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Tourist Places To Visit In Varanasi
Varanasi or Banaras or Kashi, are names of the same holy city in northern India. One of the oldest settlements in the world, Varanasi is also considered one of the most sacred places in India by the Hindus. This land with the pious river Ganga flowing and hermits roaming in orange robes, temples and shrines scattered and peace prevailing; is centuries old. Varanasi is at once exceptionally old-world and freshly contemporary and has been one of the major educational centres in the world since time immemorial. Here are top tourist places you must visit when in Varanasi.
The Varanasi ghats are famous all over the world for the utter culture and devotion they invoke. These ghats are basically steps leading down to the river Ganga, used by pilgrims and bathers. The sacred aura that these ghats exude is something that will stay with you all your life. There are several ghats in Varanasi - Panchganga Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Dasaswamedh Ghat, Kedar Ghat, Tulsi Ghat and many more. All these beatific ghats are known for their spiritual ambience. Boat rides from one ghat to another are the major attraction here.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered the holiest temple in India and is one of the most popular in this city of temples. Not only does this temple embody tranquil mysticism, it also flaunts a harmonious co-existence with a Mosque in the same premises. The divine vibes and vintage charm of the whole city is reflected in this temple so it's no wonder as to why hundreds of visitors throng the Vishwanath Temple every day. The opulence and sanctity of this temple is something that even history has recorded, and your trip to Varanasi will be outright incomplete without visiting this holy place.
Nestled on the opposite bank of the river Ganges, Ramnagar Fort is a red sandstone fort that encompasses a long history and graceful opulence. This eighteenth century monument is the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras, and has a temple and a museum within its grounds. Reflecting a Mughal-era structure, Ramnagar Fort is a glorious picture in elegance and extravagant flair. Visit this place during the festival of Dussehra to see the month-long Ramlila that is inaugurated by the king of Kashi.
Said to be the place where Gautam Buddha first taught the Dharma, Sarnath or the deer park has a museum and Buddhist temples built by several Asian countries following their architectural styles. Extremely peaceful and sublime, Sarnath flaunts world-renowned and ancient structures like The Dhamek Stupa, Ashoka Pillar, Chaukhandi Stupa and Dharmarajika Stupa that are so imposing that they will make your troubles seem inconsequential and at the same time, you will feel strangely relaxed.
Man Mandir Observatory
Located not so far away from Dasaswamedh Ghat is the Man Mandir Observatory that is a famous tourist spot. It is made up of astronomical instruments that calculate time, prepare the lunar and solar calendar, and study the movements, distances and angles of the myriad planets, stars and other heavenly bodies. This celestial place will afford you a glimpse of the old, cosmic Varanasi, and will give you tons of transcendent memories to take back home.
Assi Ghat is one of the prime pilgrim spots in Varanasi, dedicated to Lord Shiva and his incarnation Lord Rudra. Here, pilgrims are pulled to worship the Shivling that is located under a peepul tree, milk it, offer flowers and prayers. Assi ghat is a very bright, colourful place with constant chatter and buzz of activity that rivals commotion. This bank captures the perfect harmony and symphony of the ancient town of Kashi, and the Sanskrit language is widely spoken around, a rarity in India these days. If you visit early in the morning or at the time of dusk, do not miss the Ganga aarti at Assi Ghat.
Dashashwamedh Ghat is another vivid, bright place in the town, known for its flamboyant nature and a spiritual peace that go hand in hand. It is beleived that the creator of the world Lord Brahma sacrificed 'dash ashvahaa' or 10 horses here in a yajna. That is the reason this ghat is named the 'dash-ashwa-medh' ghat. Regular agni pooja and Ganga aarti are held here, and special rituals carried out on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For those who have watched the beautiful critically acclaimed movie Masaan, you shall definitely be familiar with this ghat. The same bank where the movie was shot and written for, the bank where cremation of dead bodies takes place, carried on by the workers who are shunned and considered 'lower' by the society. Manikarnika is considered to be a pious and auspicious place to die and be cremated at. Many terminally ill people come here to die, to be burnt here, so that their smoke be filed into the air of Manikarnika and their ashes immersed in Ganga by its side. Some sights of during flesh can be scary, and frankly scarring for those who haven't seen Hindu cremation before or are weak of the heart. So prepare yourself before you venture here.
