Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, is a fascinating and culturally rich destination in India. Situated on the banks of the sacred River Ganges, Varanasi is a city that offers a unique blend of spirituality, history, and vibrant traditions. With a history dating back thousands of years, Varanasi is a city that has attracted pilgrims, scholars, and travelers from across the globe. In this guide, we will explore ten must-visit places in Varanasi.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, also known as the Golden Temple, is a pivotal highlight on any Varanasi temple tour. It is the holiest of all temples in Varanasi, symbolizing unwavering devotion to Lord Shiva, and attracting millions of pilgrims annually. The temple complex is an architectural marvel with its intricate designs and gold plating. The main deity, Lord Shiva, is enshrined in a sanctum sanctorum that is accessible to devotees for darshan. The temple has a long history of reconstruction, with the current structure dating back to the 18th century after it was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. A visit to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is an immersive spiritual experience, as the temple exudes an aura of spirituality and devotion that is palpable.
Ganges River Ghats
The numerous ghats along the Ganges River in Varanasi are the soul of the city. Each ghat has its unique character and significance. Dashashwamedh Ghat is renowned for its daily Ganga Aarti, a grand spectacle of devotion and light. Manikarnika Ghat is where cremations take place, symbolizing the cycle of life and death. Dasaswamedh Ghat, as one of the oldest, is a place for various rituals and cultural activities. Other ghats like Assi Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat, and Panchganga Ghat each have their stories and roles in the spiritual and cultural tapestry of Varanasi. A boat ride along the river, especially during sunrise or sunset, allows you to witness the ghats and their activities from a unique perspective, providing a deeper understanding of the city’s religious customs and traditions.
Sarnath is a serene and historically significant site located a short distance from Varanasi. It is the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon to his five disciples, setting in motion the spread of Buddhism. The Dhamek Stupa is a prominent monument in Sarnath, marking the spot where the Buddha is believed to have taught. The Sarnath Archaeological Museum houses a remarkable collection of sculptures and artifacts that provide insights into the rich history and art of the region. The Ashoka Pillar, with its lion capital, is a well-preserved example of Ashokan art and is a symbol of Sarnath’s significance in the Buddhist world. Sarnath’s peaceful ambiance and its historical and spiritual importance make it a must-visit destination for those interested in Buddhism and ancient Indian history.
Banaras Hindu University (BHU)
Banaras Hindu University is not just an educational institution but a place where tradition and modernity coexist. The campus is adorned with magnificent architecture and sprawling gardens, making it a serene spot to explore. Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum, located within BHU, is a treasure trove of art and historical artifacts. The museum houses a diverse collection of sculptures, miniature paintings, textiles, and more, providing valuable insights into India’s rich cultural heritage. BHU is not just a center of learning but a place where you can immerse yourself in the academic and cultural heritage of Varanasi.
The Ramnagar Fort is a historical gem located on the opposite bank of the Ganges River from Varanasi. It serves as the ancestral home of the former Maharaja of Kashi and is a testament to the royal heritage of the region. The fort’s architecture reflects a blend of Mughal and Rajput styles. Inside, the Ramnagar Fort Museum displays a unique collection of vintage cars, royal carriages, weaponry, and an extensive array of manuscripts, particularly the sacred texts and scriptures. Visitors can also explore the daily rituals of the Maharaja’s estate, adding an element of authenticity to the experience.
Assi Ghat is a prominent and picturesque ghat situated at the confluence of the Ganges and Assi Rivers. It is not only a place for religious rituals but also a hub for cultural activities. Assi Ghat is associated with the famous poet Tulsidas, who is believed to have written the epic Ramcharitmanas at this very spot. The ghat has a vibrant ambiance, and you can witness yoga sessions, cultural performances, and the chanting of sacred mantras. For those looking to explore the spiritual and cultural vibrancy of Varanasi, Assi Ghat is an excellent place to spend time by the river.
Tulsi Manas Temple
The Tulsi Manas Temple is a beautifully constructed temple made entirely of white marble. It is dedicated to Lord Rama and is named after the famous poet Tulsidas. The walls of the temple are adorned with verses from Tulsidas’ masterpiece, the Ramcharitmanas. This temple provides a tranquil and reflective atmosphere for devotees and visitors. The serene surroundings and the recitation of devotional verses create a serene ambiance that allows you to immerse yourself in the spiritual essence of the city.
Bharat Mata Temple
The Bharat Mata Temple in Varanasi is a unique and patriotic attraction that stands apart from the usual temple architecture in India. Instead of housing deities, this temple is dedicated to the Motherland, symbolizing the unity and diversity of India. The main attraction of the temple is a grand relief map of undivided India carved out of marble. The map showcases India’s geographic and cultural diversity, celebrating the rich tapestry of the nation. The temple serves as a reminder of the deep sense of patriotism and cultural pride that runs through the hearts of the people of Varanasi and India as a whole.
New Vishwanath Temple (Birla Temple)
The New Vishwanath Temple, also known as the Birla Temple, is a contemporary temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It stands out for its intricate marble work and exquisite architecture. The temple is situated in the Banaras Hindu University campus and attracts visitors with its serene and spiritually uplifting ambiance. The stunning white marble structure, adorned with finely crafted carvings and designs, offers a fresh perspective on temple architecture. It provides a place for devotees and tourists to find solace and spirituality within the bustling city of Varanasi.
Banaras Silk Sarees and Weaver’s Villages
Varanasi is renowned for its exquisite Banarasi silk sarees, which are highly sought after by women across India and the world. To understand the artistry behind these sarees, you can visit the weaver’s villages on the outskirts of Varanasi. Here, you can witness the intricate and time-honored process of silk weaving, where skilled artisans create these beautiful textiles. Many weaver families have been practicing this art for generations, and a visit to their workshops allows you to appreciate the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into making each saree. You can also purchase authentic Banarasi silk sarees as souvenirs, each one a piece of art in itself.
These additional details provide a deeper understanding of the rich cultural, historical, and spiritual significance of each of these ten places in Varanasi, making it easier for travelers to plan their Varanasi sightseeing tour and fully immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant heritage.