Read this before you take a trip to Varanasi (Banaras)

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Last Updated on April 25, 2022

A CITY SITUATED ON TRIDENT!

Writing the word Varanasi sends a chill down your spine. This is for a reason. The Ganges River flowing through this city has been worshipped and adored for thousands of years now, but there’s much more to this place than reverence offered to the aura of life-giving water. It is one of India’s oldest cities and houses some incredible temples and other historical sites. More than 80 ghats, or seven steps down into the water, symbolize spiritual rebirth in Hinduism, which is believed in Varanasi to be a place where souls leave their bodies before reincarnation.

Coming to Varanasi will make you feel like you’re in some kind of holy land. There’s a reason why the name of this city is called the city of Shiva, and it was his abode. We know that Shiva and his wife Parvati are around here from religious texts. Their images are everywhere, and they are known as inseparable couples. This is where one finds the east-west Bridge, which connects the Ganges with the Yamuna (ancient river) flowing eastwards.  

Varanasi – Older than time!

varanasi banaras

Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is also known as Benares, Banaras, and Kashi. This city on the banks of the Ganges in northern India was founded by a Hindu deity named “Shiva” along with “Brahma” and “Vishnu” more than 5,000 years ago. On account of its incredible age and religious significance, Varanasi’s culture is quintessentially Indian and profoundly diverse.

Varanasi’s population is largely comprised of Hinduism and favours this philosophy. However, the city has temples for worshipers from many different faith traditions dotted across its neighbourhoods – an indicator of how tolerant Varanasi has been throughout history to different religions coexisting peacefully together.

The city is a microcosm of the country’s religious and spiritual heritage, and the local residents are encouraged to worship Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, and Kali. Each neighbourhood has its own idols for worship, and most people prefer to pray at home or go to the nearest temple.

History

Varanasi’s roots go back to the Vedic period. The city that lies within its ancient walls is as much a symbol of India’s cultural heritage as it is a repository of its Buddhist past and a lively centre today for Hindu religious life in India. Varanasi means ‘the abode of Vishnu.’ Varanasi is also the name of the largest river in Asia, the Ganges, which flows through this city and empties into the Bay of Bengal. The city of Varanasi is steeped in tradition and history and has been the seat of an ancient civilisation for centuries. It has been sacred to Hindus since ancient times.

history of banaras

Kashi, the old name for this place, was once a busy river port on the Ganges, but it’s now a busy place with traffic interchanges. Only one can see this city in peace and serenity, that is, here at the ghats or steps down into the water where Hindus go to bathe to attain moksha or nirvana – ultimate salvation. The city was ruled by Raja Man Singh Deo when he made it his capital.

Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world. It has been inhabited for thousands of years by many different communities. Varanasi is also an important place for Buddhism and Jainism, but it serves as an important centre for Hinduism and has become the most sacred city in India. Varanasi has several meanings associated with it, one of which is ‘the abode of Vishnu’ or ‘the city that Vishnu abodes.

The river Ganges flows through Varanasi, on which two-thirds of the population depend for their livelihood. The Ganges divides Varanasi into northern and southern worship. The northern half is the holy city of Lord Krishna, the southern half is known as the City of Shiva.

The ruler of Varanasi is commonly called “Kashi Naresh,” which means “King of Varanasi.”

The fort in Varanasi is known as the “Ramnagar fort,” built under Kashi Naresh Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 17th century. The fort is a must-visit tourist place as the premise consists of a Mughal-era palace, museum, and two temples of- Ved Vyas & lord Vishnu. If you plan a trip to Varanasi, Ramnagar Fort is a must-visit during Dussehra, when it is buzzed with life for the famous Ram Leela.

Things to do in Varanasi

The city has two parts, the northern and southern, separated by a bridge called the “Varuna bridge.” The southern part is a bustling trading post, while the northern one is more serene and quiet.

Varanasi acts as an important centre for Hinduism in Eastern India. It is also considered a holy place for Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, and Muslims because several Islamic shrines in the city act as meaningful pilgrimage places for them.

Varanasi’s most famous accomplishment is its attempts to protect the Ganges River against industrial build-up.

