15 Places to visit in Varanasi, Sightseeing, Tourist Places
Details of tourist places to Visit in Varanasi –
Ghats of Varanasi :
The living pulsating heart of the city, the ghats , are wide stone steps that descend to the river for almost
5 km along the west bank, affording a secure bathing platform for devotees whatever the level of the water.At any point of the day these step a are a kaleidoscope of colour, a shifting pattern of pilgrims on their way to and from the river.Here the people consult the pandas or priests under their palm leaf umbrellas or buy offerings for rituals.Rising as a backdrop to all this activity is the magnificent superstructure of temples, havelis and the domes and minarets of mosque. A labyrinth of narrow lanes behind these buildings link the ghats to the rest of the city. Wandering through this maze can be fascinating. Shop sell rich brocade silks, brassware and also all the articles essential for worship at the numerous little shrines.
Viewing the ghats early in the morning from a boat on the river can be an unforgettable experience. They emerge out of the mist like a dream, to be bathed in the golden glow of the rising sun- an image that leaves an indelible imprint on one’s being. The mist clears, the light is brighter and the ghats reverberate with the chant of mantrass, the sound of bells and the cries of the vendors. An aroma of incense sticks, oil lamps and flower fills the air. At dusk too the ghats are magical, as hundreds of little lamps float out on the river as offerings.
Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats. Many are bathing ghats but at the other, cremations are conducted. According to Hindu belief, dying at Kasi ensures release from the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth.
Many of these ghats, temples and serais were built when the Marathas controlled the city and the Scindias, the Peshwas, Holkars and Bhonsles stand out as patrons of present day Varanasi. Even today many of the Ghats are privately owned. The Shivali or Kali Ghat is still owned by the former Maharaja of Varanasi. The evening prayer offered to river Ganga is makes Ghats one of the best places to visit in Varanasi, India.
The main bathing Ghats are :
Assi, Dashashwamedh, Barnasangam, Panchaganga and Manikarnika. To bathe at these five ghats in this order in a day is known as the panch thirtha yatra.
Various legends are associated with the Ghats and it is believed that Dasaswamedh Ghat is where Lord Brahma sacrificed 10 horses in a yagya (Das-10,aswa-horse,medh-sacrifice). At the Manikarnika Ghat Lord Vishnu is said to have dug a spit with his chakra and while performing various penances filled it with his perspiration.As Lord Shiva watched him, his earring ( manik) fell into the pit-giving the Ghat the name of Manikaran. Lord Vishnu’s footprints are said to be preserved at Chakrapushkarni which is close by. Another interesting Ghat to visit is the Man Mandir Ghat.It was built in 1770 bu Jai singh of Jaipur the intrepid astronomer, who erected one of his usual observation here. The Mansarovar Ghat was also built by a princely patron- Man Singh of Amber. The Bachraj Ghat is used by Jain devotees for it has three river bank Jain temples. Above the Kedar Ghat another popular shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva is known as Kedareshwar.
Other important Ghats include The Hanuman Ghat with temples to Hanuman and Kanchi Kam Kotishwara (the Shankaracharya Math is near by). The Tulisi Ghat is dedicated to Tulsi Das who wrote the “Ram Charit Manas” a translation of the Ramayana into Hindi and the Lalita Ghat has a beautiful temple built in carved wood by the late King of Nepal (which is also known as Nepalese temple).
Varanasi is the city of a thousand temples. The main object of all devotees is the Kasi Vishwanath Temple built for the presiding deity of Varanasi. The temple was destruyed in 1669 by the Emperor Aurangzeb who built the Gyanvapi Mosque on its site, but the ancient linga was removed and hidden well by a priest. The present temple , constructed in 1776 by Rani Ahalya Bai, is also popularly known as the Golden Temple for its gold shikara. Close to this shrine is a temple to Sanichar (Saturn) where offerings are made in times of trouble, and the Annapurana Temple dedicated to the goddess of anna or grain. The Dhundiraj Ganesh is another important temple on Vishwanath Lane. The Sakshi Vinayaka Temple is where devotees go on completion of the Panchakosi circuit, a circumambulation of the city, to pay their homage to Lord Ganesha. There are about 56 Vinayaka temple in all, dedicated to the Lord Ganapati. Among them are the Siddha Vinayaka at the Manikarnika Ghat, the Kark Vinayaka Temple,the Durga Vinayaka near the Durga Temple and Abhayapad Vinayaka located near the Dasaswamedh Ghat. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the top places to visit in Varanasi, India among Hindu devotees.
The Tulsi Manas Temple is a modern structure in marble is dedicated to Lord Rama. The temple is located on the site where Tulsidas lived and composed his Ram Charit Manas. Built in 1964, the walls of the temple are embellished with scenes from the Ramayana and verses from te epic.
The Sankat Mochan Temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman and is very popular with the local citizens. It is among the best places to visit in Varanasi, India.
The new Vishwanath Temple is located in the campus of the Benaras Hindu University. A replica of the origional temple, this shrine was built by the industrialist family of Birla. The temple is open to people of all religions and creeds.
The Durga temple is one of the important places of worship at Varanasi. Built in the Nagara style in the 18th century, it is otherwise known as the Monkey Temple. The Kaal Bhairav Temple dedicated to the more terrifying aspect of Lord Shiva is located at Visheswarganj. There are nine more temples to Bhairav in the city.
Other famous temples include the Bindu Madhav Temple near the Pancgaganga Ghat and The Tailang Swami Math.