Done with the standard tourist haunts and ready for something off-beat? Then there’s the Weaver’s Village, located in Varanasi, where the locals weave the patent, beautiful Banarasi sarees from gold dust and gold threads. Zari (silver and gold brocade) is used extensively, not only in borders but also on the silk Banarasi fabric to create gorgeous patterns and designs. A saree takes 15 days minimum to be made, which is why it is so expensive. The Weaver’s Village is your chance to see this masterpiece come alive, and while you are at it, do buy a couple for yourself or your beloved.
Varanasi's Local Market
Did you even go to Varanasi if you didn’t wander its streets and markets?
Since you have already read about the Weaver’s Village and Banarasi sarees, that’s not the only great thing coming out of Varanasi. The ancient city is also known for its glass and gold bangles, ornate jewellery, zari fabrics, decadent shawls, silk apparels, carpets and idols of Hindu devi-devtas. You can shop your way through Varanasi in markets like Thateri Bazaar, Vishwanath Lane, Godowilia and Chowk
Yes, this is a Jantar Mantar just like in Jaipur. It was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II, the king of Amber back in the 1700s, and is an open air museum come observatory that measures time, position of planets and stars and sun, as well as altitude. Other solar observatories like this one are present in Mathura, Ujjain, Jaipur and Delhi. The instruments kept here are ancient Indian devices that show how forward our civilisation was even centuries, eons ago. From the Disha Yantra to Samrat Yantra and Prakash Yantra; it is a candy land for people who are fond of astrology and astronomy.
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple
Perched on the banks of Assi River, the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple was constructed by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, an Indian freedom fighter. The deities inside the temple are Hanumanji and his master — Shri Ram. Do visit here for the darshan as well as the prasad — a special type of laddoo that is famous among the people of Varanasi. And while you are at it, keep your prasad safe from prying eyes of monkeys that throng the temple periphery!
Tulsi Manas Temple
Tulsi Manas Temple is made in honour of Shri Ram, its walls painted in verses from Ramayana. The white of its marble is sparkling, carved with the name of Ram. The location of this temple is amid lush greenery, propagating the serene poem of Ramcharitmanas, as composed by Tulsidas. A museum inside the temple premises is also great way to spend your time, looking at artefacts and manuscripts of this epic.
Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. And the world has seen many religions and preachers. Then how could Varanasi only host Hindu temples and museums? The Tibetan Temple makes for a Buddhist shrine, and a historic spot where Buddha taught the four truths of life. With a statue of Shakyamuni, Buddhist paintings (Thangska) and prayer wheels, the Tibetan Temple is a great detour from Hindu temples.
Bharat Mata Mandir
Varanasi doesn’t only house Buddhist shrines and mosques along with Hindu temples, but is also home to a temple glorifying the motherland — India. There is no deity or statue here, but only a relief map made of marble, that depicts the Indian country as a mother deity, sitting on her tiger, fierce but benevolent. Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta, another freedom fighter, designed this temple in 1936 to promote patriotism and establish a beacon of oneness among people of many religions. Gandhiji inaugurated the temple.
Banaras Hindu University
Madan Mohan Malviya didn’t only establish temples here, but was also instrumental in creating the Banaras Hindu University in 1916. A sprawling campus of 5 km sq., it is the largest residential university in Asia, with a total of 30,000 students studying here. Its beautiful lawns and eye-catching Indo-Gothic architecture is worth seeing, as are its historic paintings, photographs and stories. So visit if you are into architecture.
Well, ghats are already covered above, especially the Dashashwamedh Ghat. But what can we say? Ganga aarti is a tourist attraction in itself, attracting souls from all over the world — the spiritually inclined and the religiously uplifted, the wanderers and the travellers, the documentary makers and the photographers. Every dawn and dusk, as the sun is on the horizon, priests come together to perform aarti of Ganga, the mother river that has made the plains fertile and worth living for many many millennials. The evening aarti is especially beautiful, with the dark night sky coming alive with aarti lamps, chants of mantras and a serenity that is unrivalled.