Top 5 things that you must do on your trip to Banaras:

things to do in manali

Explore the Ghats

Varanasi is known as the city of temples and is largely famous for its ghats. Once you are in the city, you’ll find every other local rushing towards ghat or half of the population at the ghat. There are 88 ghats in Varanasi, and each has its own importance. The most sacred ghat is dashashwamedh ghat, which is also famous for its Ganga aarti ritual.

ganga aarti

Take part in Ganga Aarti

One of the many reasons that attract tourists across the world to Varanasi is dashashwamedh’s Ganga aarti. The Ganga aarti takes place every evening between 6-8 p.m. Sitting in the crowd for arti; you’ll experience the most beautiful sight of priests doing aarti with several brass lamps, incense sticks, conch shell sounds, ringing bells, and chanting mantras for river Ganga- the lifeline of the city. The aarti lasts for 45 minutes and those 45 minutes are worth spending time here. Also, don’t forget to float the small flower diyas in the river, which are easily available by the local sellers.

kashi Vishwanath mandir

Visit Vishwanath Mandir

Varanasi is Shiva’s city, and not visiting him would leave your trip incomplete. Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Shiva, and the temple was found in the 14th century. There are many facts and beliefs about the Vishwanath temple, and it is said that any wish can come true if it is made after seeing the golden chhatra. So after visiting Kashi darbar, don’t forget to visit Kaal Bhairav Mandir, also known as Kashi k kotwal (the protractor or Varanasi). All the temples in Varanasi hold special significance, and thus it is known as the city of temples!

sarnath temple

The Serenity of Sarnath

 Apart from Hinduism, Varanasi is also an important place for Buddhism deities. It is said that Buddha gave his first sermon, “The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma,” under a people tree in Sarnath, and since then, it has become a home to Buddhists. You can visit Ashok chakra, buddha temple, museums, chaukhandi and dhamek stupas, Tibetan temple, and many places in Sarnath.

banaras food cuisine

Treat your taste buds

As much as it is famous for temples, Varanasi is also well known for its street foods and authentic banarasi paan. You should never miss out on the kachori-sabzi-jalebi, chhena dahi vada, malaiyo, choora matar, thandai, lassi, tamatar chaat, bati chokha, golgappe, dahi poori, and ofcourse, paan! All these street foods are made in such a way that you will crave for the taste every time you think of them. So never miss out on any of the street food in Varanasi!

 Varanasi is one of the most important cities in India and one of the holiest places in Hinduism. Here are some more recommendations of what to do while you’re there!

  • See the cremations at Manikarnika Ghat (one of many ghats) by dawn or dusk for an unforgettable experience.
  • Visit the Sheetla devi temple to learn how people worship goddesses here and the importance of the temple.
  • Visit the Sarnath temple and the Buddhist stupa, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple and take in the feel of a Hindu holy city.
  • Enjoy some of the most famous sweets and local cuisine.
  • Visit Man Singh Observatory
  • Explore the local markets
  • Visit various holy localities of Hinduism, including Shiva and Ganesha temples and Tirthas along Ganga.
  • Look for a family or person that’s been in Varanasi for generations and has seen the city for many years. They will tell you many secrets and amazing facts about the city that will leave you stunned. 
  • Take a boat ride on the Ganges River. You can also sip the holy water and feel the power of Ganges Aarti at sunset.
  • Visit Hindu temples such as Kashi karvat, Annapurna devi, tulsi manas mandir, and Sankat Mochan temple; 
  • Explore Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U.), one of the oldest and most prestigious education hubs. You can find over 300 courses in the university and people across the globe to get an education in B.H.U. The university is spread across 4000 acres of land and is one of the largest residential universities in Asia. The Hindu University was introduced to the world by Madan Mohan Malaviya, Annie Besant, Rameshwar Singh, Maharaja Prabhu Narayan Singh, and Sir Sunder Lal.
  • See the spectacular Ramnagar Fort and nearby waterfalls such as Devdari Waterfall, Lakhaniya Dari Waterfall, Windham Waterfalls, Rajdari Waterfalls, etc.
  • 12. take an evening walk along the river Ganges where you will be mesmerised by a beautiful sunset and sky.

 How to reach Varanasi:

By Train: the city has 7 railway stations, and the mains are:

  • Varanasi junction (B.S.B.)
  • Banaras (BSBS)
  • Varanasi City (B.C.Y.)

By Air: the airport in Varanasi is called Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport or babatpur airport. It is approx 30 k.m from the central city and is accessible to all domestic and international flights.

By Road: the bus stand in Varanasi is known as the Chaudhry Charan Singh bus stand. If you wish to visit the nearby places of Varanasi, then travelling via bus is recommended. You can also take an overnight bus from Delhi to Varanasi through zingbus!

Varanasi is where you can find peace even in the chaos; thus, many people visit there to get enlightenment in their last days of life. Visiting this holy city once in a lifetime should definitely be on your bucket list. Do let us know how helpful you found this blog, and also drop your thoughts below in the comment section.

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Things to do in Varanasi (Banaras), Uttar Pradesh