Also commonly known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi...
Varanasi also commonly known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi, is a city situated on the left (west) bank of the river Ganga (Ganges) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, regarded as holy by hindus, buddhists jains and senthoo. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
The Kashi Naresh (Maharaja of Kashi) is the chief cultural patron of Varanasi and an essential part of all religious celebrations. The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the river Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in northern India for several thousand years. The benares gharana form of Indian classical music developed in Varanasi, and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians resided or reside in Varanasi, including Kabir, Ravi Das their guru Swami Ramanand, Tailang Swami, Munshi Premchand, Jaishankar Prasad, Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Girija Devi, Hariprasad Chaurasia, and Ustad Bismillah Khan. Tulsidas wrote his Ramacharitamanas there, and Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath near Kashi.
Varanasi is home of 4 universities of learning i.e. Banaras Hindu University, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies and Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. Residents mainly speak Kashika Bhojpuri, which is closely related to the Hindi language. People often refer to Varanasi as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", "the city of learning" and the "culture capital of India".
The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for hindus for ages. Often referred to as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together". Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals.
Ganges is said to have its origins in the tresses of Lord Shiva and in Varanasi, it expands to the mighty river that we know of. The city is a center of learning and civilization for over 3000 years. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10 km away, Varanasi has been a symbol of hindu renaissance. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts have all flourished here for centuries. Also a pilgrimage place for Jains, Varanasi is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar.
Vaishnavism and Shaivism have co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously. With a number of temples, Mrs. Annie Besant chose Varanasi as the home for her 'Theosophical Society' and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, to institute 'Benares Hindu University, the biggest university in Asia. Ayurveda is said to be originated at Varanasi and is believed to be the basis of modern medical sciences such as plastic surgery, Cataract and Calculus operations. Maharshi Patanjali, the preceptor of Ayurveda and Yoga, was also affiliated with Varanasi, the holy city. Varanasi is also famous for its trade and commerce, especially for the finest silks and gold and silver brocades, since the early days.
Varanasi has also been a great center of learning for ages. Varanasi is associated with promotion of spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit, yoga and Hindi language and honored authors such as the ever-famous novelist Prem Chand and Tulsi Das, the famous saint-poet who wrote Ram Charit Manas. Aptly called as the cultural capital of India, Varanasi has provided the right platform for all cultural activities to flourish. Many exponents of dance and music have come from Varanasi. Ravi Shankar, the internationally renowned sitar maestro and Ustad Bismillah Khan, (the famous Shehnai player) are all sons of the blessed city or have lived here for major part of their lives.
October to April
Ramnagar Fort, Banaras Hindu University, Bharat Kala Bhavan, Jantar Mantar, Varanasi Ganga Ghats, Bharat Mata Temple, Durga Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple, Vishwanath Temple, St. Marys Church, Nepali Temple
Ramnagar Fort: The Ramnagar fort lies about 14 km. from Varanasi and is situated on the opposite bank of river Ganga. It is the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. Maharaja Balwant Singh built this fort-palace in the eighteenth century. The fort is built in red sandstone. The Ramnagar fort has a temple and a museum within the grounds and the temple is dedicated to Ved Vyasa, who wrote Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. Legends have it that Ved Vyasa stayed here for a brief period.
Banaras Hindu University: The Banaras Hindu University or BHU is an internationally reputed University and is situated in Varanasi. The great nationalist leader, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, founded the Banaras Hindu University in the year 1916. Dr Annie Besant also played an important role in the formation of the BHU. The Banaras Hindu University played an important role in the Indian independence movement. Over a period of time, it has developed into one of the greatest centers of learning in India. The BHU has produced many great freedom fighters and Nation builders. It has immensely contributed to the progress of the nation through a large number of renowned scholars, artists and scientists.
Bharat Kala Bhavan: Bharat Kala Bhavan, located inside the BHU campus, is an art and architecture museum and houses a vast collection of paintings, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and other materials of archeological importance. The Bharat Kala Bhavan was established in the year 1920 A.D. In the main hall of the Bharat Kala Bhawan, there is a figure of a man standing on one leg and one hand on his hip and lifting a mass of stone above his head, with one hand. The figure is said to be of Lord Krishna, lifting mount Govardhana. Many images in the Bharat Kala Bhavan confirm to the existence of Krishna cult in Kashi in 15th and 16th century.
Jantar Mantar: Jantar Mantar is an observatory, built by Jai Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur in the year 1737. Jai Singh was a great admirer of science and technology and he was particularly passionate about astronomy. Before the commencement of construction (of observatories) he sent scholars abroad to study the foreign observatories. The emissaries returned with many manuals on astronomy. The Jantar Mantar at Varanasi was built in line with Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain and Jaipur observatories.