Other places of interest in Varanasi include the Alamgir Mosque built by the emperor Aurangzeb above the Panchaganga Ghat in the 17th century. An interesting edifice since it incorporates Muslim and Hindu styles of architecture. The origional temple here was built by Beni Madhav Rao Scindia so this mosque is also known as Beni Madhav Ka Darena.
The great mosque of Aurangzeb-the Gyanvapi Mosque is a magnificent structure with tall minarets .The back of the mosque has exquisite example of ancient Hindu temple art.
Varanasi has always been a great centre of learning and culture. It was here that Patanjali wrote his treaties on Sanskrit Grammar- the Mahabhashya and where the great poets Tulsidas and Kabir wrote their works.
The Bharatmata Temple is an unusual shrine for it is dedicated to Mother India and has a large relief map of India carved in marble within. Located near the Durga Kund is the beautiful marble tomb of the famous yogi, Swami Baskarananand.
Today the Benaras Hindu University is perhaps the largest university in Asia with 32 areas of study. Laid out an extensive campus of over 2000 acres donated by the Maharaja of Benaras in the early part of the century, it was founded by the scholar Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. The University is noted for its studies in Sanskrit and in Indian culture, including art and music and attracts students from India and abroad.
The Bharat Kala Bhawan Museum on the campus of the Benaras Hindu University is noted for its splendid collections of sculpture and terracotta from places like Mathura , Sarnath, Khajuraho, miniature paintings and manuscripts.
The Fort Museum at Ramnagar fort has displays of arms, costumes, palanquins and royal memorabilia. It is among the best places to visit in Varanasi, India.
The ABC Gallery located near the Tulsi Manas Mandir has an exhibition of contemporary art.
Places to Visit Around Varanasi:
The tranquil deer park at Sarnath is where the Buddha preached his first sermon. Sarnath became one of the great centres of Buddhism and the Emperor Ashoka erected magnificent stupas and structures here. The Chinese scholar Huien Tsang who came to Sarnath in 640 AD was to write of the splendour of the city. Rediscovered and excavated in 1836, Sarnath is once again a place of pilgrimage where visitors come to pay homage to the great teacher. It is among the best places to visit in Varanasi, India.
Places to Visit Around Sarnath
The imposing stupa 39 m high was probably erected in 200 BC in the Mauryan Era. Rebuilt a number of times, the geometric and floral patterns on the stupa belong to the later Gupta period. It is among the best places to visit in Varanasi, India.
Erected by the Emperor Ashoka,the pillar had his edict engraved on it. At one time it stood over 17 m high. Its capital with the four lions back to back- the official symbol of modern India, can be seen in the museum at Sarnath.
Mulagandha Kuti Vihara:
Built in more recent times by Mahabodhi society, it has a life-size statue of the Lord Buddha in the Dharmavhakra Pravartan form. It is among the best places to visit in Varanasi, India among Jain devotees.
Chaukhandi Stupa: This stupa was rebuilt by the Mughal Emperor Akbar.
Dhamarajika Stupa:Only the ruins of this Stupa built by Emperor Ashoka can be seen today.
Bodhi Tree: Grown from a sapling of the famous tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, which is believed to be a progeny of the original tree at Bodh Gaya, under which the Lord Buddha attained enlightment.
Other Temples: Mosern temples and viharas built in the Tibetan, Thai, Chinese, Burmese and Japanese styles are also found here.
Constructed in 1910, the Museum displays the capital from the Ashokan pillars and other relics found on the site including sculpture from the various periods-Maurya, Kushana, Gupta and later. They include the earlier Buddha image found at Sarnath, Buddha figures in various posture dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries and images of Hindu gods such as Saraswati, Ganesh and Vishnu from 9th to 12th centuries.
Sarnath has a Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. Established in 1971 for the study and preservation of the Tibetan Culture, this centre has a rich collection of Tibetan manuscript and modern Tibetan publications and books. A deemed university it attracts students from India and abroad for study and research. It is among the best places to visit in Varanasi, India.
Chunar Fort(42 km):
Strategically located, the magnificent battlements of the fort overlook the river. This vantage point, occupied since early times dates back to Vikramaditya of Ujjain 56 BC. Chunar and the material for Emperor Ashoka’s pillars were once quarried here. The fort has seen dramatic events in more recent times. Akbar attacked it in 1575 and the fort later passed into the possessions of the Nawabs of Oudh. Finally the British captured it in 1864. It is among the best places to visit in Varanasi, India.
Ramnagar Fort (16 km):
Located across the river Ganga is the attractive fort of Ramnagar. Still the residence if the former Maharaja of Varanasi, the fort has an interesting museum. The festival of Dussehra is also celebrated here in the royal tradition. It is among the best places to visit in Varanasi, India.
Founded by Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 1360 to protect the eastern borders of the Delhi Sultanate, Jaunpur is noted for its monuments and famous for its ittar industry. Places of interest around Jaunpur include the Atala Masjid, Jami Masjid, Khalis Mukhlis Masjid, Lal Darwaza Masjid, Yamdagni ashram, shitala Choukhiya Dham.
The immense Akbari bridge built in the 16th century still stands tall with its 15 arches a testimony to the building skills of that time. A sculpture of a lion and elephant engaged in battle at one end of the bridge served once as a milestone.
Located on the main rail between Varanasi and Lucknow is easily accessible by rail and by road. The town has hotels ,lodges and restaurants.
Pics Courtesy : Flickr
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