Varanasi or Benaras, called “Kashi” in the scriptures, is said to be the oldest living city in the world with a history that goes back to some three thousand years. Mark Twain, the American writer complimented this Heritage city in the words: “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, even older than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. Varanasi is believed to be the greatest ‘Tirth’ or crossing place between the earth and heaven. Varanasi is holy pilgrimage destination lies in the state of Uttarpradesh, India. Varanasi mainly comprises of temple of Lord Viswanath, crowded river banks of the Ganges, local and foreign tourists those visits Varanasi throughout the year, numerous lanes and famous tea along with Rabri (a famous Indian sweet made from pure milk). Varanasi remains lively and crowded with tourists throughout the year. Located on the Western Ghats of Ganges at the intersecting point of two rivers namely Varuna and Assi. The city of Varanasi seems to be an example of ancient India. The combination of Kashi the holy city, Ganga the celestial rives and Shiva the supreme god makes Varanasi an immortal destination. The main attractions of Varanasi are the numerous Ghats those spread from North to South. These Ghats of Varanasi are full of surprises and one can spend the whole day sitting quietly on these Ghats. Few of the Ghats at Varanasi those are mostly visited and reputed are Dasaswamedh Ghat, Manikarnika, Harishchandra, Tulsi, Keder, Panchganga, Ahallabai, Rajghat, Rajenderaprasad, Ranimahalghat, Assi Ghat and many more. These Ghats are located on after the other and full of surprises both in historical importance and construction. Near these Ghats at Varanasi one will get to see temples, Haveli, Kings Palaces and Ashram of saints. Among these Ghats the main is the Dasaswamedh Ghat. One can take a walk around these Ghats. It seems all the cultures of India have met up at Varanasi or Kashi. In the evening during the time of Arti on the bank of river Ganges, it displays an epic picture. Varanasi has always been great cultural center, notably in the field of learning, especially of religion, philosophy. Yoga, Ayurveda and Astrology. This city has produced some of the greatest literature and freedom fighters. The galaxy of luminaries includes Swamy Ramanand, Kabirdas, Ravidas, Tulsidas, Panditray Jagannath, Bhartendu Harishchand, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and many others. Some of the most renowned exponents of classical music and dance hail from Varanasi. Benaras silk saris and brocades are cherished as collector’s item.

At Varanasi one can go around by walking and take a look at the famous lanes and road. Inside the lanes of Varanasi there are numerous shops and temples those depicts a historical importance. These shops sells different types of sweets, bangles made of glass, wooden toys and the famous Benarasi Saris. The main attraction of Varanasi is the temple of Kashi Viswanath, the idol here is of Lord Shiva, and here one can get to see the offerings (arti) both morning and evening, one need to avail the lanes of Varanasi to reach the temple. On the way to Kashi Viswanath temple there is another temple of Annapurna which is worth watching. Some of the famous temples of Varanasi are Tulsi Manas Temple, Bharatmata temple, Kalbhairav temple, Sankatmachan Hanuman temple and Birla temple. On the banks of river Ganges there is Alamgir Masjid. On the other side of the Ganges there is the Ramnagar Fort at a distance of 11 km. On the banks of river Ganges the sight of this fort is a part of the palace. This fort can be reached both by surface and water transport. The palace at Varanasi was built in the 17th century. There is a museum inside the palace which is worth watching. The museum has the collections of ancient arms and ammunition, antique cars, things made from Ivory and many more. There is also an idol of the god of the royal family Lord Bashkashi Mahadev Temple. The bank of Ganges adjacent to the palace is also full of artistic values. From Varanasi on a day tour one can go around and visit the famous spots.

Around Varanasi:

River Fronts (Ghats):
The spectacular long sweep of Ghats on the holy Ganga is unique and creates a fascinating sight, best viewed at dawn. Life, in almost panoramic details, unfolds here from dawn to dusk as a steady stream of devotees, swelling to thousands on auspicious days, perform rituals. The Ghats are best approached by Dashashwamedha Ghats. Here boats are available on hire.

Dasaswamedh Ghat: Dasawamedh Ghat is among the 5 pilgrimage sites of Varanasi and is the most spectacular among both Indian and Foreign tourists. Dasawamedh Ghat attracts numerous tourists everyday for bathing in Ganges. The name Dasawamedh came from Ancient Mythology, it says Lord Bramha performed Dasa-Ashwamedh Yajna and sacrificed ten horses here and so its name derived. In the year 1734 POeshwa Baji Rao built the concrete form of this ghat. Just beside Dasawamedh Ghat there is Dr. Rajendra Prasad Ghat built in the memory of Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

Assi Ghat: Assi Ghat lies to the south of Varanasi at the confluence of River Ganges and River Assi. Just above the Assi Ghat there is temple of Lord Jagannath.

