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Holy Destinations of India

Varanasi

Varanasi (also known as Banaras) is one of the oldest living cities in the world and the ultimate pilgrimage for Hindus, who believe that to die in the city, is to attain instant salvation. Situated on the banks of the Ganga, Varanasi is the tract of Holy Land lying between the rivers Varuna and Assi. which flow into Ganga. Varanasi is also known as Kashi, the city of light, since of the twelve "Jyotirlinga" is installed here. Mark Twain, the American writer who visited the city, wrote: "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, even older than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together". Varanasi has been a great cultural centre, especially in the fields of music, learning and the craft of silk weaving. Some of the most renowned exponents of music have drawn their inspiration from Varanasi. Banaras brocades are treasured textiles and considered collector' items.
The eminent novelist Prem Chand belonged to this city and so did Tulsi Das, the famous poet who wrote Ram Charit Manas also lived here for many years. Ravi Shankar, the internationally renowned Sitar maestro is another of Varanasi's illustrious sons.

History of Varanasi

The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Often referred to as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together". Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals.

Ganges is said to have its origins in the tresses of Lord Shiva and in Varanasi, it expands to the mighty river that we know of. The city is a center of learning and civilization for over 3000 years. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10 km away, Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts have all flourished here for centuries. Also a pilgrimage place for Jains, Varanasi is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar.

Vaishnavism and Shaivism have co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously. With a number of temples, Mrs. Annie Besant chose Varanasi as the home for her 'Theosophical Society' and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, to institute 'Benares Hindu University, the biggest University in Asia. Ayurveda is said to be originated at Varanasi and is believed to be the basis of modern medical sciences such as Plastic surgery, Cataract and Calculus operations. Maharshi Patanjali, the preceptor of Ayurveda and Yoga, was also affiliated with Varanasi, the holy city. Varanasi is also famous for its trade and commerce, especially for the finest silks and gold and silver brocades, since the early days.

Varanasi has also been a great center of learning for ages. Varanasi is associated with promotion of spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit, yoga and Hindi language and honored authors such as the ever-famous novelist Prem Chand and Tulsi Das, the famous saint-poet who wrote Ram Charit Manas. Aptly called as the cultural capital of India, Varanasi has provided the right platform for all cultural activities to flourish. Many exponents of dance and music have come from Varanasi. Ravi Shankar, the internationally renowned Sitar maestro and Ustad Bismillah Khan, (the famous Shehnai player) are all sons of the blessed city or have lived here for major part of their lives

General Information of Varanasi :-

Area: 73.89 sq.km. , Altitude: 80.71 mtrs. Above sea level.

Season: October-March, Clothing: Summer-Cottons, Winter-Woolens.

Language: Hindi, English.

Festivals: Shivratri, Dussehra, Ganga Festival, Bharat Milap, Dhrupad Mela, Hanuman Jayanti, Nakkatyya-Chetganj, Nag Nathaiya, Panch Kroshi Parikrama.

Local Transport: Buses/Cycle-rickshaws/Auto-rickshaws.

STD Code: 0542

 

Major Attractions of Varanasi

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.

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Also known as 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 Varansi. It is open only to Hindus.

Gyanvapi Mosque: The Gyanvapi Mosque was raised by Aurangzeb near the present Vishwanath Temple or the Golden Temple.

Durga Temple: Commonly called the 'Monkey temple', it was built in teh 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.

Tulsi Manas Temple: Constructed by a family of Varansi, 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 Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. Verses from Tulsidas's epic are inscribed on the walls.

Bharat Kala Bhawan (Banaras Hindu University): A short         rickshaw ride from the Durga temple is the Banaras Hindu University, on 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 that houses one of the finest collection of Mughal miniature paintings and brocade textiles. Open 10.30 A.M. to 4.30 P.M.

New Vishwanath Temple: Situated in the premises of Banaras Hindu University, a modern place of worship planned by Pandit Malviya and built in the Birlas. Open to all, irrespective of caste or creed.

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.

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 armory of swords and guns. Ramnagar is also very famous for its Ram Lila.

Other places of interest at Varanasi include Bharat Mata Temple, Annapurna Temple, Manmandir, Sankat Mochan Temple etc.

Excursions:

Sarnath: 10 Km/6 mile from Varanasi is the site where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon "Maha-Dharma-Chakra Pravartan" after his enlightenment. Sarnath is one of the richest in Buddhist antiquities ranging in date from the times of Ashoka

Chunar: 40 Km/25 mile . 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 mid-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.

Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary: 70 Km/ 44 mile from Varanasi are the forests of Chandraprabha, within which are the Rajdari and Devdari waterfalls. A beautiful secluded spot for picnic.

Vidhyachal: 75 Km / 46 mile. The famous temples of Vindhyavasini Devi, Ashtabhuja Devi and Kalikhoh are the major attractions.

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.

