Varanasi – Best Travel Guide
Varanasi, also known as Kashi or Banaras, is one of the oldest and most sacred cities in India. It is a city of temples, ghats, and culture, where Hinduism and Buddhism coexist. Varanasi is a place where you can experience the essence of India, its spirituality, history, and diversity. One Day Varanasi Sightseeing Trip By Private Cab
Overview of Varanasi
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Varanasi is a city that offers a unique blend of spirituality, history, and culture. It is a place where you can witness the rituals of life and death, the ancient and the modern, the sacred and the mundane. It is a city that will leave you mesmerized and enchanted. Hampi – Best Travel Guide
Varanasi was originally called Kashi during Vedic times. It was officially named Varanasi in 1956, although it was known as Benaras before that (said to be a variant of Varanasi). The name is derived from the meeting of the Varuna and Assi rivers. The fascinating thing about this mystical city is that its rituals are revealed openly to along the many riverside ghats, which are used for everything from bathing to burning the bodies of the dead. Yoga, blessings, massages, shaves, and games of cricket are among the other activities you’ll find performed by the river’s edge.
According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi was established by Lord Shiva, the god of creation and destruction. It is believed that anyone who dies in Varanasi will be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation. Even a wash in the Ganges River is said to cleanse away all sins. Varanasi is also one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, which are self-manifested forms of Shiva that are considered to be very powerful and auspicious.
Apart from being a prominent site in Hinduism, Varanasi also happens to be a sacred place for Buddhism. Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon about Buddhism around 528 BC and the town of Sarnath, located in Varanasi, is home to temples, stupas, and sites related to Buddhism.
Best Time to Visit Varanasi
Varanasi is accessible throughout the year but different months are suited for different activities. However, if you wish to just explore the sights in Varanasi, then you can visit Varanasi during the winter season. The weather is cool and pleasant so, sightseeing turns out to be a lot of fun.
October to March are the best months to visit Varanasi. This is when the weather is at its coolest. Winters are refreshing and pleasant, albeit chilly at night. The temperature gets uncomfortably hot from April onward, easily reaching 35 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). This is followed by monsoon rain from July to September.
If you want to witness some festivals and celebrations in Varanasi, then you can plan your trip accordingly. Some of the most popular festivals in Varanasi are:
- Ganga Dussehra: This festival marks the descent of the Ganges River from heaven to earth. It is celebrated in May or June with rituals, prayers, and offerings to the river. Thousands of devotees take a dip in the river and light lamps on its banks.
- Dev Deepawali: This festival means “the festival of lights of the gods”. It is celebrated 15 days after Diwali (usually in November) with grand illumination of lamps on all the ghats. The sight is spectacular and magical.
- Makar Sankranti: This festival marks the transition of the sun into Capricorn (Makar) zodiac sign. It is celebrated on January 14th or 15th with kite flying, bonfires, and donations to the poor.
- Holi: This festival celebrates the arrival of spring and the victory of good over evil. It is celebrated in March with colors, water guns, music, and dance. People smear each other with colored powder and water and enjoy themselves.
Things to Do in Varanasi
Tulsi Manas Temple
There are many things to do in Varanasi that will make your trip memorable and enjoyable. Some of them are:
- Witnessing the morning and evening aarti at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the Ganga Ghat, respectively. These are spectacular rituals of fire and chants that are performed daily by priests to worship the Ganges and Shiva. You can feel the spiritual energy and devotion of the people who gather to watch these ceremonies.
- Enjoying a boat ride on the Ganges and admiring the views of the ghats and temples along the river. You can see people bathing, praying, performing rituals, cremating their dead, washing clothes, playing games, or just relaxing on the ghats.
- Visiting the various temples and shrines within the city, such as the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the Kalbhairav Temple, the Tulsi Manas Mandir, the Durga Temple, the Sankat Mochan Temple, and more.
