Varanasi, the ‘eternal city’, is located in Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s northern states. For Hindus it is one of the most important pilgrimage center in India as well as an auspicious place to die, ensuring Nirvana and an end to the cycle of rebirth. Aside from being a religious mecca, Varanasi is also an important cultural center as the home of the Banaras Hindu University, Ravi Shankar, and many Hindu poets. Varanasi’s original name Kashi, is said to have been derived from the word ‘Kasha’ meaning bright which defines its significance as the ‘city of light’ or its spiritual luminance. The present name is believed to be a combination of Varuna and Asi, the two rivers on its northern and southern periphery. Varanasi today, is also a centre of education, art and craft. As a centre of art and craft it has a vast repertoire, right from silver, brass, copper artifacts to perfumeries and trinkets. Varanasi is most reputed for its silk brocade sarees and carpets. A city that should be visited at least once by everyone.
Varanasi can be reached by road, train or air with equal ease. 765 Kms from Delhi, Varanasi is connected to all major cities by road.
The Ghats – The bathing Ghats that line the holy city of Varanasi are best visited by boats that offer a regular service. The most famous among these Ghats are Dasaswamedh, Kedar and Manikarnika.
Vishwanath Temple – This temple, erected by Rani Ahalyabai Holkar of Indore in 1776, is the centre of devotion of the city. The domes of this temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, are lined with gold.
Ram Nagar Fort – This fort was the 17th century home of the Raja of Benaras. Now converted into an interesting museum, this fort houses the royal possessions.
Gyanvapi Mosque – Emperor Aurangzeb, in the 17th century destroyed the Vishweswara Temple and built this mosque over it’s ruins.
Banaras Hindu University – This university is housed in an area of nearly 2000 acres. Perhaps the largest residential university in Asia.
Other Temples – Other important temples worth visiting are the Tulsi Manas, Durga Kund, Bharat Mata and New Vishwanath Temple.
Apart from visiting these famous places, you can shop for brocades, brassware, ivory-ware, carpets and gold jewellery. Main shopping areas are Chowk, Vishwanath Lane, Gyanvapi, Thatheri Bazaar and Lahurabir.
Varanasi has some mouth watering spread of sweets. One should definitely try the “Kachauri” and the vegetarian breakfast. And, of course, don’t forget the “Banarasi paan” (Betel leaf).
The important festivals are Buddha Purnima, Chetganj Nakkataiya and Ganga Dussehra.