Manikarnika Ghat: Manikarnika Ghat is also among the five pilgrimage site of Benaras. From Manikarnika Ghat to the downward towards Ganges the sandal worn by Vishnu are kept. Hindu belief says that it is holy to take bath at Manikarnika Ghat.

Tulsi Ghat: Tulsi Ghat was earlier known as Lolark Ghat. Tulsidasji dictated most of the parts of Ramayan in this Ghat. Tulsi Ghat was named after Goswami Tulsidasji.

Adikeshav Ghat: Adikeshav Ghat lies at the confluence of River Varuna and River Ganges. Sangameshwar and Brameshwar temple are must watch at Adikeshhav Ghat.

Harishchandra Ghat: This Ghat was named after King Harishchandra. He was a symbol of truthfulness.

Panchaganga Ghat: Above this Ghat there is a temple of Lord Bindumadhav. This Ghat is the intersecting point of River Yamuna, River Saraswati, River Kiran and Dhutpapa with River Ganga.

Kedar Ghat: This Ghat is famous for the idol of Lord Kedareshwar Shiva. Kedar Ghat was named after him.

Raj Ghat: Raj Ghat was built by Peshwa King Binayak Rao. This Ghat lies near Mallabi bridge near Kashi railway station.

Galis (Narrow Lanes):
is the city of temples, Ghats and Galis (narrow lanes). The serpentine narrow lanes of this city mirror the typically lifestyle of the inhabitants. Some of the famous Galis are Viswanath Gali, Kachauri Gali, Thatheir Bazar Gali, Khoa Gali, etc.

Local Watchable:

Sarnath: From Varanasi at a distance of about 10 km to the North Eastern side, Sarnath is a spot of Buddhists religion. The ancient “Saranganath” is today’s Sarnath. Sarnath is the place where Gautam Buddha taught Dhamma to his disciple for the first time and started the circle of religion.

Chunar: Situated at a distance of about 40 km from Varanasi. Chunar Fort is built on a hill top on the south end part of the Ganges. Inside the fort there is the sun watch, palace and temples. Chunar fort is surrounded by greenery on all sides.

Bindhachal: Situated at a distance of about 70 km from Varanasi. The spot is famous for the Bindabashi temple.

Viswanath Temple: This temple of Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the city, is also known as Golden Temple. Varanasi is said to be the place where the first Jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which Lord Shiva manifested his supremacy over other gods, broke through the earth’s crust. More than the Ghats and even the river Ganga it is the Shivalinga installed in the temple that remains the devotional focus of Varanasi.

Tulsi Manas Temple: This modern marble temple near Durga Temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is situated at the place where Goswami Tulsidas lived and wrote the epic ‘Shri Ramcharitmanas’. Verses from Shri Ramcharitmanas are inscribed on the walls. There is a museum in the premises which has a rare collection of manuscripts of the Ramayan and other artifacts.

Bharat Mata Temple: A novel temple dedicated to Mother India, which instead of the customary gods and goddess, houses one of the most perfect reliefs of India carved on marble.

Gurdwaras: The magnificent Gurubagh Gurudwara makes the place where Guu Nanakdev had stayed in 1506. Gurudwara  Neechibagh  in the Aas Bhairav locality, is the place where Guru Teg Bahadur meditated in 1666.

Jain TemplesVaranasi is regarded as one of the most sacred pilgrim centers of the Jains. It is believed that four Tirthankars – Suparshavanath, Chandra Prabhu, Shreyanshnath and Parshvanath – were born in and around Varanasi.

Ramnagar Fort and Museum: 14 kilometers, Ramnagar is the home of the Maharaja of Benaras, who is revered as the representative of Lord Shiva in the city. The massive 17th century fort here houses a museum displaying the royal collections which include vintage cars, royal palakies, armory of swords and old guns, ivory work and antique clocks.

Alamgir Mosques: This mosque, an amalgamation of Hindu- Muslim religious sentiments, is also known as “Beni Madhav- Ka- Dharehare”. The entire lower portion of the mosque is retained as a Hindu Temple.

Annapurna Temple: Near the Vishwanath Temple stands this important temple which has an idol of Goddess Annapurna. It was built in 1725 by Peshwa Baji Rao I, the Maratha shieftain. Annakoot festival is held here after Diwali.

Shani Dev Temple: A prominent temple dedicated to Shani Deo, situated near the Viswanath Temple and Annapurna Temple.

Gyanvapi Mosque: The Gyanvapi Mosque was built by the Aurangzeb near the present Viswanath Temple.

Durga Temple: One of the best known temples dedicated to Goddess Durga. It was built in the 18th century. Open only to Hindus.

