Be it Vaishnavism or Shaivism, Spiritualism or Mysticism, Sanskrit or Yoga - Varanasi has been the ultimate destination for Hindus over the ages. The city is located on the banks of river Ganges, and is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals. Varanasi has maintained its unique identity with the rich Hindi literature, philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts for centuries.
Sarnath (10 km from Varanasi) is the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, and the city itself is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the 23rd Tirthankar. Therefore, Varanasi is a renowned pilgrimage for Buddhists and Jains as well.
Varanasi (Banaras) is also known as Kashi, 'the city of light' since one of the twelve Jyortinglingas is installed here. The holy city is also famous for its silk weaving industry and Banaras Hindu University, the biggest University in Asia. Even Ayurveda is said to have originated from Varanasi. People believe that the one who is graced to die at Varanasi, attains salvation and freedom from the cycle of re-birth. Visit Varanasi for distinct classical culture and a rich tradition of art, craft and music.
Varanasi Major Attractions
Banarasi Carpets (Shopping Attraction)
About 90 percent of the entire carpet work of India comes from Uttar Pradesh. The Varanasi-Bhadohi-Mirzapur belt is popular fro producing the maximum number of carpets in the country. The unmatched Banarasi carpets are famous for their excellent quality, unique designs, wide variety, and reasonable prices. There are numerous families in Varanasi and the nearby villages that have been handling the carpet business for decades. This Varanasi-Bhadohi-Mirzapur belt is known for traditional Indian woolen carpets and Durries. In fact, Varanasi is one of the leading carpet exporters of India. One can find traditional as well as stylish carpets at very reasonable prices here. Hand tufted carpets, Indo-Tibetan carpets, and low, medium and high knotted carpets form another specialty in the carpet segment in Varanasi.
Banarasi Sarees (Shopping Attraction)
The craze and passion of Banarasi Sarees is ageless. The Banarasi fabric has been known for its wonderful and graceful designs for centuries. The Banarasi sarees gained popularity during the Mughal era. Initially these sarees were made for the Nawab Begums and the Maharanis. These royal sarees were made of chiffon, georgette, silk and cotton. Today, weaving Banarasi silk sarees is a functional art of India, which has been going on for centuries. Generally, the Banarasi sarees take around 15 days to one month and sometimes six months to complete. It all depends on the intricacy of designs and patterns to be created on the saree.
Varanasi is one of the most famous handloom centers in the entire world and is known for the most popular and beautiful sarees in India. The sarees are woven with pure silk threads in beautiful colour combination. Several sarees are woven with two threads of different colours to provide shades to the saree under different lights. The local manufacturers use various kinds of silk like Jandhuri, Banaks, Mukta and Sandal to make such extraordinary sarees. One can observe a variety of Pure Silk Sarees (Katan), Organza Sarees (Kora) with zari and silk, Georgette Sarees, and Shattir Sarees while shopping in Varanasi.
Bharat Mata Mandir
This novel temple at Varanasi is the only temple dedicated to Mother India. The Bharat Mata temple is unique in terms of its architecture and design. The temple was constructed in 1936 with a motive to maintain unity and brotherhood for freedom fighters. Nationalists Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta and Shri Durga Prasad Khatri made efforts for the construction of this temple. Inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, this temple lies about 3 kilometres west of Godaulia, outside the old city.
The major feature of the temple is the relief map of India carved in white marble occupying the central place instead of a God or Goddess. It is a three dimensional model of undivided India with mountains, plains, and oceans all to the right scale. Besides, the overall construction is unique in itself. The temple is erected on 5 different pillars that signify the 5 basic elements of creation namely the earth, wind, fire, water and the sky.
Banaras Hindu University
Banaras Hindu University is one of the supreme centers of learning in India with a sprawling campus spread over 1300 acres of land, constituting of 3 institutes, 14 faculties spread across 124 departments, 4 inter-disciplinary centres and 3 constituent schools. This largest university of Asia was founded in the year 1916-1917 by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, the great nationalist leader. Even Dr. Annie Besant played a significant role in the establishment of BHU. This internationally reputed university also has an engineering institute, a medical college and about 55 hostels for the students. This University has around 2000 teachers besides 5000 non-teaching staff.
It has produced many Nation builders, great freedom fighters, celebrated scholars, scientists and artists. Coming to the structure and features of the university, Bharat Kala Bhavan, the museum of the university, is a nice place to visit. The roads are well maintained and there is extensive greenery within the premises of this university. Apart from all the facilities of extra-curricular activities, sports etc., the other architectural delights at BHU are a temple and an airstrip.
