Location- Eastern Uttar Pradesh (India) in Indo- Gangetic Plains.
Railway Stations– Varanasi Cant. (BSB), Maduadih (MUV), Mugalsarai(MGS).
Airport- Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport (VNS)
Hotels- Budget to 5* Star Category
Major Attractions- Temples, Ghats, Heritage Lanes, Ganga Arti and Sub-he Banaras, Sarnath, Museums etc.
Climate- Humid Subtropical Climate
Summer: – 22-46° C
Winters: – Cool Climate, temperature dips downs to below 5° C in months of December- February
Best Time to Visit- All Year Around (Domestic), Avoid scorching heats in summers (International)
Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities of India. Since time immemorial it has been known for religion, sanctity and knowledge; awakened people from all over India have blessed this city of Lord Shiva (the Supreme Yogi) with refined thoughts. Blessed with never changing river course of Maa Ganga, this city of Supreme Yogi provides the Salvation from the cycle of life and death.
Renowned thinkers and spiritual Gurus have felt that Varanasi (the Kashi) is a miniature representation of the Cosmos itself; they explored it as the ultimate transcending place to assimilate with the supreme one. Once while travelling on the River Ganga at Varanasi; Swami Ramkrishna Paramhansa saw that Lord Shiva himself is reciting ‘Tarak Mantras’ in the ears of dead-body at Manikarnika Ghat to liberate the soul for final resting.
Crescent shape Ghats (the platforms of stone) on the western bank of Maa Ganga is the ultimate place for undulating lively activities many a times adorned with dignitaries from all over the world in search of peace and gaiety; they be here to mark their presence in this cultural, religious and spiritual capital of India.
The Ghats and structures upon it, chiefly Temples, Forts and Havelies looks old enough to be called upon- as the city is older than history. The major Ghats of Varanasi for visiting and taking a holy dip in River Ganga simultaneously are Dashaswamedh, Manikarnika, Harishchandra, Kedar, Panchganga, Raj Ghat and Assi.
Lord Vishwanath, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas is the supreme God of the city and people recite Mahadeva- one of the names of Lord Shiva; mostly all the time even in salutations as well. Just beside the temple of Lord Vishwanath is the temple of Mata Annapurna -the feeding deity of Varanasi. One peculiar saying looks almost true here as nobody sleeps here empty stomach as numbers of Bhandars (Common Kitchens) provide food to the last person in queues from morning till night. Dhams, Temples, Ashrams, Baithakas almost all religious places and practices from India has a substantial representation here in assorted nature.
Open Market (Herbs, Masala and Food Grains) – Varanasi is a major market for different products including Herbs, Masalas and Food Grains. Situated on the northern fringe of the city on-main road and in-narrow lanes is Gola Dinanath and Vishweshwarganj. Nearby areas give a charm of medieval bazaars studded with grocery items, herbs, Masalas, Food Grains and lots of stuffs where sellers sell their products in open market.
Weaving Areas- Synonymously know as the Hand Woven Silk Saree’s centre of Uttar Pradesh, the city has different pockets or areas that weave Silk Sarees openly on looms. It’s a minute work of creativity on fabrics in thousand sheds that produces few of the wonders which adorns the beauty who wears it. Some says Bridal makeup or an ethnic leisure party, special occasions, festivals are almost incomplete without Banarasi Sarees.
Cuisine- Varanasi is an ultimate place for food lovers as the city is so rich in producing lip-smacking varieties of open eateries in its narrow lanes. Kachori and Jalebi is a perfect breakfast whosoever eats it hot which is filled with aroma of different masalas. Sweets are specialty of Varanasi made with unmatched perfection; the city has renowned shops which are making it for generations. Malaio, Rasogulla, Giloris, Rabris, Barfis, Lal Pedas, Besan Ladoos and much more are here for the full of sweet memories.