Manmandir Observatory: An observatory built by Raja Man Singh of Jaipur at Manmandir Ghat. Timing: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm. Closed on Friday, entry fee Rs.02/-

Sanket Mochan Temple: It is one of the oldest temples of the city and is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. It is said that the Tulsidas wrote most parts of his epic Shri Ramcharitmanas here.

Kal Bhairav Temple: This famous temple dedicated to Kal Bhairav, the protector of the city, is situated in Bhairavnath Vishweshwarganj.

Banaras Hindu University: At a short distance from the Durga Temple is the Banaras Hindu University. One of the prestigious educational centers of India. Founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya.

New Viswanath Temple: Situated in the premises of Banaras Hindu University, this modern place of worship was planned by pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and built by the Birlas, on the pattern of the original Vishwanath Temple. Verses from old scriptures are inscribed on its walls.

Bharat Kala Mandir: This museum, within BHU campus, houses the finest collection of Mughal miniature paintings and brocade textiles. Timing: 11.00 am to 4.30 pm (except university holidays) closed on Sunday, entry fee Rs. 05/- for Indian, Rs.40/- for foreigners, Rs.20/- for SAARC countries.

Other Places of Excursions:

Gurudwara Chota Mirzapur: 17 km on Chuna- Varanasi route where Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh stayed.

Jain Temple at Chandrapuri: 20 km Believed to be the birth place of the 8th Tirthankar, Lord Chandraprabhu.

Gurudwara Shuili Sahab: 30 km. Guru Teg Bahadur visited the Gurudwara.

Gurudwara Ahraura: 45 km. On Varanasi – Sonbhadra route. Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh visited this place.

Lakhania Dari (Ahraura): 45 km. Beautiful waterfalls surrounded by green hills.

Jargo reservoir (Dam): 50 km. A beautiful picnic spot with boating and fishing facilities. The reservoir is surrounded by natural panorama created by the confluence of several rivers. Inspection House of Irrigation Department is available here.

Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary: 70 km. A beautiful picnic spot in the Chandraprabha forest within which are the Rajdari and Devdari waterfalls.

Sitamarhi: 85 km. On the banks of river Ganges. Sitamarhi is believed to be the place where Sita lived during her exile. According to Legends, this is the place where Sita went into the lap of mother earth. Important attractions are Valmiki Temple, Lord Shiva Temple, Sita Temple depicting beautifully and touchingly her going into the lap of mother earth. There is a fine lake where boating facility is available. A guest is also there with modern facilities.

Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary: 130 km spread over an area of 500 sq km, the sanctuary has a variety of wildlife. The Mukha waterfall is a tourist attraction.

Mahasivratri (March), Ganga Mahotsav (Nov), Dusshehra (Sept- Oct), Nakkatalya (Chetganj, Oct), Bharat Milap (Natilmli, Oct- Nov), Buddha Namgal (first Tuesday after Holi festival, at Dashashwamwdha) Nag Nathalya (Tulsi Ghat), Annakoot (Annapurna temple, Oct – Nov), Hanumat Jayanti (Sanket Mochan Temple), Panch Koshi Parikrama (in every Purushottam month), Dhrupad Mela (Tulsighat, Feb – March), Buddha Mahotsav (Sarnath), Unique Ramleela at Ramnagar (Sept – Oct).

How to reach: From Howrah, Sealdah and Kolkata station several trains are available those reaches to Varanasi. 12333 Bibhuti Express, 12381 Purba Express (Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday), 13009 Doon Express, 13049 Amritsar Express, 13005 Amritsar Mail and 12331 Himgiri Express (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday). Apart from these Varanasi is also well connected with other major cities in India. Also one can reach Varanasi from Mughal Sarai by reserved Auto or share autos. From Mughal Sarai at a distance of about 15 km is Varanasi.
Air: The nearest Airport is Babatpur, 22 kilometers from Varanasi and 30 kilometers from Sarnath, Varanasi is connected with Delhi, Agra, Khajuraho, Kolkata, Mumbai, Lucknow, Bhubaneshwar, Kathmandu.
Rail: Varanasi Cantonment and Mughal Sarai (16 kilometers, one of the main railway stations of Varanasi) are important rail junctions that link Varanasi with all major cities of India.
Road: Varanasi on NH2 from Kolkata to Delhi, NH7 to Kanya Kumari and NH29 to Gorakhpur, is well connected with the rest of the country by good motor able road distances are, Samath- 10 kilometer, Chunar- 35 kilometer, Jaunpur- 60 kilometer, Vindhyanchal- 70 kilometer, Allahabad- 125 kilometer, Ayodhya- 140 kilometer, Bodhgaya- 240 kilometer, Patna- 246 kilometer, Lucknow- 286 kilometer, Khajuraho- 405 kilometer, Agra- 565 kilometer.

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