This 18th century shrine, also known as Brahmacharini Durga Temple, is devoted to Goddess Durga. This beautiful temple depicts old Hindu architecture with perfect location, according to Vastu Shastra, near the Durga Ghat (Durga Kund) on the banks of the holy river Ganges. Built by a Bengali Maharani in typical Nagara style, the temple's uniqueness lies in its 'Shikhara' that is constructed by placing one spire on another. Its Nagara style architecture offers a spiritual ambience to the environment. The temple and the main courtyard area is open to all, but only Hindus can enter the inner sanctum. Durga is the 'terrible' form of Shiva's consort Parvati. Therefore goats are often sacrificed on festive occasions to please her.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
The most famous temple of the city of Varanasi, Kashi Vishwanath is praised for one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. This Vishweshwara Jyotirlinga has been visited by all the great saints including Adi Shankaracharya, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekanand, Goswami Tulsidas, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati, Gurunanak and several other spiritual personalities. Built by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in the year 1780, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the most sacred and famous temple in Varanasi.
Two domes of the temple were plated with gold by Punjab Kesari Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, in 1839. Later the Ministry of culture & Religious affairs of U.P. Government took keen interest in plating the third dome with gold as well. It is said that Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore also donated about 800 km gold for plating the towers and constructing the 16 metres high spire (shikhara) of the temple. The beautiful shrine of Lord Shiva is also surrounded by a silver wall.
This splendid fort is a wonderful piece of Hindu architecture. It was earlier the residential palace of the Maharajas of Banaras. This medieval period fort was established by Maharaja Balwant Singh. The fort is built in red sandstone and lies about 14 km from Varanasi. This ancient fort is visited for attractions like the in-house temple (dedicated to Ved Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic) and the museum that displays the Royal collection of vintage cars, Royal palkies, armory of swords and old guns, ivory work and antique clocks. In the fort, is a huge clock that not only displays the year, month, week and day but also the astronomical facts about the moon, the sun and the constellation of stars.
The Durbar Hall (the hall of public audience) ia another attraction of the Ramnagar Fort. The fort is made up of precious stones and glossy marbles that provide it with an eye catching appearance. It hosts the festival of Dussehra and the fair of Ramlila along with a Royal Jhanki Yatra.
Sankat Mochan Temple
The Sanskrit word 'Sankat Mochan' literally means 'deliverer from troubles'. The presiding deity of the Sankat Mochan Temple is Lord Hanuman. This temple is believed to have been founded by Tulsidas, the legendary author of 'Shri Ramcharitmanas'. This ancient shrine is located on the Durga Kund Road. Tuesdays and Saturdays are considered auspicious days to worship here. In the month of April, the temple organises the Sankat Mochan Music Festival to celebrate the birth of Lord Hanuman. The festival draws devotees and artists from all over the country. People offer "Sindoor" (vermilion) and "Laddoos" to Lord Hanuman and recite the prayers of "Hanuman Chalisa" and "Sundar Kand".
Apart from this, special prayers are also held on the holy occasion of 'Kartik Krishna Chaturdashi' according to the Hindu calender. Another major celebration is the annual festival on the full moon night of the month of 'Chaitra', which is also known as Hanuman Jayanti.
River Ganges/Boat Ride And Aarti
A boat ride in the river Ganga at Varanasi is truly a relaxing. A peaceful boat ride can be enjoyed on a motor boat as well as a row boat. One can choose any kind of Varanasi Ghats Vacation Tours at reasonable prices. The real pleasure of a boat ride at Varanasi is when you start off in the early morning. There are several boatmen who wait for customers at the ghats. You need to bargain with them over prices. Watching a sunrise over the horizon while enjoying a boat ride, on still and calm waters is simple an out of the world experience.
Ganga aartis are another major attraction on the Ganga Ghats. The popular Dashashwamedh Ghat draws hundreds of devotees for the evening aarti. This ghat witnesses a heavy crowd on Wednesdays. The Ganga aarti is a regular feature and is performed daily and attended by thousands of devotees. You can have a wonderful view of the daily evening aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. The priests stand on a wooden chauki in the water and chant Sanskrit mantras along with the loud music of cymbals and drums. The aarti is performed with flowers, incense, sandalwood, milk and vermilion. Apart from this, you can join any of the five daily aartis at Vishwanath Temple.
Tulsi Manas Temple
Tulsi Manas Temple is situated at the place where Tulsidas, the great medieval seer, lived and wrote the epic "Shri Ramcharitmanas". Built in 1964 by a philanthropist family, the temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. 150 metre south of the Durga Temple, lies this modern marble shikhara style Tulsi Manas Temple. Even non-Hindus are permitted to enter the temple. One can see several shlokas, verses and scenes from the 'Ram Charit Manas' (the Hindi version of the Ramayana) engraved on the walls of the temple. Tulsi Manas Temple is a perfect example of the rich culture, tradition and religious aspect of the Hindus in Varanasi.