Varanasi was known as Kashi in the ancient times and as Benaras more recently. The city is more than 3000 years old and is believed to be one of the oldest living cities in the world. It is much sacred to Hindus for centuries and according to Hindu mythology, those who die in Kashi gain instant salvation and freedom from the cycle of births and deaths. It is situated on the bank of the holy river Ganges, known as 'Ganga' in this region and its worshippers are said to be the upholders of the true Hinduism, who are known to keep the Hindu traditions and rituals alive. The city got the name 'Benaras' due to mis-pronunciation of 'Varanasi' by the British. The city is the house of one of the twelve famous 'Jyotirlingas'.
It is considered an important seat of learning and knowledge,
especially when it comes to Hindi, Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy in its
purest form. There are hundreds and thousands of temples in the city
that can be seen every few steps and in every home along with a number
of schools and colleges. Brahmins of Kashi who had the duty and
privilege to be well versed in scriptures and spread their knowledge to
the common people are the most venerated. Banaras Hindu University is
still one of the best institutions of India and churns out some of the
cream of the Indian society. Arts and crafts of Varanasi are famous too,
especially the Benarasi silk sarees with broad brocade work done in gold
and silver threads that are essential part of the Indian bridal
trousseaus. Music and dance has also flourished well in the city.
Varanasi's Prime Attractions
Ghats of Varanasi
The numerous Ghats of Varanasi on the banks of river Ganges come alive
with the dawn as the river water assumes different hue of red, orange,
gold and yellow at the different times of the day and thousands of
devotees take the ceremonial dip in them, offering prayers to the sun
and the river while standing waist-deep in the water. There are over all
85 bathing ghats in the city, the most notable being the Dashashwamedha
Ghat and the Manikarnika Ghat, where it is said that there is continuous
burning of dead bodies at all times.
The busiest temple of Varanasi, it is dedicated to Goddess Durga. The
large rectangular tank called Durga Kund nearby has an idol of Goddess
Durga seated on it and is believed to be the abode of Durga Devi, as
stated in Puranas. It is said that she has lived here for centuries as
the guardian deity of the city in the form of one of the warrior
goddesses known as Chandikas.
The unique temple is dedicated to 'Mother India' and is much more
contemporary. The nationalists Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta and Sri Durga
Prasad Khatri built it. The temple has one of the perfect relief maps of
India, which has accurate scaling and is made in marble. Mahatma Gandhi
inaugurated the temple.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Kashi Vishwanath Temple or the Golden Temple is one of the twelve
temples around the world that enshrine the famous 'Jyotirlinga' that
symbolizes Lord Shiva and is known as Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha
(meaning the God and Master of the World respectively). It is said that
mere catching a glimpse ('darshan') of the idol grants benediction and
spiritual peace to the deity. Its significance is even more enhanced as
it is believed that a visit to this temple equals the gains of holy
visits to all the other eleven 'jyotirlingas' combined. The present
temple is said to be built by the Late Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of
Indore in 1780.
Tulsi Manas Temple has modern construction with a 'Shikhara' typical to
North Indian temple architecture. It was built in 1964, in marble and is
dedicated to the great saint Tulsi Das who wrote the famous epic, 'Ram
Charit Manas'. Tulsi is said to have lived here and wrote the verses
here. He died in 1623. The movind statues depict scenes from the epic
again and again on the second floor, which is the chief attraction here.
The temple complex has a small sanctum that enshrines the idol of
Goddess Annapoorna (Goddess of Food). It was inaugurated in January 1977
and the famous Shankaracharya of Shringeri consecrated the idol. It is
said that the devotes of the Goddess never suffer from starvation.
The Somesvara ghat of Varanasi is now more known for housing the
Manmandir Palace built by Raja Savai Man Singh of Amber in 1585. Windows
of the palace have intricate carvings while there is a Hindu Observatory
at the top floor, which was built by Raja Sawai Jai Singh II.
Bharat Kala Bhawan
Bharat Kala Bhawan situated in the campus of Benaras Hindu University
(BHU) is a museum that showcases the rich collection of Mughal miniature
paintings, sculptures, contemporary art, bronze statues and brocade
textiles belonging to the period of 1st to 15th centuries.
Banaras Hindu University
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya founded BHU as a centre for the study of
Indian art, culture, music and Sanskrit and is one of the oldest
educational centers in India. It has been known to play an important
role in the independence movement and has evolved into the greatest
center of learning in India and has produced many eminent freedom
fighters, scholars, artists, scientists and technologists. It sprawls
across 1300 acres and has good roads and lots of greenery in its campus.
The university is a small city in itself and has its own temple,
airstrip, Bharat Kala Museum, hospital, large playgrounds, a massive
auditorium, a flying club and many other facilities.
Varanasi City Facts
This city guide presents all the information related to the travel and tourism of Varanasi or Benaras or Kashi, the holiest city of Hindus.
|Location:||Situated in Uttar Pradesh, India.|
|Climate:||Tropical climate with hot summers, highly humid monsoons and pleasant winters with misty mornings.|
How to Reach:
|By Air:||Nearest airport is the Babatpur Airport, 22 km from the city, with daily flights to and from Agra, Bhuvaneshwar, Calcutta, Delhi, Khajuraho, Mumbai and Lucknow.|
|By Train:||Varanasi is an important and major rail junction and trains connect it to all the major cities of India including Delhi and Mumbai.|
|By Road:||Smooth good road network and National Highways connect Varanasi to and from Calcutta, Delhi, Kanya Kumari and Gorakhpur.|