Varanasi is one of the most important places of pilgrimage for Hindus. It’s believed that anyone who dies here will be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation, and bathing in the Ganges River is said to cleanse away all sins. The fascinating thing about this mystical city is that its rituals are revealed openly along the many riverside ghats, which are used for everything from bathing to burning the bodies of the dead. It is not the easiest city to appreciate as it is noisy, crowded and polluted, but it is certainly one of the most memorable places you will ever visit.

What to see

  1. River Front (Ghats): The spectacular 4 km sweep of the Ghats is a unique sight, best viewed at dawn, in that “soft first light” when the river and Ghats have a timeless appeal. Life in almost panoramic detail unfolds here from dawn to dusk as a steady stream of devotees swelling to thousands on auspicious days perform rituals by the Ganga. The Ghats are best approached by Dashashwamedha Ghat, where boats are available on hire.

  2. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Also known as the Golden Temple, it is dedicated to lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the city. Varanasi is said to be the point at which the first jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which Shiva manifested his supremacy over other gods, broke through the earth’s crust and flared towards the heavens. More than the Ghats and even the Ganga, the Shivalinga installed in the temple remains the devotional focus of Varanasi. It is open only to Hindus.

  3. Gyanvapi Mosque: The Gyanvapi Mosque was raised by Aurangzeb near the present Vishwanath temple.

  4. Durga Temple: Commonly called the ‘Monkey temple’, it was built in the 18th century. Although it is one of the best-known temples, it is open only to Hindus. Beware of the monkeys here who are daring and menacing.

  5. Tulsimanas Temple: Constructed by a family of Varanasi, this modern temple is dedicated to lord Rama. It is situated at the place where Tulsidas, the great medieval seer, lived and wrote the epic “Shri Ramcharitmanas”, which narrates the life of Lord Rarna, the hero of the Ramayana. Verses from Tuisidas’s epic are inscribed on the walls.

  6. Bharat Kala Bhawan (Banaras Hindu University): A short rickshaw ride from the Durga temple is the Banaras Hindu University, one of the oldest educational centres in India. Founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya as a centre for the study of Indian art, culture, music and also for Sanskrit, it has developed into a modern academic centre of various disciplines. Within the campus is the Bharat Kala Bhawan, a museum which houses one of the finest collection of Mughal miniature paintings and brocade textiles. Open 10.30 hrs 14: 30 hrs.

  7. New Vishwanah 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.

  8. Alamgir Mosque: 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.

  9. Ram Nagar Fort and Museum: A 17th-century fort, Ram Nagar is the home of the Maharaja of Banaras, who is revered as the representative of Shiva in the city. The museum’s collection includes interesting vintage silver and brocade palanquins, howdahs, a replica of the royal bed and an armoury of swords and guns. (open 10: 00 hrs to 17:00 hrs). Ramnagar is also very famous for its Ram Lila.

  10. Bharat Mata Temple.

  11. Annapurna Temple.

  12. Manmandir.

  13. Sankat Mochan Temple.

Getting There

Air: Varanasi is connected by Indian airlines and other private airlines with other major cities in India .

Rail: Varanasi and Mughal Sarai (one of the main railway stations of Varanasi) are the important rail junctions, with train connections to all major cities of India.

Road: Varanasi, on NH2 from Calcutta to Delhi, NH7 to Kanya Kumari and NH29 to Gorakhpur is well connected to the rest of the country by good motorable roads like Agra 565 km, Allahabad 128 km, Bhopal 791 km, Bodhgaya 240 km, Kanpur 330 km, Khajuraho 40.5 km, Lucknow 286 km, Patna 246 km, Sarnath 10 km.

General information

Area: 73.89 sq. km. Altitude: 80.71 mts STD Code: 0542

Excursions

  1. Sarnath (10 km): After the Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya he came to Sarnath. Here in the Deer Park, he delivered his first sermon, or in religious language, set in motion the Wheel of law (Maha-Dharrnachakra Pravartan). The Emperor Ashoka, who visited Sarnath around 234 BC, and erected a stupa here. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between the 3rd century BC and the 11 th century AD, and today it presents the most expansive ruins amongst places on the Buddhist trail. Sarnath is an exceedingly tranquil place. The ruins, the museum and temple are all within walking distance.

  2. Chunar (40 km): Chunar has an immense fort overlooking the Ganga. This place has been the scene of battles since 1540, when Sher Shah took it from Humayun. Akbar recaptured it in 1575. In the m id 18th century it was appropriated by Awadh and subsequently, the British. The fort has a sun-dial and a huge well, and affords a splendid view of the Ganga.

  3. Chandraprabhia Wildlife Sanctuary (70 km ): These forests are famous for the Rajdari and Devdari waterfalls. A beautiful secluded spot for a picnic.

4.Vindhiyachal (75 km): The famous temples of Vindhyavasini Devi, Ashtabhuja Devi and Kalikhoh are the major attractions.

  1. 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.