- Exploring the ancient monuments and temples of Sarnath, one of the four most sacred places for Buddhists, where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Sarnath is also known as Isipatana or Deer Park. Here you can visit various structures such as the Dhamek Stupa, Chaukhandi Stupa, Ashoka Pillar, Mulagandha Kuti Vihar and Thai Temple.
- Learning about the life and work of Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the founding fathers of India and a leader of the Indian independence movement, at the Sardar Patel Memorial. The memorial is housed in the Moti Shahi Mahal, a palace built by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan in 1622. The memorial displays various artefacts, photographs and documents related to Patel’s role in uniting India and his contribution to nation-building.
- Eating the delicious and famous food of Varanasi, such as kachori sabzi (fried bread with spicy potato curry), chaat (savory snacks), lassi (yogurt drink), thandai (milk drink with nuts and spices), malaiyo (sweet cream), rabri (thickened milk with sugar), banarasi paan (betel leaf with areca nut and lime), and more.
Places to Visit in Varanasi
Sardar Patel Memorial
- Kashi Vishwanath Temple: One of the most sacred Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. It is located in Vishwanath Gali, near the Ganga Ghat. The temple has been destroyed and rebuilt several times in history, and the current structure was built by Ahilyabai Holkar in 1780.
- Kalbhairav Temple: A Hindu temple dedicated to Kalbhairav, the guardian deity of Varanasi. Kalbhairav is a fierce manifestation of Shiva, who is said to protect the city from evil forces and punish sinners. The temple is located on the banks of the Shipra River, about 7 km from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
- Tulsi Manas Mandir: A beautiful temple built in white marble, dedicated to Lord Rama. The temple is said to be built on the spot where the poet-saint Tulsidas wrote the Ramcharitmanas, the epic story of Rama in Awadhi language. The temple walls are engraved with verses from the Ramcharitmanas.
- Sankat Mochan Temple: One of the most popular temples of Varanasi, dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the monkey god and devotee of Rama. The temple was established by Tulsidas, who had a vision of Hanuman at this place. The temple is located on the Sankat Mochan Road, about 3 km from the Durga Temple.
- Sardar Patel Memorial: A museum and exhibition centre dedicated to Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the founding fathers of India and a leader of the Indian independence movement. The memorial is housed in the Moti Shahi Mahal, a palace built by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan in 1622.
- Sarnath: One of the four most sacred places for Buddhists, where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Sarnath is also known as Isipatana or Deer Park. Here you can visit various ancient monuments and temples such as the Dhamek Stupa, Chaukhandi Stupa, Ashoka Pillar, Mulagandha Kuti Vihar and Thai Temple.
Must See Attractions in Varanasi
There are many attractions in Varanasi that will make your trip memorable and enjoyable. Some of them are:
- Ganga Aarti: One of the most spectacular and mesmerizing sights in Varanasi, where priests perform a ritual of fire and chants to worship the Ganges every evening at Dashashwamedh Ghat. You can watch the aarti from the ghat or from a boat on the river, and feel the spiritual energy and devotion of the people who gather to watch it.
- Boat Ride: One of the best ways to experience the beauty and culture of Varanasi, where you can admire the views of the ghats and temples along the river. You can see people bathing, praying, performing rituals, cremating their dead, washing clothes, playing games, or just relaxing on the ghats.
- Banarasi Silk: One of the most famous and exquisite products of Varanasi, which is a type of silk fabric that is woven with gold or silver threads and has intricate designs and patterns. Banarasi silk sarees are considered to be one of the finest and most elegant Indian dresses, and are worn by women on special occasions such as weddings and festivals.
- Banarasi Paan: One of the most popular and delicious delicacies of Varanasi, which is a betel leaf stuffed with areca nut, lime, spices, and sometimes tobacco. Banarasi paan is known for its refreshing and stimulating effects, and is often consumed after meals as a digestive aid.
- Ramnagar Fort: One of the most impressive and historical monuments in Varanasi, which is a fort built by Maharaja Balwant Singh in 1750. The fort is located on the opposite bank of the Ganges from Varanasi city centre, and has a majestic architecture and design.
