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(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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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:
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
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
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.