One of the most colourful and indiscreet cities of India, Varanasi is one of the seven holiest cities for the Hindus. Also known as Kashi and Benaras, this place is known for its temples, ghats and the colourful people. The narrow alleys and crowded streets seem to be extremely blissful in spite of all the noise and chaos all around. People come here just to take a dip in the holy waters of the Ganges. Varanasi is also known as Uttar Kashi and is situated on the western banks of the Ganges. It is said that a dip in this river frees one from a lifetime of sins. People even say that death here is auspicious as people attain moksha if they die here. Some people also come here tp creamate their loved ones and the sound of the holy temple bells are really soothing music to the ears.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Varanasi is from October to March
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
The most important and busiest of all ghats, the Dasaswamedh Ghat is also the oldest of all. The Kashi Viswanathar Temple is on the banks of this ghat and thus is the most popular with locals as well tourists. The main attraction is the evning aarti here and also the sight of people busy in their daily activities and religious rituals such as worships, cremations and others.
Sarnath is an ancient city which is situated near the meeting point of holy river Ganges and the Gomti River. When Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, he is said to have come down over here and preached his first sermon which was about the middle path of Nirvana. When the followers of Buddha increased even after his death, there were many monasteries and stupas built here. In the th Century when the Chinese traveller Xuang Dan came, there was a 100 ft stupa of Lord Buddha and was the most important seat of Buddhism. Later the Muslims attacked this place and ransacked all the stupas and Sarnath disappeared magically to be found again by British archeologists in the 19th Century. The city was again revived and the ruined structures of the Buddhists are still found here and the Sarnath Deer Park which is the place where the First Sermon was preached is remarkable. It is still one of the four most important seats of Buddhism worship. People come here more during the Buddha Purnima or when his death anniversary is marked.
This is a beautiful ghat on the southernmost region of Varanasi and is often the most popular among forest tourists, especially students. People make it a must point to take a dip here before they seek the blessings from the Shivalinga under the ancient peepal tree just on the banks of the river ghat. There is also the Asisangameshvar Temple dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva again. The name of this temple is such because it is situated on the confluence point of the Assi. A little distance from the temples there are twin tanks out of which the more popular has always been the Lorkar Tank which is unfortunately almost abandoned now. People however come and bath here during the Lorkar Fair when they seek blessings from the lord mainly for a male child. Another significance of this place is that this is said to be once of the places from where the Hindu religion originated.
According to legendary tales, the Manikarnika Kund is even older than the River Ganges and it was created by Lord Vishnu as a symbol of the creation of the Universe. The Manikarnika Ghat was however made by Lord Shiva and is said to be a samsham or cremation ground for the Hindus completely. As it is people say that death in Kashi leads to Moksha and thus people come here to cremate their loved ones and pray for their souuls to attain moksha. This is second in importance to the Dashashwamedha Ghat and is also one of the Pancha Sthans for holy Hindu worship.
Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Stop 3: Kashi Vishwanath mandir This temple is the reason most people come to Varanasi. It is said to have one of the 12 jyotirlingams of Shiva. The story: Brahma and Vishnu were arguing about their supremacy over the other when Shiva was called to intervene. He created an infinite tower of light and said that the one who could find the end point would 'win'. Vishnu dived downwards but came back disappointed that he couldn't find the end. Brahma went upwards and lied that he had found the beginning and had therefore won. Shiva punished Brahma for lying by decapitating his ego/5th head. This tower of light then melted into the Annamalai peak. But there are 12 holy sites where the lingas are meant to represent the original jyotirlingam. Kashi is one of these.We hired a 'brahmin' to take us in for temple prayers - think of it as a religious fast pass. If you're lucky enough to come to Kashi Vishwanath, you'll be struck by the presence of police checkpoints all along the entryway. Former communal rioting and violence over the presence of a mosque and temple in the same compound means that security is tight. The story: The original temple was destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1664 and replaced by a Jama masjid - also known as the Gyanvapi mosque. During the destruction, the original lingam was hidden in a well called the Gyanvapi which is currently within the mosque campus. For over a century, the Hindus worshiped the waters because they couldn't locate the Shivlinga. The new temple was commissioned by Princess Ahilya of Indore and built in 1780. That's what we visit today. You can see the white dome of the mosque over the walls of the temple though you can't enter if you're Hindu. The temple responds in kind by not allowing anyone with a 'Muslim sounding name' to enter either. Another peculiarity of the rules at Kashi Vishwanath is that foreigners cannot enter without signing a declaration of belief in the Hindu philosophy. I've never seen that happen at a temple before.The actual experience of the sanctum sanctorum is disappointingly short. We were pushed through a line and allowed 3 seconds in front of the lingam, not even long enough to say a quick prayer. We proffered the traditional milk and flowers which the Brahmin helped us purchase. The temple is intricately carved, beautiful even in the short stint we had there.The second temple we visited within the campus was the Annapoorna. She's the goddess of abundance/nourishment. The final stop was the Hanuman temple where one of three Akshayavat trees is situated. The other two at are Prayag (Allahabad) and Gaya. The trees are believed to be a symbol of the divine power of Lord Narayan and older than 6 millennia each.Takeaways: Kashi Vishwanath is chaotic and serene at the same time. It's not only an important pilgrimage site but also historically relevant to communal relations in Varanasi. The temple is now highly commercialized and completely under the control of an odd combination of pandas (priests) and policemen. Still, it resonates with the hopes and prayers of thousands of devotees that visit each day. Be sure to take a minute from being jostled through the narrow temple streets to catch the good vibes.
