temple and is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, the holiest of pilgrimages dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Varanasi is important for Hindus as they believe those who die in Varanasi attain salvation. Many people like to spend their old-age in this holy city and prefer to die here. Varanasi is also preferred site for immersing ashes of the dead in river Ganga. Performing funeral rites and cremation in the pyres are very common sights here.
In and Around
Kashi Vishwanath temple
Kashi Vishwanath, a manifestation of Lord Shiva, is the patron deity of Varanasi. The idol is a jyotirlinga, one of the 12 jyotirlingas in India. The present temple was built in the 18th century by Rani Ahalyabai Holkar of Indore.
Banaras Hindu University
Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U) founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in 1917A.D is the largest residential University in India. At the entrance, there is the grand statue of its founder and the Vishwanath temple in its centre. The huge temple was built in 1966, under patronage of the Birlas. It has a 677 meter high rising white top and its well carved architecture attracts pilgrims.
Bharat Mata Temple
This Temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936 and houses one perfect relief Map of India carved out of marble. The Temple was gifted by the nationalists Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta (Barat Ratana ) and shri Durga Prasad Khatri, leading numismatists and antiquarians. It is inside the premises of Kashi Vidyapeeth.
As the name suggests, Panchganga Ghat is the place where five sacred rivers converge to form an overwhelming spectacle of beauty and holiness. The five holy rivers are the Ganges, Saraswati, Yamuna, Kirana and Dhupapapa. The Panchganga Ghat stands as an example of Hindu-Muslim harmony. The Mosque of Alamgir, also known as Beni Madhav-ka-Darera, stands tall near the ghat on a site where it is believed stood the Bindu Madhava Temple.
It is at Saranath, 10km north of Varanasi. Sarnath, the place where Buddha gave his first sermon is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage centre. The Ashoka pillar stands in front of the main stupa where Ashoka sat and meditated. The Sarnath Archaeological Museum at Ashoka Marg, houses a copy of Ashoka’s lion pillar and some sculptures.
Ramnagar Fort, constructed by Maharaja Balwant Singh in 17th century, is a medieval period fort located in the banks of the river Ganges. This was the royal residence of Raja of Banares, also known as Maharaja of Kashi. Still this fort continues as the residential palace of the royal family members. The hall of public audience, popularly known as ‘Durbar Hall’, is a main attraction in the Ramnagar Fort. A blend of Indian and Islamic architecture can be seen in the construction of the Fort. The fort is made up of precious marble stones and the glossy marbles give the fort an eye catching appearance.
An amalgmation of Hindu-Muslim religious sentiments, this mosque is also known as ” Beni Madhav ka Darera”. Curiously, the entire lower portion of the mosque is retained as a Hindu temple.
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. Disha Yantra, Dhruva Yantra, Digansha Yantra, Krantivritta Yantra, Prakash Yantra, Ram Yantra and Samrat Yantra, are still used by many for different calculations.
The Dasaswamedha Ghat is one of the most important religious sites in Varanasi. Mythology states that this was the place where Lord Brahma successfully performed the ritual of Dasa Ashwamedha (10 horses) sacrifice. Many temples are situated in the vicinity of the ghat and quite a few rituals are performed there.
Godess durga is considered as the goddess of Strength and Power. This temple was built in the 18th century with red stone work. A fine example of Nagara art. This temple falls on the main route from Railway Station to BHU, just before Tulsi Manas temple and Sankatmochan temple.
Tulsi Manas Mandir
Constructed by family of Varanasi, this modern temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is situated at the place Where Tulisdas, the great medieval seer, lived and wrote the epic “Shri Ramcharitmanas”, which narrates the life of Lord Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. Verses from Tulidas’s epic are inscribed on the walls. SANKATMOCHAN TEMPLE Lord Hanuman temple, who is known to be the ‘Sankatmochak’ is just 300 meters from Tulsi Manas Temple. It is an ancient temple considered as built by Goswami Tulsidas himself.
Sarnath is a small village in Uttar Pradesh, situated about 13 km north-east of holy city Varanasi. Formerly known as Isipatana, it is famous as the site where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, or where Buddha preached his first sermon. It is also the place where the original Sangha was formed. Hence, it is one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations.
