Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh)
Varanasi also known as Kashi("The City of Light"), or as Benaras, is situated on the west bank of the Ganges and is India's holiest Hindu city, with a spiritual and religious legacy that goes back nearly 3,000 years. This is the city of Shiva, the foremost among the 12 places where the god burrowed and then burst into the sky in a fiery pillar of light (jyotirlinga). Sanctified by Shiva's all-pervading presence and the sacred Ganges, the 90 or so ghats along the river define the life and identity of Varanasi. Stretching from the southern Asi Ghat to the northern Adi Keshava Ghat, close to the Malviya Bridge, the ghats cover more than 6 km (4 miles). Lined with temples and shrines they reverberate with the endless cycle of Hindu religious practice - from daily rituals to profound rites of passage.
Varanasi Quick facts
Varanasi Geography and Climate
Geography : Varanasi (also Benaras) is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and extends latitude 25�20' N and longitude 83�00' E. Sandwiched between the rivers Varuna and Ashi as they join the Ganges, Varanasi takes its name from its location. Climate: Varanasi can be very hot during summers and winters can be very cold. The place also receives good rainfall during the monsoon season from July to September. But irrespective of the weather, devotees throng the holy pilgrimage centre throughout the year.
Best time to visit Varanasi
Best Time to Visit this place is from September to April.
Varanasi was known as Kashi in the ancient times and as Benaras more recently. The city got the name 'Benaras' due to mis-pronunciation of 'Varanasi' by the British. The city is the house of one of the twelve famous 'Jyotirlingas'. It is much sacred to Hindus for centuries and according to Hindu mythology, those who die in Kashi gain instant salvation and freedom from the cycle of births and deaths. It is situated on the bank of the holy river Ganges, known as 'Ganga' in this region and its worshippers are said to be the upholders of the true Hinduism, who are known to keep the Hindu traditions and rituals alive. There are a number of historical and religious places and towns around Varanasi that are worth visiting. Some of the important and famous are Sarnath, Chunar, Jaunpur, Kaushambi, Kushinagar and Vindhaychal.
Varanasi Near Getaways
Khajuraho : Forgotten and unvisited until the mid-1960s, Khajuraho is now, after the Taj , India's biggest single tourist attraction. There are few things in the world, which are beyond compare and certain things that inspired human emotions to give an outlet to his spirtual and physical love. The erotic images of Khajuraho are the expresions of these human inner fellings. Every facade-wall, window, pillar, and ceiling of Khajuraho is carved with figures of mythical and historical origins, and while many of these depict the innocent form of love on these walls. * Night Train from Satna to Varanasi
Varanasi (also Benaras) is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and extends latitude 25�20' N and longitude 83�00' E. Sandwiched between the rivers Varuna and Ashi as they join the Ganges, Varanasi takes its name from its location. It is also called Kashi, the 'city of light'.
How to reach Varanasi by Road
Smooth good road network and National Highways connect Varanasi to and from Calcutta, Delhi, Kanya Kumari and Gorakhpur.
How to reach Varanasi by Rail
Varanasi has two railway stations-Kashi and Varanasi Junction. Railway Station is located in the heart of the city. Varanasi is connected to all major cities and towns in India such as Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Patna Calcutta, Ahmedabad, Mumbai.
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How to reach Varanasi by Air
Nearest airport is the Babatpur Airport, 22 km from the city, with daily flights to and from Varanasi, Bhuvaneshwar, Calcutta, Delhi, Khajuraho, Mumbai and Lucknow.
Varanasi Festivals and culture
Kartik Purnima : Celebrated in the month of November is the sacred day, when the ghats of Varanasi come alive with thousands of brightly-lit earthern lamps. Mahashivratri : Though Mahashivratri is celebrated throughout India, Varanasi has some special charm in the celebration the festival. During the festival a procession is taken out from the Maha-Mritunjaya temple to Kashi Viswanath Temple.
Many people refer to Varanasi as Benares, an anglicised corruption of its ancient name. Attracting over a million pilgrims every year, the city lives and breathes traditional Hindu religion and culture. Yet it has evolved through the amalgamation of the sacred and profane, the spiritual and the commercial.
Varanasi Religious Places
Sarnath: Sarnath is about 10 km from Varanasi and is famous for being the place where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after getting enlightenment. Sarnath is an important pilgrimage place for the Buddhists as it was here that the wheel of dharma was set in motion. Varanasi : Varanasi is a Hindu holy city on the banks of the Ganges River in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The modern name Varanasi is derived from the twin tributaries of Ganga Varuna and Asi on whose shores the city stands. Varanasi is the site of the holy shrine of Lord Kasi Viswanatha (a form of Lord Shiva) and is one of the revered 12 Jyotirlingas of the Lord.
Ramnagar Fort : Located on the opposite bank of Ganges, 14 Kilometers from Varanasi. Ramnagar Fort is the former as well as the present residence of the Maharaja of Kashi also known at times as Raja of Banaras. The architecture is a subtle blend of Indian as well as Islamic styles of architecture. The use of marbles for the decorative patterns makes it splendid. The most important construction inside the fort is the famous 'Durbar Hall' or the Hall of public audience. Chunar Fort : Chunar is about 40 km from Varanasi and is known for the Chunar fort. The historical fort of Chunar was built by one of the greatest warriors in Indian history- Sher Shah Suri. The attractions inside the fort are sonwa mandap, sun clock and a huge well. A splendid view of river Ganga is also available from the fort.
