Varanasi – The spiritual capital of India
Location: Uttar Pradesh
Tourist Attractions: Sarnath, Jantar Mantar, Ramnagar Fort, Ghats, and the River Ganges, Alamgir Mosque, Durga Temple, Gauri Matha Temple, Kaal Bhairav Temple, Nepali Hindu Temple, Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple.
Local Tongue: Hindi, Bengali
STD Code: (91) – 542
Best time to Visit: October to March
Varanasi is a city on the banks of the Ganges in the Uttar Pradesh state of North India. It is also called the spiritual capital of India as it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism.
Varanasi is considered by Hindus to be the holiest place on earth. The eternal city of Varanasi has been a center of enlightenment and civilization for more than 2,000 years. The spiritual and cultural aspects of the Hindu faith continue to define this sacred city. Rituals and beliefs surrounding death by cremation and the end of the cycle of reincarnation are explored.
Hindus believe, that their great god Shiva picked as his earthly home. Today, perhaps most visible along the shores of the Ganges in the softening morning light of sunrise, the spiritual and cultural traditions of the Hindu faith continue to define Varanasi.
Mahashivratri in Varanasi
Shivaratri is “The Great Night of Lord Shiva” and since Varanasi is considered the city of Lord Shiva, so Mahashivratri holds great importance in Varanasi and is celebrated on a grand scale.
It is a major festival in Hinduism which falls on the fourteenth day of Phalguna of the Hindu calendar, and before the arrival of spring. The major Jyotirlinga Shiva temples of India, such as in Varanasi and Somnath, are particularly frequented on Maha Shivaratri. They serve also as sites for fairs and special events.
Read More About Maha Shivratri
Varanasi lies in the great northern plains of India, on the left bank of the Ganges River. Throughout its long history, the city has been known by a number of names – Anandavana, the “Forest of Bliss,” Kashi, the “City of Light,” Varanasi, a name derived from the rivers of the Varuna and Asi that flow into the Ganges there, Banaras and Benares Muslim and British appellations, and once again, Varanasi.
This sacred city is the final destination for what many considered to be the most significant religious pilgrimage in the modern world. Today, as they have done for centuries, thousands of Hindu faithful come to Varanasi from all over India, all over the world, to purify themselves in the holy waters of the river Ganges. They come by means of modern transportation, and they come as they have always come, on foot. Many believe that in enduring the hardships of the journey all their immoral acts will be undone and wiped away.
It is the holy waters of the Ganges River, the “spiritual heart of India,” that brings the faithful to Varanasi. According to Hindu mythology, the Ganges once flowed through the spheres of heaven. The Ganges is worshiped by the Hindus as a goddess – “the liquid essence of Shiva’s divine energy.“
Places to visit in Varanasi
Buddhists worldwide look upon India as the land of the Buddha and a visit to this country means a pilgrimage to those places sacred to the memory of the Enlightened One. he delivered his first sermon, or in religious language, set in motion the wheel of Law (maha- Dharmachakra Pravartan).
The Jantar Mantar observatory, constructed in 1737, is located above the ghats along the Ganges and is adjacent to the Manmandir and Dasaswamedh Ghats and near the palace of Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur. Jantar Mantar has a unique equatorial sundial that is functional and allows measurements to be monitored and recorded by one person.
The residential place of Kashi Naresh (Former Maharaja of Varanasi) across the Ganges at Ramnagar houses a museum with the exhibits of palanquins, costumes, swords, sabers, etc. The fort at Ramnagar houses a museum displaying the Royal collection which includes vintage cars, Royal Palkies, an armory of swords and old guns, ivory work, and the antique clock.
The Ghats in Varanasi are world-renowned embankments made in steps of stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions. Steps in the ghats lead to the banks of Ganges, including the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the Manikarnika Ghat, the Panchganga Ghat, and the Harishchandra Ghat, where Hindus cremate their dead. Many ghats are associated with Hindu legends and several are now privately owned.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple – Golden Temple
Security is tight making entrance difficult and sometimes completely off-limits to foreigners. No bags, cellphones, or pens are allowed. They can be deposited in the shops by the temple entrance. The temple was destroyed multiple times by Mughal invaders and was re-constructed by Hindu kings who followed them.
New Vishwanath Temple
Situated in the premises of Banaras Hindu University, a modern place of worship planned by Pandit Malviya and built by the Birlas. Open to all, irrespective of caste or creed.
The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple
Sankat Mochan is also famous for monkeys, and also famous for wishes. Many devotees are come to visit. This temple is also known as a monkey temple.
Goddess Durga is considered the goddess of Strength and Power. This temple was built in the 18th century with red stonework. A fine example of Nagara art.
Parshvanath Jain temple
The Parshvanath Jain temple, Varanasi is a temple of Jain religion dedicated to Parshvanath, the 23rd Thirthankara who was born at Bhelpur in Varanasi. The idol deified in the temple is of black color.
There are 15 mosques of significant historical value in Varanasi. Alamagir Mosque is an amalgamation of Hindu-Muslim religious sentiments, this mosque is also known as ” Beni Madhav Ka Darera“. Curiously, the entire lower portion of the mosque is retained as a Hindu temple.
Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport, located 25km northwest of the city center. A taxi to/from the airport takes an hour and costs ₹750, while a tuk-tuk/auto-rickshaw can take twice as long and costs ₹500. There are flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Khajuraho, and Visakhapatnam by Air India, Jetkonnect, Spice Jet, IndiGo operated regularly.
Varanasi is served by three major railway stations Varanasi Junction, Manduadih Railway Station, and Mughal Sarai Junction.
The bus station in Varanasi is located just east of the Varanasi Junction train station. A tuk-tuk from the bus station to the Ganges area costs ₹100. Private taxis are available from travel agencies, hotels, etc., rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, and three-wheelers are also readily available. But on some routes especially the old Varanasi areas of temples and markets, one-way traffic is maintained.
Distance from Major Cities to Varanasi.
- 47 km to Mirzapur, India
- 88 km to Mau, India
- 116 km to Allahabad, India
- 163 km to Gorakhpur, India
- 170 km to Ara, India
- 193 km to Rewa, India
- 210 km to Gaya, India
- 215 km to Patna, India
- 233 km to Satna, India