On the banks of the river Ganges in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is one of the most ancient cities of India and the world. Known as the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism, Varanasi, or Benaras, as it is more popularly known, also played a significant role in the development of Buddhism. If you're looking for a spiritual retreat, the fascinating culture and history of this city will entice you. Here is a guide to the things you shouldn't miss if you're visiting Varanasi for two days!
Day 1 : The beauty and essence of Varanasi lies in its temples and ghats. One of the most famous Hindu temples is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is one of the twelve jyotirlingas, and the holiest of Shiva temples. The temple finds mention in the Puranas, and stands witness to a rich history of destruction and reconstruction, making it a truly heritage site. It is believed that a visit to the temple, and a bath in the river Ganges leads one on a path to Moksha, or liberation. The Manikarnika Ghat on the banks of the river Ganges near the temple is also a revered place of worship. Some of the other temples and ghats that can be visited during the day includes Assi Ghat, Bharat Mata Mandir and Durga Mandir. The Ramnagar Fort and the historical Gyanvapi Mosque, built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, are other places of tourist attraction.
The afternoon and evening can be spent on the picturesque bank of the River Ganges, enjoying the scenic beauty and tranquility of the city. The Ganga Aarti in the evening at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the main ghat in Varanasi, is spectacular. The aarti begins around 7 pm, but devotees usually gather hours before to watch the ritual ceremony from a close distance. It truly is a sight to behold.
Day 2 : If you're visiting Varanasi, a half-day trip to Sarnath is an absolute must. Located 10 kilometres away from the city, Sarnath is only a 30 minute drive away. It is an important pilgrimage site for both Buddhism and Jainism. The Deer Park in Sarnath is where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon, teaching the dhamma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence. The Chaukhandi Stupa and the Dhamek Stupa are places of great historical and religious significance. The Sarnath Museum is another major tourist attraction. It is the oldest site museum of the Archaeological Survey of India. It houses the findings and excavations at the archaeological site of Sarnath. The museum houses 6,832 sculptures and artefacts, and is a treat for lovers of history.
Apart from the important temples, Varanasi is filled with numerous beautiful temples, that can be explored as one walks through the streets of the city. Some of these are the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, Kaal Bhairav Mandir and the Tibetan Monastery and Temple. The quaint little ghats spread out throughout the city further adds to its charm. The rich culture is also evident in the delicious street food, ranging from poha, baati chokha and tamatar chaat, to jalebi, thandai and lassi.
Pack your bags and set out on a spiritual and enriching journey to this beautiful city of mysticism and history.
This blog was originally posted on Eat Travel Laugh.