Varanasi, also known as Kashi or Benaras, is one of the oldest and most sacred cities in India. It is located on the banks of the holy River Ganges in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is not only a major pilgrimage site for Hindus but also a popular tourist destination that attracts people from all over the world. With its rich cultural heritage, ancient temples, vibrant ghats, and spiritual aura, Varanasi offers a unique and unforgettable experience to visitors. Exploring this magnificent city in a Tempo Traveller allows you to travel comfortably and conveniently, ensuring you don’t miss out on any of the incredible attractions it has to offer.
- Dashashwamedh Ghat: Starting our tour at Dashashwamedh Ghat, one of the most prominent and bustling ghats in Varanasi, is a perfect introduction to the city. It is famous for its evening Ganga Aarti, a spectacular ritual where priests offer prayers to the river. The mesmerizing ambiance and the rhythmic chanting create a spiritual atmosphere that is truly awe-inspiring.
- Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Next on our itinerary is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most sacred Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple holds immense religious significance and attracts devotees from all over the world. The intricate architecture, adorned with domes and spires, is a visual treat. Be prepared to witness the devotion and religious fervor that surrounds this ancient shrine.
- Sarnath: A short drive from Varanasi brings us to Sarnath, a place of great historical and religious importance. It is the site where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. The Dhamek Stupa, the Ashoka Pillar, and the Mulagandhakuti Vihara are some of the significant attractions here. Exploring the ancient ruins and visiting the Sarnath Museum to see the artifacts and sculptures from the Mauryan period is a must-do.
- Assi Ghat: Located at the confluence of the River Ganges and the Assi River, Assi Ghat is another popular ghat in Varanasi. It is believed to be the spot where Lord Shiva deposited his sword after killing a demon. The ghat offers a serene and tranquil atmosphere, perfect for meditation and yoga enthusiasts. Witnessing the morning rituals and taking a boat ride along the river during sunrise or sunset is a captivating experience.
- Ramnagar Fort: A visit to Varanasi is incomplete without exploring the majestic Ramnagar Fort, situated on the eastern bank of the River Ganges. It is the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Varanasi and showcases a unique blend of Mughal and Indian architectural styles. The fort also houses a museum that exhibits a collection of vintage cars, weapons, and costumes, providing insights into the rich history of the region.
- Manikarnika Ghat: Known as the main cremation ghat in Varanasi, Manikarnika Ghat holds great spiritual significance for Hindus. It is believed that being cremated here ensures liberation from the cycle of birth and death. While it may seem unusual to some, observing the cremation rituals and understanding the cultural and religious customs can be a profound and enlightening experience.
- Bharat Kala Bhavan: If you have an inclination towards art and culture, a visit to Bharat Kala Bhavan is highly recommended. It is an art and archaeological museum located within the campus of Banaras Hindu University. The museum houses a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, textiles, and archaeological artifacts from various historical periods. It provides a comprehensive insight into the rich cultural heritage of India.
- Tulsi ManasMandir: Dedicated to Lord Rama, Tulsi Manas Mandir is a popular religious site in Varanasi. The temple is built at the spot where the famous Hindu epic, Ramayana, was written by the sage Tulsi Das. The walls of the temple are adorned with beautifully carved marble panels depicting scenes from the Ramayana. It is a serene place for prayer and reflection.
- Banaras Hindu University (BHU): A visit to Varanasi would be incomplete without exploring the sprawling campus of Banaras Hindu University. Established in 1916, BHU is one of the largest residential universities in Asia. The campus boasts beautiful gardens, iconic buildings, and institutes of academic excellence. The Bharat Kala Bhavan and the Kashi Vishwanath Temple within the campus are major highlights.
- Chunar Fort: If you are willing to venture a little outside Varanasi, a visit to Chunar Fort is worth it. Located on the banks of the River Ganges, this ancient fort has a rich history dating back to the 11th century. It offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and houses several structures like the mosque, the palace, and the prison. Exploring the fort and learning about its historical significance is a fascinating experience.
- Gyanvapi Mosque: Located near the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the Gyanvapi Mosque is a significant religious site in Varanasi. It is believed to have been built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb on the site of an ancient Hindu temple. The mosque’s architectural beauty, with its minarets and domes, is remarkable. While non-Muslims are not allowed inside the mosque, witnessing its grandeur from outside is still impressive.
- Shri Durga Temple: Dedicated to the fierce Hindu goddess Durga, the Shri Durga Temple is an important religious site in Varanasi. The temple is known for its unique black stone idol of Goddess Durga, which is adorned with silver and gold jewelry. The vibrant atmosphere, especially during Navratri (a Hindu festival dedicated to Goddess Durga), makes it a must-visit for devotees and tourists alike.
- Chaukhandi Stupa: Located on the outskirts of Varanasi, the Chaukhandi Stupa is an ancient Buddhist monument. It is believed to mark the spot where Lord Buddha met his first disciples after attaining enlightenment. The stupa is a significant historical site and offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It is a serene place to learn about Buddhism and reflect on its teachings.
- Alamgir Mosque: Situated on the Panchganga Ghat, the Alamgir Mosque is another architectural marvel in Varanasi. Built by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, it showcases a blend of Mughal and Hindu architectural styles. The mosque provides a picturesque view of the River Ganges and is an ideal spot to witness the beautiful sunrise or sunset over the holy river.
- Jantar Mantar: Although lesser-known than its counterpart in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar in Varanasi is an astronomical observatory of historical significance. Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in the 18th century, it consists of several instruments used for measuring time, tracking celestial bodies, and predicting astronomical events. Exploring this ancient observatory gives insights into the scientific advancements of the time.
Varanasi, with its diverse array of attractions, is a city that leaves a lasting impression on visitors. By traveling in a Tempo Traveller, you can comfortably explore the numerous ghats, temples, historical sites, and cultural landmarks that make Varanasi a truly unique and spiritual destination. Whether you are seeking religious