Varanasi Ganga Ghats: Varanasi, Kashi or Banaras, is older than traditions. The divine grace of this city lies is unique combination of physical, metaphysical and supernatural elements. Ghats of Varanasi are natural supplement to the concept of divinity. It is a city witch liberate soul from human body to ultimate.
The much quoted Sanskrit Skloka Proclame ‘Kasyam maranam mukti’ (death in Kashi is Liberation). In fact the extension of this belief could be visualised in early concept of ‘ Pancha Trirtha’ symbolically identified with the human body it is explicitly equated with the fire elements (Panch Tattva) of witch body is composed interesting people now defining as all the Ghats are points on the divine cosmic road ( 12th Zodiacs X 7cakras of body thus 98 ) represents its manifest transcendential dimension.
Bharat Mata Temple: Bharat Mata temple at Varanasi is the only temple dedicated to Mother India. It is located in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus. The Bharat Mata temple was built by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. The statute of Bharat Mata is built in marble and is a model of undivided India, depicting the mountains, plains and oceans. The most peculiar thing about the Bharat Mata Temple is that instead of the customary gods and goddesses, it houses a relief map of India, carved out of marble.
Durga Temple: Durga temple, also known as the "monkey temple" is one of the important temples of Varanasi. This temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga. The Durga temple was built in the eighteenth century. A Bengali Maharani built the Durga temple in Nagara Style (the North Indian style of temple architecture). It is stained red with ochre and has a multi-tiered shikhara (spire). The Durga temple is situated on a rectangular tank, called the Durga Kund. According to the puranas, Goddess Durga has kept this place for many centuries and protects the holy city, Varanasi, from the South.
Sankat Mochan Temple: Sankat Mochan temple is one of the sacred temples of Varanasi. It is located in the southern part of Varanasi, near the Banaras Hindu University. It is dedicated to the Hindu God, Hanuman. The word "Sankat Mochan" means one who helps in removing sufferings i. e. Lord Hanuman. Tulsidas, the author of the famous Hindu epic Ramacharitamanasa, founded the Sankat Mochan temple. According to Hindu mythology, one who visits the Sankat Mochan temple regularly, his wishes get fulfilled.
Tulsi Manas Temple: Tulsi Manas temple is one of the most famous temples of Varanasi. It is also an important tourist attraction of the holy city. The Tulsi Manas temple is located near the famous Durga temple. It was built in white marble in the year 1964. The temple has been made more charming by the magnificent landscaping around it. The Tulsi Manas temple is dedicated to lord Ram. It is believed to be built at the same place where Tulsidas wrote the famous Indian epic, Ramcharitamanasa.
Vishwanath Temple: Kashi Vishwanath temple is located in the heart of the cultural capital of India, Varanasi. It stands on the western bank of India's holiest river Ganges. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is the center of faith for millions of Hindus. The Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha, is enshrined in the Kashi Vishwanath temple, considered as one of the holiest temples of India.
In hindu religion it is believed that a simple glimpse of the Jyotirlinga is a soul-cleansing experience that transforms life and puts it on the path of knowledge and Bhakti (devotion). A single darshan of Vishweshwara Jyotirlinga is considered to merit more than the darshan of other jyotirlingas, scattered in various parts of India. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been a living picture of the timeless cultural traditions and highest spiritual values.
St. Marys Church: Situated in the cantonment area of Varanasi, the architectural peculiarity that distinguishes St. Mary's Church from others are its louvered doors and hooded ventilation. It has a low tower, spire and projecting portico. The church looks beautiful with its plain timber canopy protecting the rectangular fanlight above each doorway and also impresses a major architectural impact.
Nepali Temple: Built in Nepali style by the King of Nepal on Lalita Ghat, it is also known as the Kathwala temple because of the magnificent woodwork. Tourist attraction for visitors from all over the world, it is said to be incomparable to any other temple in India. It is said that the workers and the wood was imported from Nepal to build this temple and the its specialty is that termites do not eat the wood used to construct it.
Varanasi is well connected and accessible to major Indian cities and tourist spots. There are daily domestic flights to and from Varanasi to several cities in India. Apart from the state owned Indian Airlines, there are many private air taxi operators that offer their services from Varanasi to other Indian cities. In fact, the daily flights on Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi route are quite popular among the tourists.
Since Varanasi lies in the heartland of the North Indian plains, it is well connected to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and other parts of India. There are two railway stations in Varanasi, the Kashi Junction and the Varanasi Junction (also known as Varanasi Cantonment). Rajdhani Express from Delhi or from Calcutta passes through Varanasi too. One can also catch trains from Mughalsarai, just 10 km south of Varanasi.
Situated in the flat Ganga plains, Varanasi has a good network of roads. frequent public and private buses and road transport to all the major towns of Uttar Pradesh and nearby areas.
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