Our next stop was Ramnagar Fort. This fort's architecture is simple and aesthetic. Its artifacts showcases the entire timeline of 'Benarasi' culture. The Vintage cars and carts, the apparels, the arms and ammunition - everything was archaic! I loved a clock here, which showed the position of the sun, moon and details of a zodiac sign. Truly awesome! Ask someone for the famous lassi shop around. Do not miss it! :)
Banaras Hindu University Campus
My recent visit recalled the first encounter with this place. At that time I only knew anything about Banaras was BHU- a popular university. This was for the first time I was encountering this city or coming out of my shell. Crossing that crowded lanes, I can remember Mark Twain lines “Banaras which is older than history, older than tradition, older than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”
New Vishwanath Temple
Better known as the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, this is one of the most famous Hindu temples in the world. Moreover, this is the holiest existing place for Hindus in the country. The Shivalingam worshipped here is said to be the oldest and holiest of all other Jyotiralingams. The temple is also known as the Golden Temple as the gopuram or upper facade is wrapped in gold sheets. This place of worship is also mentioned in the Mahabharata which has always made Varanasi the holiest place of worship for the Hindus in the world. The temple was built much later by a Maratha queen named Ahilyabai Holkar. This is also one of the most visited places on Earth.
One of the oldest educational institutions of Uttar Pradesh, this was earlier known as the Uttara Kasi University or the Hindu College. This is the public Central University of Benaras and the land for this place was donated by the formal ruler of kashi who is known as the Kashi Naresh. This is also one of the most prominent universities of the country and still partly follows the system of Vedic Education like in the early days. They have a very large campus which is spread over many acres of land. Within this there are not only the university units but also a number of big trees under which classes are helf till now. This is one of the very universities where you can opt for a specialization in Vedic scriptures and studies and the very learned Pandits here will train you with a lot of discipline. Apart from this they have all sorts of subjects from Science, Arts, Commerce, Economics, Astrology, Astronomy, Literature, Philosophy and much more. Modern developments and technologies along with very modernized studying techniques have found very distinctive positions in this university in spite of the traditional methods of teaching in existence.
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple
This temple dedicated to Hanuman ji is small but peaceful. You will not experience the rush that one invariably witnesses at Kashi Vishwanath temple. Avoid going on a saturday as it will be jam packed. It's great because you can take your time and do darshan for as long or less a time as you wish. A must visit for devotees and even otherwise.
Golden Temple (Kashi Vishwanath)
Also known as just the Vishwanath Temple, this is the one temple around which the whole city partly revolves around. This is not only the most important place for Hindu pilgrimage but also one of the most important temples all round the world. The mention of kashi was even there during the Mahabharata but the temple was built during the 18th Century by the the Maratha queen named Rani Ahilyabai Holkar. This temple is also known as the Golden Temple because of the gold wrapped main spire of the temple. There are smaller shrines too inside the temple complex and the evening aarti here on the Dashashwamedh Ghat is a sight to behold.
Brown Bread Bakery Varanasi
The Bakery was started in the year 2006 as the first organic bakery in Varanasi. This was started keeping in mind the campaign of Learn for Life- Another World is Possible. In the year 2011, the Organic Bakery Restaurant and the German Bakery were started jointly for public service. The team here tries to use almost 100% farm fresh ingredients in all their bread and food products. The vegetables, fruits and grains are supplied by local farmers who have been certified by the authority. The jams and muesli are made by the women empowerment team on their own. The cheeses are all brought down from Himachal Pradesh, South India, Nepal and Sikkim. They also have an awesome bakery shop where all the ace quality products are offered to the customers.
