Also known as Benaras (or Banaras) and Kashi, Varanasi is one of the most ancient cities of the world that have been continuously inhabited. Considered as the most sacred of seven holy cities (Sapt Puri) of Hindus, Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India. Falling in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, city of Varanasi lies on the banks of river Ganga.
Varanasi has been revered as the most sacred place and major pilgrimage for Hindus since thousands of years. It is also believed that the one who dies and gets cremated here attains ultimate salvation and liberation from the cycles of re-births. Besides being the center of rich cultural heritage and tradition, Banaras is also the most important hub for studying Indian religion, philosophy and spiritualism.
Major Attraction in Varanasi
- Ghats – These ghats or embankments made along the banks of river Ganga are well-known the world over. There are more than 80 ghats in Varanasi which are mostly used by pilgrims and tourists for taking holy bath and performing Hindu poojas. While some of these are exclusively used as cremation sites for Hindus. Pilgrims can also enjoy a boat ride in the morning in the Ganges. The Dashashwamedh Ghat is the most prominent and probably the oldest ghat of Varanasi. The other popular ghats are Manikarnika Ghat, Scindia Ghat, Maan-Mandir Ghat, Lalita Ghat, Panchganga ghat, Maan-Sarovar Ghat, Bachraj Ghat and Darbhanga Ghat.
- Temples – There are as many as about 23000 temples in the holy city of Varanasi. The most popular and most visited of these are the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Shiva; the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple; and the Durga Temple. One strange thing about these temples is that the large trees near these temples are home to numerous monkeys. One of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples in Varanasi is the Kashi Vishwanath temple on the Ganges. Other prime temples are the Annapurna temple, Sankatha temple, Bharat Mata temple, Kalabhairav temple, Mrithyunjay Mahadev temple, the New Vishwanath temple and Tulsi Manas temple.
- Ramnagar fort – Built with cream colored chunar sandstone, Ramnagar Fort was commissioned by Kashi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh in the 18th century. The fort is located on the eastern ghat of river Ganga. Often referred to as ‘eccentric’ museum, the fort is a house to unique American vintage cars, a rare astrological clock and a weaponry hall.
- Located at a distance of 13 km from Varanasi, Sarnath Museum is the Archaelogical Survey of India’s oldest site museum. The museum contains antiquities as old as belonging to 3rd century to 12th century that have been found during excavations at the archaeological site of Sarnath. Lion capital of Ashoka is the most eminent display of Sarnath Museum.
Other important places in Varanasi
There are numerous other places of tourist and pilgrim interest in Varanasi such as –
- Chaukhandi Stupa
- Dhamek Stupa
- Gyanvapi mosque
- Gyan Kupa
- St.Mary’s Church
- Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary
Festivals and Fair
The spirit of festivities at Varanasi never comes to an end. Almost every month an important festival is celebrated here with all the zeal and excitement. Besides the festivals, numerous fairs or ‘melas’ are also held at this place. The major festivals celebrated here are –
- Buddh Purnima
- Dhrupad Mela
- Bharat Milap
- Nag Nathaiya Leela
- Panch Koshi Parikrama
- Hanuman Jayanti
- Ganga Mahotsav
Best time to visit
Although it gets quite cold during winters, but the months from November to February is the best time to visit Varanasi since you can explore the city well at this time.
How to Reach
Air – Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport is at a distance of 26km from the city center. Major flights operate to and from all the major cities of India.
Rail – Varanasi Junction, also known as the Varanasi Cant Railway Station is the largest railway station of the city.
Road – Varanasi is well connected with other cities and towns of India by way of National Highway 2, 29, 56, and 7. State and Private transport services are also available from all major towns and cities of north India.