Varanasi is a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the city draws Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the Ganges River’s sacred waters and perform funeral rites.Varanasi was once known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi. Along the city’s winding streets are some 2,000 temples, including Kashi Vishwanath, the “Golden Temple,” dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.Many Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi brings salvation/nirvana and so they make the trip to the city when they realize that they are close to death. For some, the culture shock of the burning corpses in plain view can be a bit overwhelming. However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganga at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world.
How to reach-
By Air:- Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport is located 25km northwest of the city center. Varanasi is well connected and accessible to major Indian cities and tourist spots. There are daily domestic flights to and from Varanasi to several cities in India
By Train:- Since Varanasi lies in the heartland of the North Indian plains, it is well connected to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and other parts of India. There are two railway stations in Varanasi, the Kashi Junction and the Varanasi Junction (also known as Varanasi Cantonment).
By Road:- Situated in the flat Ganga plains, Varanasi has a good network of roads. frequent public and private buses and road transport to all the major towns of Uttar Pradesh and nearby areas.
Things to do:-
Boat Ride in Ganges River, take Bath in Ganges,Rendezvous with Gods at temples of Varanasi,A Sunset Stroll Along The Ghats, Evening Aarti Ceremony at Ganges River,Go for a Sightseeing Tour of Sarnath, Reminiscing history in Varanasi.
Places to visit:-
Kedar Ghat:- Located at the far end in the southern part of the city, the Kedar ghat is named after Lord Shiva, who is also revered as Kedarnath.Brightly painted in stripes and busy with bathers, very photogenic
Ramgarh Fort:- Built by Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 18th century, the fort has been the royal residence for the Maharaja of Banaras (old name for Varanasi) ever since. Built in red stone, the fort houses a temple dedicated to Ved Vyasa, the author of the epic Mahabharata. The place displays a mix of both Islamic and Indian architecture, with its majestic balconies, courtyards, and pavilions that circle around the fort.
Dasaswamedh Ghat:- Known as the ‘main’ ghat, this is the site of the large evening aarti ceremony.According to legend, Lord Brahma had sacrificed 10 horses here in order to bring an end to the banishment of Lord Shiva. In the present times, an aarti takes place every evening at the ghat, where people light earthen pot and leave them in the waters of the Ganges.
Manikarnika Ghat:- The main cremation ghat; a must-see, but remain quiet and never take photographs (note: scams are plentiful here; see the “Staying Safe” section)
Durga Temple (Monkey Temple):- Monkey Temple is also called as durga temple.Monkey Temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga but is known as Monkey Temple due to excessive population of monkeys. It was built by Bengali Maharani in Nagara style.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple:- Overlooking the entire city of Varanasi is the Kashi Vishwanath temple, dedicated to the chief deity of the city – Lord Shiva. It houses the Vishwanath Jyotirlinga, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in India that occupy a significant religious pedestal. The temple has three conical tops, two of which are covered in gold donated by Punjak Kesari Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Alamagir Mosque, (overlooking Panchganga Ghat):- a great place for a bird’s eye view of the area.
Sarnath:- The best place to visit in Varanasi is at a distance of 12 km from the city railway junction – Sarnath.It is believed that in Sarnath Buddha gave his first sermon to his disciples after getting enlightenment. There is also a Museum in Sarnath
Best time to visit:-
The best season to visit Varanasi is between October and March when the temperatures are a in a comfortable range of 5-15 degrees Celsius. The winter months are also when festivals are celebrated with enthusiasm in Varanasi. Dussehra and Bharat Milap are celebrated in quick succession in September/October followed by the festival of lights, Diwali. The Ganga Festival also takes place in November where people come from far and near to pay respect to the holy river Goddesses.