Banaras Hindu University
BHU is one of the oldest Universities in India. Once you enter the Uni premises, it will be completely different from the Varanasi you're used to. It's beautifully maintained and very quaint in its look. there's a museum there in the Archaeology department which is good. Also, a Shri Vishwanathan Temple inside the university premises which is good, if you are religious.
Dashaswmedh Ghat Banaras
The road surrounding the Dashaswamedha Ghat is known as the Dashaswmedh Ghat Road. This is the place of the Kashi Viswanath Temple which is the holiest pilgrimage site for the Hindus. This road is lined with hotels, restaurantsm, sweet shops and pan shops. There are also a number of narrow alleys surrounding this place which is a mark of Benaras.
Deena Chat House
Also known as the Deena Chat Bhandar, this is one of the best and most popular chat shops in Benaras. The shop is near the Gadowlia Road and is quite big for guests to sit and enjoy the lip smacking chats. Their specialties are the aloo chat, tamatar chat, samosa, palak chat, patties and gulab jamun. The taste is good for everything and cleanliness is also maintained well here.
A ten-minute auto ride to Godowlia gives her a fair idea of what the rest of Varanasi would look like - a hazy (dust-filled air), maze of lanes and bylanes crammed with shops, bicycles and an occasional buffalo. The start to the day couldn't have been better because the kachori-subji and jalebi for breakfast at one of the many shops there hits just the right chord and she walks further into the bylanes humming 'Rang mai bhang ya, bhang mai rang, bana-rasiya'. Crossing the shops selling huge varieties of aachar and papad, she comes across this rather shabby looking lassi shop called Blue Lassi. Exorbitant rates for a glass of lassi, she thinks. But the varities are tempting, as is the urge to wash down the spicy after-taste of the breakfast. She settles for banana lassi.
Yoga House, a lovely home stay. Right at the banks of River Ganges, the view from the rooms is amazing. The blue walls of this place has a soothing effect. Rohit, the owner of the place is very helpful. His contact number: +91 7080354441 The room rent is around 1800 INR per night and and extra 300 bucks for a yoga class.
Gaylord Ice-Cream Parlor
Gaylord Ice Cream Parlour is one of the best & famous ice cream parlours in Dehradun City located at the starting of Paltan Bazaar near Clock Tower. Here you'll spot best ice-cream cones at as low as Rs 10. It offers different flavours of ice cream like- Vanillas, Chocolate, Strawberry, Butterscotch, black forest special cold coffee with ice-cream etc. Though this small shop is famous for its soft cones, yet you'll find many other snacks like hot dogs, sandwiches, pastries & more.So if you are a shopaholic then try our Paltan Bazaar! And don't forget to try Gaylord's ice-cream cone located just in the place!Best Chinese Fast Food Stall @Kishan Nagar Chauk
This is one of the most accessible and also one of the most important ghats of Benaras or Varanasi. This is the ghat which is mostly chosen by boat operators to start from on a boating tour along the Ganges River. You have to reach this temple after crossing like a labyrinth of very narrow lanes and alleys filled with eateries, shops and chaos. As you reach this ghat, you will find that this is cleaner than many other and is mainly famous for the beautiful Kedareshwar Temple.
Jantar Mantar is a renowned name and an attraction is Jaipur which is famous around the globe. It is adjacent to the other highlight of the city, City Palace. Maharaja Jai Singh started this observatory in the year 1728. The structure of Jantar Matar looks more like a bizzare of sculptures. Yanta Mantr a Sanskrit word is behind the name of the monument which in English means an instrument used for calculation. The place has another added point to its credit in the form of UNESCO World Heritage Site tag. Scholars were sent to foreign countries by the Maharaja before he planned to construct this observatory.
Chet Singh Ghat
The first wedding function was at the Chet Singh Kila located above a ghat with the same name. It was constructed in the mid 18th century by Raja Chet Singh. He lost the fort to the British Governor General Hastings a few years later. The small fort has retained most of its beautiful structure even though it is sadly unkempt. I can imagine minor restoration turning this into a popular tourist destination- not only due to its obscure history but also its imposing view over the river. Apparently used only a couple of times a year for functions, we were lucky to have spent an evening looking over its turrets while eating Banarasi chaat with some smuggled black label. Alcohol and meat is banned within 200m of the holy river. We got to and back from Chet Singh ghat using the hotel boat. Boats aren't allowed to ply post 9pm so be sure to account for that if it's your main means of transportation.