The holy city of Varanasi (or Banaras) located in the state of Uttar Pradesh is a hot spot for pilgrims and pious people from all over the world who come here and learn more about the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Situated on the banks of the River Ganges, the holy river for Hindus, Varanasi is well-known for its temples and ghats (banks) that are flocked by thousands of tourists throughout the year. If a trip to Varanasi is on the cards, here’s a list of 10 most famous places you should visit.
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. Adoring the banks of the Ganges, the ghat has a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Pilgrims from especially Bengal and South India are frequent visitors. Close to the ghat there is small pond called the Parvati Kund the waters of which are considered to have medicinal properties.
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.
Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur was very interested in science and technology and had special inclination toward astronomy. He wanted to build one of the best observatories and sent his scholars and architects to study the western designs for the same. The Jantar Mantar of Varanasi is designed like the ones in Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain and Mathura.
One of the most prominent and oldest ghats of Varanasi, Dasaswamedh Ghat is located on the bank of the River Ganges and is most frequented by pilgrims and tourists. 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. It definitely ranks among’st famous places in Varanasi due to its spectacular evening sights.
An archeological museum in the campus of the Banaras Hindu University, the Bharat Kala Bhavan attracts plenty of tourists who are interested in the history of the town. It has a vast collection of more than 100,000 artifacts that include paintings, textiles, decoration pieces, Indian philately and more. The Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi too held it in high reverence.
Although a cremation ground, the Manikarnika ghat is one of the most important banks of Varanasi. It is believed that anyone cremated on this ghat attains moksha (salvation). A sacred fire has been continuously burning here for centuries and it is this fire that is used for cremating people. The site also houses two kunds that are considered to have been dug by Lord Shiva himself, much before the existence of the Ganges.
Dugra Temple, dedicated to Goddess Durga, was built during the 18th century and embodies the Naga style of architecture. It was built by a Bengali Maharani, and houses a multi-tiered shikara. The idol in the temple is believed to have been emerged on its own, without any human giving it the form it has. For tourists, this place is also very famous as the Monkey Temple owing to the high population of monkeys around the place.
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.
Located within the campus of the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, the Bharat Mata Temple was constructed in 1936 by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta, an ardent Gandhian. One of the most prominent features of the temple is a structure of undivided India it features. The temple overlooks beautiful views of the River Ganges and also of the nearby ghats.
The best place to visit in Varanasi is at a distance of 12 km from the city railway junction – Sarnath. It is here where Buddha delivered his first sermon. One of the holiest places for Buddhists, Sarnath is a magnet for foreign tourists. Buddhists consider visiting Sarnath at least once in their lifetime. Lion Capital, the National Emblem of India, was built by Asoka the Great here on a pillar. Buddhists from countries like Tibet, Japan, Mayanmar and Sri Lanka have also established their temples at various places in Varanasi transforming it into a global destination of Buddhist pilgrimage.
Monks & Monkeys