Varanasi Entertainment and Night Life
Boat Cruise along the Ghats : Tourists can take a boat ride across the river Ganga early in the morning. It is something which should not be missed on the tour to Varanasi. It gives you the opportunity to see how life at these ghats starts at 3 pm with the morning Aarti. Sailing across the ghats give you quick view about the cultural life of the place.
Nightlife in Varanasi is not that much renowned. The only choice, other than the cinemas showing Bollywood fare, are the classical music recitals held at 8 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the International Music Centre Ashram not far from Dasaswamedh Ghat. Major classical concerts are also occasionally held at Nagari Natak Mandali.
Kidding around Varanasi
Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary : 70 km from Varanasi are the forests of Chandraprabha, within which are the Rajdari and Deodari Waterfalls. A beautiful secluded spot for a picnic.
Varanasi is famous for its silk weaving industry. Popularly known as the Benarasi saree, the silk sari or shawl is traditionally a single coloured textile. Apart from these popular silk fabrics, those interested in religion may also pick up books on religion and other religious items like beads, incense sticks and small statues of gods and goddesses.
Famous To Eat at Varanasi
Delicious dishes are available in Varanasi which caters to the tastes of all kinds of tourists. A tourist visiting Varanasi and looking for what/where to eat in Varanasi should try the tasty and spicy North Indian delicacies that Varanasi has to offer. Sweets and 'Chatpate' snacks of various types are very famous in Varanasi. A tourist who is wandering about what to eat in Varanasi should taste the 'Kulfis' and 'Chats' in Varanasi. Benares Dum Aloo is a local specialty, and the city is also known for its desserts. You can't go away from Benares without eating local specialities as 'Aloo chat' and 'Pani Puri' and in general, the street food. Paan is not really food, but is something Benares is famous for all over India.
Varanasi Museum and Hill Stations
Ramnagar Fort Museum; at Ramnagar Fort : The famous Ramnagar Fort Museum treasures some of the best and most splendid items that once belonged to the royalty. Among others, it houses collections of palanquins, elephant saddles carved out of silver, armory, furniture, costumes, etc. Ashoka Pillar; Sarnath Archaeological Museum: It is at Saranath, 10km north of Varanasi. Sarnath, the place where Buddha gave his first sermon is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage centre. The Ashoka pillar stands in front of the main stupa where Ashoka sat and meditated. The Sarnath Archaeological Museum at Ashoka Marg, houses a copy of Ashoka's lion pillar and some sculptures.
Gardens and Parks at Varanasi
Chandraprabha Sanctuary : Chandraprabha sanctuary is situated to the Southeast of Varanasi. It was established in May 1957. Chandraprabha is endowed with beautiful picnic spots, dense forests, and scenic waterfalls that attract a large number of tourists. Flora And Fauna: A variety of wild animals and plant life are found at Chandraprabha. The animal life includes blackbucks, chital, sambhar, nilgai, wild boar, porcupine and Indian gazelle. The reptilian species include gharial and python. In terms of flora, it is a typical dry deciduous forest, composed of gneiss and laminated stone. Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary: (area 500 sq.km) Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh was set up in 1982 and is located in the border area of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The wildlife population comprises leopard, blackbuck, chital, chinkara, ratel and peafowl. There are quite a few varieties of local & migratory birds forming a large part of the wild population.
Lake at Varanasi
The Ghats in Varanasi built along the river-banks for different religious activities attract many travelers from far and wide. In the wee hours of morning, you may take a boat ride in the river to see hordes of people who come here to take a dip in the holy water and worship the rising sun. Assi Ghat : Assi is a clay-banked Ghat that stands at the southernmost part of Varanasi where river Assi meets Ganges. This Ghat is the first when you start walking from South towards the Manikarnika. It is mandatory for the pilgrims to bathe at this Ghat before worshipping at a huge lingam under a Peepal tree. Manikarnika Ghat : Situated at the center of the five thirthas, Manikarnika Ghat is the main burning ghat in Varanasi. It is said that people who are cremated here after the death, straight away go to the haven.
Varanasi Travel Tips
Caution: 1. On the Ghats there are many posing as 'Pundits', these people try to extract money from the devotees who come on the the banks to perform religious ceremonies. 2. In Varanasi there is a trend that the agents come in between the buyers and sellers of handicraft items. Do not fall in the traps of these agents. While visiting the Kashi Viswanath temple make sure that you are not carrying any arms or ammunitions as the security arrangements in this place is very strict.
Varanasi Tourist Offices
Tourist Office (Indian Government), Varanasi Phone: 0542-2343744 Tourist Information Centre (Railway Station Cantt.), Varanasi Phone: 0542-2346370
Must do at Varanasi
Boat rides are very popular, especially at sunrise and sunset. The most popular sunset ride is to start at Dasaswamedh Ghat and head up to Manikarnika Ghat to see the cremations in progress, and then return to Dasaswamedh and watch the evening aarti from the boat.