Other excursions include Jaunpur ( 58 Km/36 mile ), Allahabad (128 Km/ 80 mile), and the Vindham and Chachai Falls

Photos  of Varanasi

varanasi varanasi ghat kashi vishwanath temple varanasi


Accessibility / How to reach
:-

Road: Varanasi, on NH2 from Calcutta to Delhi, NH7 to Kanya Kumari and NH 29 to Gorakhpur is well connected to the rest of the country by good motorable roads. Road Distances from Varanasi:

Agra 565 Km 350 mile
Allahabad 128 Km 80 mile
Bhopal 791 Km 490 mile
Bodhgaya 240 Km 149 mile
Kanpur 330 Km 204 mile
Khajuraho 405 Km 170 mile
Lucknow 286 Km 177 mile
Patna 246 Km 152 mile
Sarnath 10 Km 6 mile

Air: The nearest airport is Babatpur : 22 km/14 mile from Varanasi and 30 km/18 mile from Sarnath. Varanasi is connected to Delhi, Agra, Khajuraho, Calcutta, Mumbai, Lucknow and Bhubaneshwar.

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. Some important trains are as follows:

Trains Via Varanasi

Route

Rajdhani Express Howrah-Mughal Sarai-New Delhi
Toofan Express Howrah-Mughal Sarai-Delhi
North East Superfast Express Delhi-Mughal Sarai-Guwahati
Magadh Express Delhi-Mughal Sarai-Patna
Kashi Vishwanath Express Varanasi-Delhi
Farakka Express Malda Town-Varanasi-Bhiwani
Saryu Yamuna Express Muzzafarpur-Varanasi-Delhi
Mahanagari Express Varanasi-Mumbai
Pawan Express Varanasi-Mumbai
Shbarmati Express Varanasi-Ahmedabad
Ganga Kaveri Express Varanasi-Madras
Himgiri Express Jammu-Varanasi-Howrah
Sealdah Express Varanasi-Jammu Tawi
Poorwa Express Howrah-Varansi-Delhi
Shramjivi Express Patna-Varanasi-Delhi

 

 

Accommodation in Varanasi

Apart from the Rest house of  Tourism Department, there are plenty of good ashrams, dharamshalas and hotels in the city for stay of tourists. Some are- (1) Tourist Bungalow (Alaknanda), Haridwar Ph. 226379, 223787 (2) Rahi Motel, Near Bus stand, Haridwar Ph. 226430, 228686 (3) Railway retiring rooms. Ph. 131

Where to Eat in Varanasi

Baba Restaurant

On the Dashashwamedh(or the main)Ghat next to Ganges.To be precise, its address is:D22/23,Hathi Pathak.All kinds of dishes are available i.e.Indian,Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian,English and Isreali! Its name has been so popular that this small restaurant warns you of being copied by saying:"We don't have any other branch"


Pizzeria Vaatika Cafe

This is the only place and the best one in Varanasi for refreshing pizzas. Moreover, the location is strategic as its right on the Assi Ghat. Take the breath taking view of Ganges, and relish the special pizzas, pan cakes. Nice garden restaurant gives a cool, soothing effect. Relax! at your best. So, Pizzas in Varanasi? Yes, only at Pizzeria Vaatika Café. Mr. Gopal the proprietor, can be contacted on Phone at 315189/ 313208.

Novelty Restaurant

Location : Lalita Cinema Compound,Bhelupura.They serve pizzas,american breakfast and typical Indian Punjabi dishes.Plus since it is next to movie hall,if you choose to see a Hindi movie you can take a burger from this place!

Burger King Fast Food

Location : Cantt Area.This is best for taking Burgers (Veg, Cheese), Pizzas(Onion, Cheese), and Chinese. Besides, specialities include Pav- Bhaji(Bun with potato curry), Stuffed Paratha. Being a fast food corner, you don't have to wait much for any item.

The Keshari Restaurant

Location: Is most strategic. It's right on Godowlia Crossing. And could be stated as one of the most popular among tourists. Get in for North and South Indian Meals. Serves Pure Vegetarian Food. Chinese Food is also available.

Khana Khazana Restaurant

Location : on the main road that goes from Vijaya Cinema.It is right next to the movie hall.The proprietor takes special care to mantain hygine.Aqua Guard can be seen for water purification.Specialities include Soups, Chinese, Tandoori Chicken, Burgers.Open for Lunch and Dinner only.

Coffee House

Most Known for its South Indian Food and Pav Bhaji( Dish made from potato, tomato and served with buns). Pizza is also introduced. Address: It is on the Belupura Crossing.

Cakes & Bakes Bakery

Location: Jagatganj.This is one of the best Bakery places in the town. Specialities include Pastries, Biscuits, Cheese Straw, Bread (Brown also available), Buns and all kinds of Bakery items. Restaurant is expected to open in the near future. Also birthday/anniversary cakes can be bought here.

Kerala Cafe Restaurant

Location: Is on the Bhelupura crossing. As its name suggests, this is one of the busiest restaurants for South Indian food. Very economically priced it is the best one for Idli, Dosa. Also serves pizzas and burgers.

Garden Restaurant

Location :Is on the Goudalia crossing. The beauty of the restaurant has three basic reasons: Open Air, Much above the ground level, and a proper match of tiny lamps lit in the background. Has all varities of Indian and Chinese food.

