City of Varanasi is situated in North India, state Uttar Pradesh on the bank of Ganges river. It is also known like Benares, Banaras or Kashi, it is a holy city, which in the course of 5 thousand years continues to be a significant cultural, historical and religious center of India. With population around 3 million residents, Varanasi is the most visited place by worshippers. Protected by God Shiva, Varanasi is a holy place to live and a blessed place – to die.
Places to visit in Varanasi
The city is popular with its numerous holy ghattas (stone steps) on the banks of the Ganges river, which are visited by the many worshippers. They descend on them, in order to immerse into the waters of the holy river, as well as to carry out „puja“. It is believed, that by washing themselves in the waters of Ganges river are washed away the sins and that who dies here shall avoid the next reincarnation. Because of this, many old and sick Hindus come here in order to spend the last days of their life near the holy place, where to be buried. Manikarnika is the ghatta, where the burials are carried out. There is one building near this ghatta, which shelters those, who have decided to spend the last days of their life here. The bodies of the dead are burnt at special funeral piles, and the ash and their remains are thrown in the water.
Dasashvameth Ghat is the oldest in Varanasi on the Ganges river. It is considered, that the supreme Hindu god Brahma has created this ghatta, in order to welcome Shiva for his return in Varanasi as 10 horses have been sacrificed. There are many temples around this ghatta.
Other prominent ghatta is Bahride. Over its stone steps there are built three beautiful temples, the one of which is the ancient Thirtankara temple.
There are around 23 thousand surviving temples in Varanasi as one of the most popular Hindu temples is Kashi Vishvanat, where his statue is kept and it is one of the 12 holy sanctuaries of Shiva. The temple was built in 1780 by the empress Ahilya Bai Holkor from Indore and it is a place for worship by million, who come here every year in the holiest temple in Varanasi. The initial building of the temple has been destroyed by Mogul emperor Aurangzeb. The two cupolas of the temple are covered by gold in 1839 with resources, donated by the maharaja Ranjit Singh from Pendjab. In the Kashi Vishvanat temple every day are carried out numerous rituals, prayers and aarati between 2.30 and 23 o’clock.
The Hanuman temple is located on the bank of Asi river and is one of the holiest temples of the Hindu god Hanuman – a god of the strength. It was built in the beginning of 19 century by Pandit Madan Mohan Malvia, founder of the university Banarash Hindu. According to the legend this temple was built on the place, where the Medieval Hindu saint Tulsidas had a vision for god Hanuman. It is little known, that the langurs (a type of monkeys) in India are called Honuman, because they are honoured as holy and they enjoy great freedom.
At 5 km from Varanasi is located the temple of Parsvnath Jain, where the statue of the idol of the temple out of black marble with height 70cm is kept.
Besides the temples and the ghattas in Varanasi there are other interesting landmarks as well.
Jantar Mantar is a stone observatory, built in 1737. Similar to these in Delhi and Jaipur, the observatory in Varanasi has a unique sun clock, which allows the measurements to be observed and written down by one person.
Fort Ramnagar, is located near Ganges river and it was built in 18 century. A typical example for the Mogul architecture, it is with beautifully shaped balconies, open yards and picturesque gardens. The building of the fortress – museum comprises an impressive arms hall, a rare astrological clock, rare jewelry, as well as manuscripts, religious writings and etc. Because of its picturesque location, the fortress is used as a stage for shooting of films.
Institute Banarash Hindu is one of the largest institutes in Asia, established by the prestigious lawyer Banarash in 1916. He reckons, that the education is a basic means for achieving of national revival. The campus has more than 60 hostels for over 12 thousand students. The enormous library to the institute possesses more than 1million volume of books, and the smaller libraries to the separate faculties give opportunity to be used specialized literature. In the student complex there is an educational hospital to the faculty of medicine. In proximity of this grand institute is situated the Shri Vishvant Mandir temple, the construction of which is continuing 30 years.
At 12 km from Varanasi is located Sarnat, which is a holy place for the Indians. Here Buddha delivered his first sermon in year 528 B.C., about the basic principles of Buddhism. Later the great emperor of Mauria-Ashoka, built in honour of Buddha many holy buildings, together with the 33,5 m high column – Jarmarajika Stupa. In the archeological museum, which is located here can be seen preserved relics and ancient subjects with images of Buddha and Bodhisattva.
Beside the fact, that it is reckoned for one of the seven holy cities, Varanasi is transforming into an important industrial center, popular with its muslin and silk as early as the antiquity. Nowadays here are elaborated baranasi sarees, which are among the best in India and are famous for their embroideries with golden and silver threads on fine silk. The time for their elaboration may take from 15 days up to one month, sometimes and six months.
Varanasi is a city, visited not only by numerous worshippers. Eminent scientists, writers and preachers pass through it, which contributes for increasing of the reputation of the city as a cultural center of the religion and education. Guru Kanak came here in 1507 as he played an important role at the establishment of Sikhism. The Muslim ruler Akbar built two big temples, dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. The famous American writer Mark Twain is so impressed by Varanasi, that he exclaimed: “Beneras is older than the history, older than the tradition, bigger than the legend and it seems twice older than all gathered together.“
The most appropriate time for a visit of Varanasi is from October until March. The city is serviced by the international airport Lal Bahadur Shastri, which is located near Varanasi, from where there are flights to Bangkok, Delhi, Gaya, Katmandu, Mumbai, Kolkata and many others. 2 million tourists have passed through the airport for 2016-2017.
Varanasi is one religious city, about which a best idea is acquired by a row with a small ship on the Holy Ganges river at sunrise!