Hailed as one of the oldest living cites in the world, Varanasi is a centre steeped in heritage, tradition, and colour. People take ritual baths in the numerous ghats (steps at the water's edge) leading to the river to cleanse their souls. These ghats are also used by the Hindus to burn the bodies of the dead. It is fascinating to see the aarti (prayer ceremony) at Dasaswamedh Ghat in the evening.
Varanasi or Banares is arguably the emblem of Indian tourism. Situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh, it is one of the most sacred -- and atmospheric – cities in India.
Varanasi, also known as Kashi, has also been a prominent cultural port. The city is also famous for its classical dance and music, and yoga. Indeed, a trip to Varanasi will fill you experiences that you will carry throughout your life.
The city has a rich history dating back to millennia, and a perfect place to travel back in time. At a time of the Buddha’s death, known as Mahaparinirvana in Buddhist phraseology, Ananda, one of the most famous disciples, regretted that his master was to die in so small a town as Kushinagar, 60 Km from Allahabad, and mentioned that Varanasi among the six cites where he considered important enough for the Buddha to die in. This amply proves that Varanasi was evidently one of the greatest cities of the 5th century BC.
The very name of Varanasi conjures up images of the ghats lining the Ganges River where you can take a stroll along the river front and explore the different aspects of life flow by. A boat ride on the Ganges River, preferably in the early morning or at evening, has the potential of giving you enthralling experience. The cremation of dead bodies on the funeral pyre at the burning ghat will be an experience of lifetime.
These ghats are the pieces de resistance of Varaasi which is home to more than 100 bathing and burning or cremation ghats. The Varanasi Ganga aarti (worship ritual) sunset ceremony is conducted at the oldest and most important ghat- Dashashwamedh. People gather on these steps to pray and other gifts of light to the river. With the pearls of bells and air infused with incense, the Ghats come alive every evening. Manikarnika, Harishchandra, Panchganga , Asi Ghat, Kedara Ghat , Chauki Ghat, Chaumsathi Ghat , Man Mandir Ghat, Lalita Ghat , Scindia Ghat , Panchganga Ghat, Adi Keshva Ghat are the other important ghats of Varanasi.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple enshrines one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. The most sacred shrine in Varanasi, the present structure of the Vishwanath Temple was built by Rani Ahilya Bai Holker of Indore in 1776 AD. Also knonw as the Golden Temple, this sacred Hindu shrine attracts pilgrims from all over the world who come here to offer their prayers to Lord Siva.
Unlike the temples that enshrine the usual Hindu gods and the goddesses, the Bharat Mata Temple is home to the most perfect relief maps of India carved out of marble. Dedicated to Mother India, the temple came into being in 1936 thanks to the efforts of the patriot Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta.
A great centre of learning and education, the Benaras Hindu University, popularly known as BHU, was founded in 1916 by the nationalist leader Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya who was recently conferred the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India. One of the largest residential universities in India, the BHU attracts students from different parts of India and abroad.
Built in 1964, this temple is named after Hindu poet-saint Goswami Tulsidas who composed the story of Ramayan in the layman’s language in his magnum opus Ram Charit Manas thereby bringing the story of Lord Rama to the masses. The walls of the temple are embellished with verses from the Ram Charit Manas.
If possible, a visit to Varanasi during Diwali will be an exhilarating experience. The city looks particularly arresting at night when the banks of the Ganges River are lined with the glow of small lamps amidst the chanting of mantras. During Diwali, a five day Ganga Mahotsav festival is also held in the city.
It is worthwhile to pay a visit to the Buddhist site of Sarnath, around 20 km from Varanasi. Leaving the tree of wisdom at Bodh Gaya in Bihar, the Buddha journeyed to Sarnath (Isipathana-Mrigadeva) where he gave his first sermon or in Buddhism phraseology, set in motion the wheels of the law. Sarnath is home to one of the most famous Buddhist stupas in India. An oasis of tranquility, Sarnath soothes senses of the visitors who can spend their time by exploring the ruins of Buddhist stupas amidst lush green gardens.
40 Km southwest from Varanasi, Chunar in the Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh is a primer destion of history lovers. In ancient India, the ashokan inscritions and Mauryan stonemasons were made from the sandstone from Chunar. Chunar is known for a commanding fort which overlooks the Ganges. The fort was the bone of contention between the Mughal emperor Humayun and his adversary Afghan ruler Sher Shah to who unitmately caputured the fort. The fort later on came under the control of Akbar and the British.
Founded in the 14th century by Feroz Shah Tughlaq, who named it after Muhammad Bin Tughlaq (Juna Khan), Jaunpur is 58 Km north of Varanasi and is known for some of fine mediaeval mosques and monuments like Atala Masjid, Lal Darwaja Masjid, Jami Masjid, Khalis Mukhlis Masjid, Shahi bridge. It was the capital of the Sharqi dynasty.
70 km from Varanasi, Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary is blessed with a charming forest and a variety of wildlife such as sambhar, wild boar, nilgai, Indian gazelle and porcupine, some 150 species of birds and various reptiles including python and gharial. Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary is known for the scenic Rajdari and Deodari Waterfalls attracting picnickers.
Known for the temple of Vindhyachal Devi (Vindhyavasini), Vindhyachal is one and a half hour drive from Varanasi and is 75 km from the city. Eight km from Mirzapur, it is one of the Shaktipeeths. Kali Khoh temple and Ashtabhuja temple are other important shrines in Vindhyachal.
How to Reach Varanasi by Air: the city airport is connected with different cities in India.
How to Reach Varanasi By Rail: Varanasi is a major railway station connected with all the main places in India
How to Reach Varanasi by Road: Varanasi is well connected by road to different places in India. Some of the cities and places connected with Varanasi by road are Allahabad (127 Km) , Ayodhya (209km ), Chitrakoot (280 km), Kushinagar (259 Km), Kanpur (316km), Lucknow (300km), Nalanda (334 Km), Rajgir (317 Km), Khajuraho (406 km) Naimisharanya (298 km), Patna (249 km), Jhansi (375 km), Agra (433 km), Delhi (710 km), Kolkata (681 km), Gorakhpur (212 Km), Kathmandu (640 Km).
Finding accommodation in Varanasi is not a problem. The city brims with hotels catering to the needs of everyone. Nadesar Palace, Gateway Hotel Ganges, Hotel Clarks Varanasi, Hotel Pradeep, Hotel Vaibhav, Hotel De Paris, Diamond Hotel, Hotel MM Continental, Hotel Malti, Pallavi International Hotel, Hotel Palace on Ganges, Hotel Plaza Inn, Hotel Radisson, Hotel Surya, Hotel Sarin Inn, Hotel Varuna and Hotel Nar Indra, are some of the finest hotels in Allahabad.