Let me introduce you to Varanasi today – Brace yourself. You’re about to enter in one of the most colorful, crowded, religious, chaotic, oldest inhabited cities in the world. Varanasi also was known as “Kashi – Shiv ki Nagari” (Lord Shiva’s town) and “Benares” situated on the bank of holy river Ganga in the Uttar Pradesh.
It is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism, and Jainism and also played a major role in Buddhism. Some Hindus believe that death at Varanasi or cremation at Varanasi brings salvation.Its ghats, temples and narrow, dingy bylanes give the spiritually oriented a mystical high.
The ancient city is now looking ahead in time with the recent signing of MOU between India and Japan to develop this holy city to smart city.
So, from a traveler point of view.. below are the things to do explore in Varanasi
Temples – Varanasi is said to be a city of temples. People from all part of the world come here to visit the temples. Many important and famous temples are situated at the bank of Ganga river (Ganga Ghat) which ads on the religious value of the Ganga. Below is the list of some must visit temples of Varanasi.
- Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Originally built by Maharani Ahilya Devi of Indore, the towers of the temple were gold plated by the Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1835 who donated 1000 kg of gold. The ‘shivalinga’ in the temple 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference housed in a silver altar. Located at Dashashwamedh Road.
- Kal Bhairav Temple: Kal Bhairav -another name of Lord Shiva and it explains his rather aggressive form. It is believed that Kal Bhairava was freed of a curse only after he took shelter in Varanasi.He is worshiped as the ‘Kotwaal- who takes care of Kashi/Varanasi.’
- The Maa Durga Temple: It lies in the Durgakund area of Varanasi and is dedicated to Maa Durga. Located in DurgaKund area.
- Tulsi Manas Mandir: It has been built at the spot where the great poet, Tulsidas wrote some parts of the great Indian epic, Ram Charitmanas or the Ramayana. Worth seeing is the beautiful landscaping and engraving on the walls depicting scenes from the epic – Ramcharitmanasa.Located in DurgaKund area.
- The Birla Vishwanath Temple: A replica of the original Kashi Vishwanath temple, was commissioned by – the Birlas(one of the richest industrialist families of India).Located on the campus of the famous Banaras Hindu University (BHU) near Lanka area of Varanasi.
- Sankat Mochan Temple has been established by Goswami Tulsidas (legendary poet). The temple is devoted to Lord Hanuman who is believed to save his devotees from the adverse effects of a malefic Saturn( shani ka prakop).Located at Assi Ghat ( one of the Ghat Of The Ganga).
- Annapurna Temple: This temple is dedicated to Goddess Annapurna – goddess of food and prosperity.Located at Dashashwamedh Road, close to Kashi Vishwanath temple.
Ghats : Ghat is a special type of embankments i.e. long flights of wide stone steps leading down to the river where people can take a holy dip. The holy dip gives “mukti”(freedom) from all the sins one has committed in his/her lifetime. There are 84 ghats in Shiv ki Nagari . Viewing the Ghats from a boat especially at sunrise is a beautiful experience
. Below is the list of some must-visit Ghats of Varanasi.
- Assi Ghat: One of the most famous and visited Ghats of Varanasi. It is situated where The Ganga meets the river “Assi”. It is located at the southern end of the main ghats so it is comparatively less crowded. Very popular among the long-staying travelers.
- The Dasaswamedh Ghat: It is among top attraction in Varanasi. It is the place where Lord Brahma had sacrificed ten horses to celebrate the return of Shiva on earth. At this ghat, the famous Ganga Arti takes place every evening.One can sit here for hours and not get bored just by looking around.
- Man Mandir Ghat: It is known for its “Shiv ling of Someshwar – Lord of Moon”.Having exquisite Rajput architecture.Rajput Maharaja Man Singh has built his palace here, and with that there is a bonus of an observatory which had been added by Sawai Raja Jai Singh.Many of the astronomical units are in very good condition.
- Manikarnika Ghat: The ghat which gives “moksha” salvation to one who got cremated here. If you’re curious and feeling bold, it is possible to watch the cremations take place for a fee.
According to Hindu religion, Mata Sati sacrificed her life & set her body ablaze after Raja Daksh Prajapati (one of the sons of Lord Brahma)tried to humiliate Lord Shiva in a Yagya practiced by Daksh. Lord Shiva took her burning body to Himalaya. While going to Himalaya Mata Sati’s parts of the body started falling on earth. Lord Shiva established Shakti Peeth wherever Sati’s body had fallen. At Manikarnika ghat, Mata Sati’s Ear’s ornament had fallen.
- Darbhanga Ghat : It is one of the most visually appealing, and architecturally impressive, ghats. It features a grand palace built in the early 1900s by the royal family of Bihar. Munshi Ghat is adjoining to this ghat which has been built by Finance Minister of Darbhanga – Sridhara Narayana Munshi.
- Scindhia Ghat : Scindhia Ghat – a picturesque place. Of particular interest is the partially submerged Shiva Temple at the water’s edge. The narrow maze of alleyways above the ghat hides a number of Varanasi’s important temples. This area is called Scindhia Kshetra and is visited by plenty of pilgrims.
How to reach Varanasi–
By Air- Varanasi is very well accessible from Delhi by air, rail, and road. Airlines such as Air India, , Jet Airways and SpiceJet have daily service from Delhi, and the price of the tickets is also economical.
By Train– Having has its rail station; many express trains run between Varanasi and Delhi which is also a convenient way of traveling. Varanasi has a good network of roads, and daily bus services are available from the capital city, Delhi.
By Road– Taxis can also be taken from Delhi or the other main town of UP like Agra, Noida, Lucknow, etc.
Varanasi, cannot be explained or explored in one day or rather one post, so stay tuned for next part on more of Varanasi and its rich ancient history and specialties.
Below pictures speaks in itself the rituals value of the Ganga, Varanasi, people and its Ghats. Would like to thank my friends and peers in contributing their lovely pictures. Satyam Shivam and Sudhanshu Wadhwa.