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Home » Uttar Pradesh » Varanasi   

Varanasi

Varanasi Tour PackagesKnown formerly as Kashi or Benares, this ancient city set on the banks of the river Ganga, is one of the holiest cities in India. This enchanting city is said to have been founded by Lord Shiva. Being one of the oldest living and most holy city's in India, Varanasi attracts a lot of tourists, who come to absorb the over 2000-year old history of learning and civilisation that the city has to offer. It was at Sarnath, only 10 km away from Varanasi, that the Buddha, first preached his message of enlightenment, 25 centuries ago.

Varanasi gets its name from the two tributaries of the Ganga - Varuna and Asi - between which it is situated. This sacred city, which was founded ten centuries before the birth of Christ, is mentioned in holy scriptures like 'Vamana Purana', Buddhist texts and the Mahabharata. The river Ganga and the city Varanasi share a relationship as old as time and this relationship is what makes this city the 'City of light'.

About Ghats
What draws visitors to Varanasi other than the centuries old culture and spiritualism is the long string of ghats, which line the west bank of Ganges. Ghats are the steps which lead down to the river. There are around 100 ghats in Varanasi, each with its own significance. Most Indians believe that anyone dying on the banks of the river, in Varanasi, attains instant 'moksha' or enlightenment.

The Dasaswamedh Ghat is the most important ghat here, and conveniently placed at the centre. The Manikarnika ghat is associated with Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva's wife. The five ghats where pilgrims are supposed to bathe in order, and on the same day are Asi ghat, followed by Dasaswamedh, Barna Sangam, Panchganga, and finally, Manikarnika, in that order. Manikarnika and Harishchandra ghats, are the ghats used primarily for the cremation of the dead. Other main ghats include Kedar ghat, a shrine popular with Bengalis and South Indians. Mansarovar ghat built by Man Singh of Amber; and PanchGanga Ghat where the five rivers are supposed to meet.

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Prime Attractions of Varanasi

» Durga Temple
Durga Temple is also known as the Monkey Temple because of the monkeys who have made it their home. The Durga temple was built in the 18th century by a Bengali Maharani. It is stained red with ochre. This small temple, dedicated to Goddess Durga, consort of Shiva, is built in north Indian Nagara style, with a multicoloured shikhara or umbrella.

Opened by Mahatma Gandhi and dedicated to 'Mother India' is the Bharat Mata temple. This simple temple has a perfect relief map of India carved out of marble instead of gods and goddesses.

» Golden Temple
The main temple of Varanasi, is dedicated to Shiva or Vishveswara (Vishwanath). The original temple was located across the road, but it was destroyed by Aurangzeb who had built a mosque over it. The present temple was built by Ahalya Bai of Indore in 1776. The Mosque of Aurangzeb, has been built using columns from the original temple razed by Aurangzeb. This mosque has minarets towering 71 metres above the Ganges.

Prime Attractions of Varanasi

» Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Kashi Vishwanath Temple Varanasi Travel GuideThis temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is popularly known as the golden Temple due the Gold plating done on its 15.5 meter high spire. One tonne of gold donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh has been used in the gold plating of the spire. The temple was destroyed in the various invasions and was rebuilt in 1776 by Rani Ahilyabai of Indore.

» Tulsi Manas Temple
The beautiful Tulsi Manas temple, built in white marble, has the entire Ram Charit Manas (Ramayana) inscribed on its walls. The temple is made more enchanting by the wonderful landscaping around it.

» Banaras Hindu University
The centuries old tradition of learning in Varanasi is carried on to date at the Banaras Hindu University founded in 1917. One can learn art music, culture and philosophy here. Built by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya it is considered to be the largest residential university in Asia. It houses the Bharat Kala Kendra (museum) and Vishwanath Temple within the campus.

» Ramnagar Fort & Museum (16 km)
The residence of Kashi Naresh (Former Maharaja of Varanasi) across the Ganga at Ramnagar houses a museum comprising exhibits like palanquins, costumes, swords, sabres, astrological clocks etc. Ramnagar is worth a visit during Dussehra when the air is filled with the vibrancy of celebration.

» Raja Jai Singh's Observatory
Raja Jai Singh's Observatory at Man Mandir Ghat, Annapurna temple, Anand Mayee Math, Kaal Bhairav temple, Nepali temple, Guru Ravidas Mandir near the university and Kabir Janmasthali Lahartara are some of the other attractions that Varanasi has to offer.

Yoga

Tourists interested in Yoga can pay a visit to the Malviya Bhavan at the Banaras Hindu University, where courses in Yoga and Hindu Philosophy are offered. There are also many private teachers and organisations offering courses. Yoga clinic at D 16/19 Man Mandir runs seven day courses in the principles of Yoga.

Places to stay in Varanasi

There is a wide variety of hotel accommodation available in the city. The hotels at the top end, which are mostly in the cantonment area of the city, include Hotel de Paris and Hotel Varanasi Ashok . Hotel Clarks Varanasi is the oldest hotel here, dating back to the British era. Hotel Taj Ganges is also a good option.

How to get there
Varanasi Tour Agents
» Air
Varanasi is on several Indian Airlines routes, including the popular daily tourist shuttle Delhi/Agra/Khajuraho/Varanasi and back. There are flights from Lucknow, Jaipur, Bhubaneshwar and Kathmandu also. The airport is about 22 km away from the city, and the Indian Airlines shuttle bus service runs from there to the city.

» Rail
There are not many trains running from Delhi or Calcutta to Varanasi, but most Delhi-Calcutta trains do pass through Mughalsarai, 12 km south of Varanasi. Varanasi is connected by train to Mumbai, Allahabad, Patna, Jaipur, Gorakhpur and Khajuraho.

» Road
There are buses running from Varanasi to Jaunpur, Allahabad, Lucknow, Faizabad, and Gorakhpur. No direct buses run to Khajuraho.

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