|Varanasi or Kashi|
Location: 809 km from Delhi and 290 km from Lucknow
World Famous Attractions: Varanasi Ghats
What To See: Viswanath Temple, Banaras Hindu University, Ghats
What To Shop For: Banarasi Sarees and Paan
How To Reach: Most national airlines operates to Varanasi and trains are linked with all major cities of India.
Varanasi also known as Kashi or Benaras, is India’s best known spiritual and religious destination. The city’s life revolves around the river Ganga. The place is colorful, charismatic and oozes religious fervor especially on the bathing ghats lining the Ganges in Varanasi. This ancient city touches every aspects of life as pilgrims douse in holiest river, travelers and scholars from around the world come to see and study the quintessence of India.
Varanasi is the oldest inhabited city in the world has been a center of learning and civilization of over 2000 years. According to Hindu mythology, on the Varanasi ghats the drama of life and death are played out.
Varanasi came into the eyes of world when Shankaracharya, a reformer of Hinduism, established Shiva worship as the principal sect.
Most of the Hindu temples were demolished and looted by Afgans in the 12th century. Aurangzeb, the furious Mughal king destroyed temples and used the temple material to built mosques and even renamed the city as Mohammadabad. In this time scholars and teachers fled to other part of India.
Varanasi became an independent kingdom in 18th century and eventually came under British rule but strongly held its religious fervor. In 1910 British made Varanasi a new Indian state and Ramnagar as its headquarters. Its one of the seven sacred cities of Hindu and mentioned in many Hindu’s vedas including Rigveda, Skanda Purana, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Many scholars believes that Varanasi is 3000 years old and legends says its 5000 years old living city since the earliest known Sumer civilization in Mesopotamia.
Not To Miss
· Ghats – Ghats are the steps lining the river Ganges. The religious and spiritual life of Varanasi revolves around the ghats. Ghats have spiritual significance in Hindu’s life. One one hand, priests chant mantras and sprinkle holy water of the Ganges on newborns, and on the other hand dead are taken to the ghats fro cremation and the urs containing the ash are floated in the water. Throughout the day, the ghats are crowded with pilgrims, as a dip in the Ganga is believed to absolve one of all sins.
Around 80 ghats border the river. A one hour boat trip from Dasaswamedh Ghat south to Harishchandra Ghat and back provides a good introduction to the river scene. Ghats are also a wonderful place to stroll and you will watch numerous people engasge in various activities. some wash clothes, some do yoga, someone get massage, sadhus are everywhere puffing and sink in their in own. Some of the famous ghats are Assi Ghat, Tulsi Ghat,Shivala Ghat, Kedar Ghat, Someswar Ghat and Dasaswamedh Ghat, the most colorful and liveliest of all.
· Kashi Vishwanath Temple – The temple is dedicated to Vishveswara, another name of Lord Shiva. The temple is the most popular and revered temple in Varanasi. The current temple was built in 1776 by Ahalya Bai of Indore, while the 800kg of gold plating on the tower and dome was supplied by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore 50 years later. There were other temples in the vicinity but most of them were destroyed by Muslim invaders. Gyanvapi mosque that still exist inside the temple complex is mute witness of demolition of many temples by Aurangzeb.
· Benaras Hindu University – Founded by nationalist Pandit Malaviya in 1916 as a center for education in Indian art, culture, music, and philosophy and Sanskrit subject is now offer courses in almost all the subjects. One of the largest campuses in Indian has around 15000 students including 2000 foreign students. You must not miss the Bharat Kala Bhavan, a small museum inside the university that holds wonderful collection of 12th century palm leaf manuscripts and miniature paintings.
· Shop Some Silk Saris- A women wardrobe is considered to be incomplete if it does not have a Benarasi sari. Each sari is in bright or muted hues-has beautiful zari work.
· Food- If you are in Varanasi you can’t resist mouthwatering samosas and Khasta kachauris fried in pure ghee, there are also small crispy jalebis and huge gooey jalebis. The famed Banarasi lassi with a layer of cream is simply irresistible.