Tea Stalls- Varanasi is a cosmopolitan city in its own course; situated within a small periphery. People from around the world lives here peacefully from different speaking languages, ethnicity, traditions and customs. Local people throng at Tea Stalls for discussions about different topics such as business, politics, philosophy, culture, tradition, cinemas, daily life and much more that can even take place for the whole day long. If one is really interested to explore the city and wish to know its true nature; must visit these tea stalls situated in narrow lanes.
Clay Potteries and Wooden Handicrafts – it’s unique to know that this city of religious fervor is a master craftsman while producing goods of daily uses and decorative items. Locals of city, mostly people from lower income groups or engaged in it for generations are producing these items. Wooden toys, baskets, wall hangings, furniture, half-inch animals and birds, gods and goddesses are few of the items those are engraved and highlighted in astounding aspect. Aroma of eating food in clay potteries is a surreal experience that tinges your taste buds moreover to explore a real-time producer adds other dimensions to it for experience. Explore few items of local wood crafts and clay potteries from the city as souvenir to solidify your visit.
Villages – Scientific advancement and modernity has brought numerous amenities to us in cities along with relentless adverse effects that currently toll upon our daily lifestyle, mind and body in compact houses to such an extent where spending few hours or days with simple and peaceful loving people of villages can rejuvenate. Lush greenery, spread-out fields, sky touching horizons, fresh air, water and food, above all pin drop silence or nothing at all are surely some stuff that one needs to explore. Villages nearby Varanasi are the best places for detachment from hustle and bustle of cities to spend some precious time with raw nature. Added advantage of visiting these villages are that one comes to know about their roots as well.
Classical and Folk Music Concerts on Placid Ganges- the City of Music declared by UNESCO in 2015; Varanasi is known for its rich music Gharana. Maestros of Varanasi have enthralled the world with eventful performances. While visiting the city do enjoy a personalized live music concert on River Ganga.
Things to do in Varanasi
Perform Lord Vishwanath Darshan, Arti and Abhishek.
Pay Homage to Maa Annapurna, Vishalakshi and Kala Bhairav.
Visit Numerous Hidden Temples/ Asharams/ Baithkas of Varanasi.
Participate in Morning and Evening Maa Ganga Arti along with riverbank.
Enjoy Morning and Evening Boat Ride at River.
Explore Mystique Varanasi With A Walk In Its Narrow Lanes.
Explore Varanasi With A Heritage Walk.
Drive Along Panchkoshi Road to Circumambulate the Kashi’s Cosmos.
Excursion from Varanasi:
Sarnath- Lord Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya(Bihar) under a Peepal tree at the age of 35 and walked down at Rishipattana (Place of Saints) to deliver his first sermon about four noble truths. While changing the course of Dharma from austere penance to middle path in 6th century B.C; he engaged masses not only from India but around the world. Visit to Sarnath is a must as to commemorate the assimilating historical, cultural and spiritual journey of India; as people from time immemorial have paid their homage here. Sightseeing of Sarnath includes Boddh Stupas, Mulgandha Kuti Vihar, Archeological Ruins, Sarnath Museum, Colossal Buddha Image and Temples of different countries.
Ramnagar Fort- there’s an old saying from past as King is an incarnation of God on earth who serves his people. Monarchy had its own drawbacks which changed to democracy in India after Independence. Reminisce of past charm of being at King’s Fort brings visitors in numbers here at Ramnagar. Nearly 12 kms. away from centre of the city is a massive fort of medieval period on the eastern bank of River Ganga. The fort is well preserved to certain extent and open to visitors from 10 AM to 5 PM. Sightseeing of Ramnagar Fort includes a museum, temple, artifacts and nearby constructions. Sweet Lassi and Spicy Chat of Ramnagar is a must for visitors while spending time at the Ramnagar.
