Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities of India. Since time immemorial it has been known for religion, sanctity & 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 & 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 Pramhans 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 & gaiety; they be here to mark their presence in this cultural, religious & spiritual capital of India.
The Ghats & structures upon it, chiefly Temples, Forts and Havelies looks old enough to be called upon- as the city older than history. The major Ghats of Varanasi for visiting & taking a holy dip in River Ganga simultaneously are Dashaswamedh, Manikarnika, Harishchandra, Kedar, Panchganga, Raj Ghat & Assi.
Lord Vishwanath, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas is the supreme God of the city & 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 & practices from India has a substantial representation here in assorted nature.
Open Market (Herbs, Masala & Food Grains) – Varanasi is a major market for different products including Herbs, Masalas & Food Grains. Situated on the northern fringe of the city on-main road & in-narrow lanes is Gola Dinanath & Vishweshwarganj. Nearby areas give a charm of medieval bazaars studded with grocery items, herbs, Masalas, Food Grains & 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 seems 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 & 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 & 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 & customs. Local people throng at Tea Stalls for discussions about different topics such as business, politics, philosophy, culture, tradition, cinemas, daily life & much more that can even take place for the whole day long. If one is really interested to explore the city & wish to know its true nature; must visit these tea stalls situated in narrow lanes.
Clay Potteries & Wooden Handicrafts – it’s unique to know that this city of religious fervor is a master craftsman while producing goods of daily uses & 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 & birds, gods & 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 & clay potteries from the city as souvenir to solidify your visit.
Villages – Scientific advancement& modernity has brought numerous amenities to us in cities along with relentless adverse effects that currently toll upon our daily lifestyle, mind & body in compact houses to such an extent where spending few hours or days with simple & peaceful loving people of villages can rejuvenate. Lush greenery, spread-out fields, sky touching horizons, fresh air, water & 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 & 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 & 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 & Abhishek.
~Pay Homage to Maa Annapurna, Vishalakshi & Kala Bhairav.
~Visit Numerous Hidden Temples/ Asharams/ Baithkas of Varanasi.
~Participate in Morning & Evening Maa Ganga Arti along with riverbank.
~Enjoy Morning & 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 & 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 & 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 & open to visitors from 10 AM to 5 PM. Sightseeing of Ramnagar Fort includes a museum, temple, artifacts & nearby constructions. Sweet Lassi & 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 & Ashwin. The soul soothing place is bestowed with theAshtabhuji Temple, theKali Caves & theVindhyavasini 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 & 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 & 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 & lush green areas of Vindhya Mountains.
Dams, Trekking & Adventure Activities- Vindhya Mountain is rich in flora & 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 & 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 & 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 & 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 & Gaya ( APPROX. 270 KMS. 6 HRS.) – the twin city of knowledge & 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) & Kakolat Waterfalls.
Gorakhpur & 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 & 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 & 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.