India Explored: Destination Guide: Varanasi: Posted By Arunchs



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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 18, 2008 At 15:43 PM

Destination Guide: Varanasi

 One of the oldest living cities of the world, Varanasi has a history lasting many thousand years. It is the holiest place for the Hindu, was an education center, a place ravaged by history and rebuilt many times over. Varanasi, Banaras or Kashi, however you call it, the place brings in a charm of timelessness to mind - of thousands of pilgrims bathing on the ghats, performing shraddha karma, sadhus meditating and the ganges flowing gently since ages.

Varanasi is a holy city for the Hindus, and is visited by a large number of people from all over India. In the recent years, it has also attracted backpackers and tourists from all over the world who want to quickly witness Indian Culture and head forward to next destination. It has become as much a touristy place as it is a place of pilgrimage. Winter is the ideal time to visit Varanasi, as temperatures easily cross 40 in summers.


Orientation. Most of the action is Varanasi is centered close to the 5km stretch of ghats along the bank of Ganga. Ramnagar Fort and Banaras Hindu University are some of the attractions that may require you to hire some transportation.


Things to do and Places to See


Ganga Aarti on Dasaswamedh Ghat. Every evening, an elaborate aarti is performed on the bank of the river at Dasaswamedh Ghat, close to Kashi Viswanath Temple. The aarti begins at 6pm and lasts for approximately 30 minutes. Its a colorful ritual with fine choreography with lamps swaying in the hands of the performers.

Kashi Viswanath Temple. The most important pilgrim point in Varanasi. Entry is allowed for Hindus only. It is this temple that attracts people from all over the country, who believe that one must visit the temple in the lifetime.


RamNagar Fort. A short rickshaw ride from Varanasi, Ramnagar has a large fort in the opposite bank of the river, built by Maharaja Balwant Singh in 18th century. You can see the fort walls at a distance from the ghats of Varanasi.


Sankat Mochan Temple. This is a well known Hanuman temple south of Assi Ghat, popular with locals who visit the temple every day. The temple was in news a few years back for a bomb blast that killed many.


Harischandra Ghat. This is not exactly a place for tourists, but the western curiosity has propelled the ghat into such a status. Harischandra Ghat is where Raja Harischandra is said to have worked as guardian of the cremation ground. It still remains the place where the bodies are burnt and ashes immersed in the Ganges.

Hindu University
. The well known university built by Madan Mohan Malviya, located south of the ghats has a leafy and peaceful campus worth a visit.


Sarnath. Sarnath is a short rickshaw ride from Varanasi. This is the place where Buddha is said to have delivered his first sermon. This is a popular tourist spot and pilgrimage place for Buddhists, and is especially popular with travellers from Buddhist countries like Japan. This is also the place where King Ashoka's pillar with four lions is, which is now the national emblem.


Boat ride on the Ganges. This is one of the most coveted activities in Varanasi. Get down to the ghats early in the morning and take the hour long ride from Assi Ghat to Dasaswamedh Ghat. Watch the sunrise over the river, and then see hoards of pilgrims along the ghats.

Food and accommodation. There are a large number of guesthouses, small hotels and dharmashalas along the ghats. These are the best places to stay and see Varanasi. The good hotels are all near the railway station and far from the ghats. Varanasi is known for its street food, especially Lassi and other foods derived from Milk.


How to Reach. Varanasi train station, and nearby MughalSarai station are well connected from most of the country. Varanasi also has an airport, with daily flights with connections from Delhi and Mumbai.

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