Significance of Varanasi
Varanasi is one of the most important and holy cities in India for various reasons. Some of them are:
- It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating back to more than 3000 years ago. It has witnessed many civilizations, empires, religions, cultures, and events that have shaped India’s history and heritage.
- It is one of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) for Hindus, who believe that it was founded by Lord Shiva, the god of creation and destruction. It is also one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, which are self-manifested forms of Shiva that are considered to be very powerful and auspicious.
- It is one of the four most sacred places for Buddhists, where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. It is also one of the eight great places of Buddhist pilgrimage, which are associated with important events in Buddha’s life.
- It is one of the major centres of learning and culture in India, which has produced many scholars, poets, writers, artists, musicians, and thinkers who have contributed to the fields of literature, philosophy, religion, art, music, and science. Some of the famous personalities who were born or lived in Varanasi are Kabir, Tulsidas, Ravidas, Munshi Premchand, Bharatendu Harishchandra, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Bismillah Khan, and Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
Q: How can I reach Varanasi?
A: You can reach Varanasi by air, rail, or road. Rich By air, you can take a flight to Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, which is about 25 km from the city centre. By rail, you can take a train to Varanasi Junction or Mughal Sarai Junction, which are the main railway stations in the city. By road, you can take a bus or a car to Varanasi from nearby cities such as Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, or Patna.
Q: Where can I stay in Varanasi?
A: You can find various types of accommodation in Varanasi, ranging from budget to luxury. You can choose from hotels, guest houses, hostels, homestays, ashrams, or camps. Some of the popular areas to stay in Varanasi are Godowlia Chowk, Assi Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, and Cantonment Area.
Q: What are the best souvenirs to buy from Varanasi?
A: Some of the best souvenirs to buy from Varanasi are banarasi silk sarees, carpets, shawls, brassware, woodwork, beads, jewelry, perfumes, incense sticks, and sweets. You can find these items at various shops and markets in Varanasi such as Chowk Bazaar, Vishwanath Gali, Thatheri Bazaar, Godowlia Market, and Lahurabir Market.
Q: What are the dos and don’ts in Varanasi?
A: Some of the dos and don’ts in Varanasi are:
Do respect the local culture and customs when visiting temples or other religious places. Remove your shoes and cover your head and shoulders when entering temples. Keep safe distance Do not touch or disturb any idols or objects of worship. Do not take pictures without permission.
Do not drink or swim in the river water. The water is polluted and contaminated with human and animal waste. Keep Clean Do not litter or throw anything into the river. Stay away Do not touch any human remains or ashes on the ghats.
Do be careful of monkeys at some places such as Durga Temple or Sankat Mochan Temple. stay aways Do not feed them or touch them or their babies. Do not carry any food items or shiny objects that may attract them. If they approach you, do not panic or run away. Stay calm and avoid eye contact.
Do not trust anyone who offers you any service or product without verification. There are many scammers and touts who may try to cheat you or overcharge you for anything from boat rides to temple entry fees. Do not accept any unsolicited advice or guidance from strangers. Do your own research and bargain before buying anything.
Varanasi is a city that will captivate you with its spirituality, history, and culture. It is a city that will show you the essence of India, its diversity, and its beauty. It is a city that will leave you with unforgettable memories and experiences.
By following this travel guide, you can plan your trip to Varanasi and make it a memorable one. Visit some of the most sacred and ancient temples, such as Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Kalbhairav Temple, Tulsi Manas Mandir, Durga Temple, and Sankat Mochan Temple. You can also visit some of the most important and impressive monuments and museums, such as Sardar Patel Memorial, Sarnath, and Sarnath Museum. You can also visit one of the most iconic and lively places of Varanasi, the Ganga Ghat, where you can witness various religious and cultural activities on the banks of the River Ganges.
We hope that this article has helped you plan your trip to Varanasi and make it a memorable one. We wish you a wonderful time exploring this ancient and holy city. Namaste!