The Archaeological area of Sarnath is famous for old Buddhist remains, which date back to the time between 250 BC to the 12th century AD. It includes ruins of Buddhist monasteries describing various facets of Buddhism. A Jain temple located nearby is devoted to Tirthankar Shrais Nath and is popular among tourists.
It is one of the ultimate places to visit in Sarnath. The lower part of the Stupa is made up of stone and is noticeable for its delicate floral carvings. It is made of brick and stone during the Maurya Dynasty. The Stupa is 44 m in height and 28 m in diameter.
The Park is regarded as one of the famous Buddhist locations of Sarnath. It is believed to be the region where the Sangha was created and where Buddha asserted Dharma. Widely known as ‘Rustamji Park’, it serves as a dwelling place for Deer species. It is a well known park in Sarnath for conserving the species of deer and was founded in 1950.
The Thai Temple is one of the recognized attractions near Sarnath and is built in the Thai architectural style. It is bounded by widespread gardens.
The Temple is one of the famous Buddhist places and is in the conventional Tibetan architectural manner which houses the statue of Shakyamuni, the Buddha. It is famous for its beautiful paintings, Thangksa and frescoes.
Activities in Varansi
Varanasi is famous for brocade silk sarees, heavy gold jewellery, wooden and clay toys, copperware and brassware, and much more. The city authorities have established Urban Haat, where artisans exhibit their work, and tourists can buy everything here.
Holy dip at Assi Ghat
Assi Ghat, situated at the confluence of river Ganga and Asi is mentioned in many Hindu scriptures. The Ghats are the primary attraction of the city and are popular destinations not only among pilgrims and religious people but also among tourists. It is believed that a dip in the holy waters here brings salvation.
Holy dip at Panchganga Ghat
It is said that the five holy rivers, Ganga, Saraswati, Yamuna, Kirana, Dhutapapa intersect at the Panchganga Ghats. Taking a dip in these waters is considered auspicious, and even more so, during the months of October, November.
Holy dip at Dashashwamedh Ghat
The Ghats at Varanasi are considered holy and it is believed that if one takes a dip in the waters, one is free from all his sins. Those who seek salvation crowd this place, along with tourists and pilgrims.
Boating at the Ghats
The Ghats at Varanasi are popular for the holy dips, but they also offer good options for boating. By boating afloat the ghats, one gets to witness the true flavor of Varanasi. If you opt for boating early morning, then you can get to see the religious rituals that are practiced at the location. Also, as the sun rises, a panoramic view will greet you.
Mahashivratri Festival in Varanasi
Maha Shivaratri (during February-March), dedicated to Lord Shiva, is the most important religious festival in Varanasi. Festivities are held throughout the city.
Shopping in Varanasi
Varanasi is a renowned centre for silk weaving and brassware. Fine silks, brocades, exquisite saris, brassware, jewelry, woodcraft, carpets, wall hangings, lamp shades and masks of Hindu and Buddhist deities, etc. can be bought here. The main shopping areas are Gyan Vapi, Vishwanath Gali, Thatheri Bazar, Lahurabir, Dashaswamedh Gali and Golghar. Be careful, however, while buying silk saris because duplicates are much cheaper than the real silk ones, but are not easy to distinguish.
Bottled ‘Ganga jal’ (water from Holy Ganga river) can also be bought for religious purposes.
The best time to visit Varanasi is from October to March.
How to Reach
Varanasi airport is well-linked to some of the major cities in India like Delhi and Mumbai. International tourists can board connecting flights from Delhi airport which is well-connected to all the major cities in the world.
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.
Varanasi is connected to many key cities in India. Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai are well linked to the city by Road. NH-7, the longest National Highway in India connects Varanasi to the cities of Jabalpur, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Salem, Madurai and Kanyakumari.
Stay / Eat
Where to Stay
The Taj Gateway Hotel
Nadesar Palace Grounds,
Uttar Pradesh India
Varanasi,Uttar Pradesh India
Uttar Pradesh, India
Where to Eat
Near Assi Ghat, Varanasi
Near Mansarowar Ghat,
Pizzeria Vaatika Café
Near Assi Ghat, Varanasi