La- Be- La Chinese Restaurant

Location :Lanka, Outside Benares Hindu University. Since 1968, this is a 100% Chinese Restaurant. Fully air-conditioned. Run by Mr. Liu, its acclaimed the best chinese cuisine in Northern India. Attached is the best beauty parlour in the town- Pearl Beauty Parlour.

Sindhi Restaurant

Location :Lalita Cinema,Bhelupura.Pure Vegetarian Restaurant with pizzas.Good for Breakfast.Mentioned in Lonely Planet,this is one of the oldest eating place in Varanasi.

Amarpali Restaurant

Location :Sonarpura.This is on the main road next to the most popular crossing of Varanasi-Goudalia.Serves meal(Thali) and Breakfast.Pizzas, pan cakes and chinese is also available.

Chahat Restaurant


Location : On Sigra Croosing. This is for Indian veg. and non- veg. food. The restaurant has been built well, with expensive furniture and flooring.

Bread of Life Bakery & Restaurant

Location :Is on the main road parallel to Shivala Ghat.From Gowdalia steps are you reach Madanpura, Sonarpura & finally Shivala.Address:B-3/322.Specialities include Brown Bread, Cinnamon Rolls, Chocolate Crossaint,Apple Struddle,Chocolate Chip Cookies,Skilltet Breakfast,Pan Cakes. Opening Hrs:8a.m. to 8p.m.,Monday to Saturday

BAKER'S KING Bakery

A new generation shop at Mahabirji Road, Sabji Mandi, Orderly Bazar. Items include Cake, Pastries, Patties, Various Types of Biscuits, Cookies and Breads. Mr. Surinder Lalwani can be contacted on phone for any special orders : 348706, 345961. Fax: 346868

The Host Restaurant & Cafe

Location : Is 4, Gyanmandal Complex, Lanka on the main road to BHU. The restaurant specialises in South Indian food, Chinese food and Fast Food. Peaceful and calm location. Music is mostly put for a more relaxed feeling. Good lightining effect with colourful bulbs. Hot and soft drink also available. It's a new restaurant adored by most staying around Lanka and the famous University. Food is cooked in refined oil and is served hot.

Raj Foods Bakery

Location : On Kamacha. Specialises in making of Cakes, Pastries, Paties, Cookies and Biscuits. It's good to know that Raja, the proprietor also exports Chess Boards and if you are looking for typical Indian style chess boards then this is the place to have Paties and buy Chess Board.

Shopping:

Varanasi is famous for its silk weaving, and Banarasi silks are a part of very girl's trousseau. Banaras brocades are prized the world over. Brassware, copperware, wooden and clay toys and exquisite gold jewellery are some of other crafts the city is famous for. The hand-knotted carpets of Mirzapur and musical instruments are among the other shopping attractions. Banaras is also famous for its 'Langda Aam', a variety of mangoes available in the summer. Betel leaf is also a specialty. The main shopping areas are Chowk, Vishwaanath Gali, Thatheri Bazar, Lahurabir, Godoulia/Dashswamedh Gali and Golghar.


Information Centre for
Varanasi

  • UP Government Tourist Office, Parade Kothi, Cantt. Tel: 41162
  • UP Government Tourist Information Counter, Cantt, Railway Station, Varansi, near Enquiry Office, Main Hall. Tel: 46370
  • Government of India Tourist Office, 15 B The Mall, Cantt, Varanasi. Tel: 43744.
  • Government of India Tourist Information Counter, Babatpur Airport
  • Bihar State Tourist Office, Englishiya Market, Sher Shah Suri Marg, Cantt. Tel: 43821.

 

Fairs and Festivals at Varanasi

The Ramlila : This Ramlila, acclaimed worldwide is totally based on Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas and is a month long festival. You can see ancient rituals being performed during this time. The season is October-November and the venue is Ramnagar.

Nakkatyya : At Chetganj, another episode from the Ramanaya is performed annually. The stage play revolves around Surpnakaha-Ravan's sister who sets out to seduce Ram and then Lakshman. But Lakshman chops off her nose and she goes back to her brother Ravana, crying and vows to take revenge.

Hanuman Jayanti : Based on the Saraswati, Ram and Krishnalila and Hanuman Charitra, stage plays are enacted to mark the Janmotasav (birth celebrations) of Lord Hanuman. The festivals continue for 5 days at the Sankat Mochan temple.

Dhrupad Mela : This is one of the leading attractions of the city. Held in March, the 5-day music festival of Dhrupad is performed by renowned artists, from across the country, at Tulsi Ghat.

Mahashivratri : Through celebrated all over India as a major Hindu festival, Mahashivratri has a special attraction of its own at Varansi. Especially worth mentioning is the marriage procession of Lord Shiva which is taken out begining from Maha-mritunjaya temple, Daranagar to Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Panch Koshi Parikrama : So named, because the parikrama passes through 5 places, Kardmeshwar, Bhimchandi, Rameshwar, Shivpur and Kapildhara.
 

       

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