Vindhyavasini Temple (Approx. 80 Kms 2 Hrs) – Pilgrimage to Varanasi is incomplete unless you pay homage to the vibrant female energy of creation- the consort of Lord Shiva. Vindhyavasi Temple situated at end of the Vindhya Mountains on the banks of river Ganga in Mirzapur district is one such place for believers. The revered Shakti Peeth is thronged by countless numbers of devotees in the auspicious months of Chaitra and Ashwin. The soul soothing place is bestowed with the Ashtabhuji Temple, theKali Caves and the Vindhyavasini Temple.
Chunar Fort- the majestic rampart of Chunar Fort has seen numerous battles in past. Known as Charnadgiri (Foot Shaped Mountain) in ancient texts this colossal fort has a long history of love, war and peace. River Ganga’s vast stream changes its course hitting the colossal fort; and it flows towards Varanasi presenting a panoramic view from the top of the fort. Chunar Fort was a major port and halting point of cargo vessels on water transportation route in mediaeval period on river Ganga. Sightseeing of Chunar includes Massive Chunar Fort, Raja Bharthihari Samadhi, Underground Cells, Queen’s Sonva Mandap, British Cemetery, and Wind Palace etc. Added advantage of being at Chunar is that it leads to numerous waterfalls and lush green areas of Vindhya Mountains.
Dams, Trekking and Adventure Activities- Vindhya Mountain is rich in flora and fauna with numerous water channels that create dams, waterfalls and lush green trekking trails. Ancient settlers in this region have created various caves which are adorned with primitive cave paintings. This region is an undiscovered destination for travelers who wish to explore. Ancient forts of Naugarh and Aghori can thrill you with unrelenting zeal of finding folklores about people from past.
Long Distance Excursions from Varanasi-
Allahabad (APPROX. 130 kms. 3 hrs.)- Confluence of Mother Ganga, the Yamuna and indistinguishable the Sarswati Rivers (Sangam) at Allahabad is in an all time favorite tourist itinerary for pilgrims visiting Varanasi. Allahabad (Prayag) is mentioned in ancient scriptures as amongst the seven most sacred cites of India. Allahabad is well renowned for the largest numbers of devotees’ congregation on earth at the auspicious time of Kumbh and Mahakumbh when people take holy dip at Sangam. The spacious city with broad avenues, beautiful gardens, historical places, religious sanctity, judiciary centre of Uttar Pradesh, Museum etc. call upon numbers of visitors year around.
Bodhgay and Gaya (approx. 270 kms. 6 hrs.) – the twin city of knowledge and religious sanctity is situated in the state of Bihar, India. While Bodhgaya is celebrated as a place where Tathagata- theLord Buddha got enlightenment under a Peepal Tree; Gaya is revered for Vishnu Pad Temple. People come from far off corners of India at Gaya for Pind-daan in memory of their ancestors. Places of Interest are Mahabodhi Temple, Sujata Village, Dungeshwari Hills, Vishnu Pad Temple, Brahma Kund, Pretshila Hills etc. Added advantage at Bodhgaya with a day halt is there are plenty of time to explore Nalanda (Probably the first residential University of World), Rajgir (Premier Constructed Capital City of India), Barabar Caves (Architectural Wonder of Ancient India), Pawapuri (Jain Pilgrim Centre) and Kakolat Waterfalls.
Gorakhpur and Kushinagar (approx. 270 kms. 7 hrs.)- the wonder of visiting Indo-Gangtic Plains of Uttar Pradesh is that it is studded with countless aged old places which aesthetically, traditionally and socially enriched India’s plentiful prospect for each devout travelers. Situated on the borders of India and Nepal, Gorakhpur district is a burgeoning modern city having rich history and amenities. Baba Gorakhnath Temple (Nath Sampraday Centre), Arogya Mandir, Rambhar Stupa, Mahaprinirval Stupa, Motif Stupas, Museum, Monasteries of Different Countries etc. are places of interest here. Gorakhpur is a base point to travel Nepal from Bhairava boarder.
-Dr. Siddharth Singh