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Varanasi

Varanasi also known as Benaras is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in India.Situated on the banks of sacred river Ganges, Varanasi has been a centre of learning and civilisation for over 2000 years.Besides being a pilgrimage centre,it is Varanasiconsidered as an auspicious place to die, ensuring an instant route to Heaven Apart from Hinduism it is also an important pilgrimage centre for Buddhists as it was at Sarnath (10 km from Varanasi), Lord Buddha gave his Ist sermon after enlightment. It is the only city in Asia with three Universities.

A city which, since it is both an exalted place of pilgrimage and an idealize centre of faith, has been likened to Jerusalem and Mecca.According to the historians, the city was founded some ten centuries before the birth of Christ. The city is mentioned in Holy Scriptures like 'Vamana Purana', Buddhist texts and in the epic 'Mahabharata'.Mark Twain,the English author and literature,who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Banaras,once wrote:"Banaras is older than history,older than tradition,older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together."

It is beside the holy waters of the Ganga that the activities for which Banaras is held sacred are performed. Everyday thousands of residents and pilgrims bathe, offer prayers to the elements, to the rising sun, and to their dead ancestors who have been carried away by these waters. What draws people to the river is an ingrained belief that these waters can absolve the sins of many generations. It is beside the holy waters of the Ganga that the activities for which Banaras is held sacred are performed. Everyday thousands of residents and pilgrims bathe, offer prayers to the elements, to the rising sun, and to their dead ancestors who have been carried away by these waters. What draws people to the river is an ingrained belief that these waters can absolve the sins of many generations.

The Benaras Hindu University or BHU is a landmark in Varanasi. It university was founded by Pt. M.M. Malviya and has the largest residential university is Asia. The observatory of Jantar mantar is another place worth a visit at Varanasi. Though it is the gharanas of Indian classical music that are equally popular. The brocades and the saris in silk along with the bhadohi carpets make up the best souvenirs from the holy city of Varanasi. The chanting of the hymns, the sweet fragrance of incense sticks and the magnificent views of the great Ganges offer the best combination of the sights, sounds and smell for the golden memories of the unparalleled Varanasi.

Ghats of Varanasi
  • Dashashwamedh Ghat
    The most visited ghat of Varanasi by religious pilgrims, Dashashwamedh ghat is the most beautiful ghat in city. The ghat is close to the famous 'Vishwanath Temple' and is therefore of high religious importance. The most enticing part is the evening 'Puja' performed by the group of priests. Also called as 'Fire Puja', the ceremony is a dedication to River Ganges, Sun, Lord Shiva, Fire and the whole universe. The Ghats finds mention in the old religious texts, as it is said that lord Brahma created the ghats to welcome lord Shiva.
  • Man Mandir Ghat
    The ghat of Man Mandir was built by Maharaja of Jaipur. The ghat houses a 18th century observatory equipped with ornate window casings. There is another fine stone balcony in the northern part of the ghat. Most devotees come to this ghat to pay homage to the lingam of Someswar, the Lord of the Moon.
  • Scindia Ghat
    Bordering Manikarnika to the north is the picturesque Scindia Ghat, with its titled Shiva temple lying partially submerged in the river, having fallen in as a result of the sheer weight of the ghat’s construction around 150 years ago. Above the ghat, several of Kashi’s most influential shrines are hidden within the tight maze of alleyways of the area known as Siddha Kshetra (the field of Fulfillment). Vireshvara, the Lord of all Heroes, is especially propitiated in prayer for a son; the Lord of Fire, Agni, was supposed to have been born here.
  • Assi Ghat
    The most favored ghat of tourists, Assi ghat is the end of the continous line of ghats. The beautiful ghat is a regular for the local festivals, games and other activities. The ghat is very charming. Someone who has ever visited Assi ghat will long to go there again and again. The place is favorite haunt of the Foreign tourists. There are some very good restaraunts and cafes on the Assi ghat. Its best to hire a boat from Assi Ghat and visit Dashaswamedh Ghat and walk back. Assi ghat is also a favorite site for the blooming painters and photographers. Evenings are very special, as there are musical parties and gatherings on the steps of the ghat.
  • Lalita Ghat
    A ghat on the northern part, Lalita is popular for Ganga Keshava Temple. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this is a wooden temple built in typical Kathmandu style. The temple also has an image of Pashupateshwar- a manifestation of Lord Shiva.
  • Harishchandra Ghat
    The Harishchandra ghat is the said to be the same ghat where the owner of Manikarnika bought King Harishchandra as a slave and made him work on the Manikarnika. The ghat is a funeral place for Hindus, though majority of dead bodies are taken to the Manikarnika Ghat.


How to reach
  • Air
    Regular service connects Varanasi with cities as Delhi, Lucknow, Jaipur, Khajuraho, Calcutta, Bombay, Bhubaneswar and Katmandu. Varanasi is on several Indian Airlines flights including the popular daily tourist shuttle Delhi/Agra/Khajuraho/Varanasi and back. Sahara Airlines also has flights to Calcutta, Mumbai and Lucknow. Jet Airways operates flights to Delhi and Khajuraho. The airport at Babatpur is about 22 km away from the city.
  • Rail
    Varanasi is major rail junction. Several trains a day come to Varanasi from both Kolkata and Delhi. The city is linked by trains with all metros and major cities across the country - New Delhi (760 Kms), Mumbai (1509 Kms), Calcutta (735 Kms), Madras (1970 Kms), Lucknow (286 Kms), Allahabad, Patna, Jaipur, Gorakhpur and Khajuraho.. There are not many trains running directly between here and Delhi or Calcutta but most Delhi to Calcutta trains do pass through Mughal Sarai, 18 km south of Varanasi.
  • Road
    Varanasi is connected with Calcutta (677 Kms.), Delhi (765 Kms.), Madras (1901 Kms.), Bangalore (1763 Kms.) Varanasi is very well connected by a network of roads and road transport to all major towns of Uttar Pradesh and surrounding areas.There are buses running from Varanasi to Jaunpur, Allahabad, Lucknow, Faizabad, and Gorakhpur.


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