VARANASI – THE HOLY CITY
Dipped in the holy charm of over 2000 fascinating temples, blessed with the sacred waters of divine Ganges and the abode of Lord Shiva, Varanasi is the throbbing city of lights in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Popularly known as the spiritual capital of India, it is the oldest city with its origins dating back to the 11th century B.C. According to Hindu mythology, the city was founded by Lord Shiva himself. Varanasi, commonly known as ‘Banaras’ or ‘Kashi’, is a colorful city with lively markets and streets that are always bustling with locals, tourists and pilgrims.
Pilgrims come here for taking a dip in the holy Ganges that is believed to wash away their sins. Many Hindus also visit Varanasi for the cremation rituals of their loved ones. In Hinduism, the city holds a lot of spiritual significance. Numerous tourists come to Varanasi to explore the rich culture of this historical city or for yoga practices.
No matter what your purpose of visit is, the magical charm of the city is bound to captivate you. Even in the loud noises of the city, the mind feels so calm as if every disbalanced bit of thought has aligned itself in perfect harmony. Banaras is also famous for its Banarasi silk sarees and Banarasi paan & lassi (sweet buttermilk). Below is a list of top 5 things to do in Varanasi.
1. Take a Dip in the holy Ganga River
In Hindu mythology, the river Ganga is personified as Goddess and is believed to have descended from heaven. People travel from distant places to Varanasi to take a holy bath or immerse the ashes of their kins in the holy waters of the Ganga. Taking a dip in the river is believed to wash away sins and facilitate salvation. Ganga waters is also believed to possess some medicinal properties. So, walk down the stairs taking you to the sacred ghats of the Ganges and take a holy dip in the river for that heady spiritual feeling.
2. Visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple
‘Varanasi’ or ‘Kashi’ is famous for Kashi Vishwanath temple which dates back to the 11th century. The beautiful architecture of the temple houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, a seven feet high stone statue of Nandi bull, Annapurna temple, Kaal Bhairav temple and a Hanuman temple. This legendary temple was destroyed and reconstructed many times in the history. The three domes of the temple are made of pure gold. Do visit the ‘Gyan Vapi’ or ‘the wisdom well’ that houses the original Jyotirlinga. It is believed that the main priest of the temple jumped into the well holding the Shiv Ling in order to protect it from invaders. Visit the temple to get a dose of spiritualism and history and admire the magnificent architecture of a historical era.
3. Attend Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat
Dashashwamedh Ghat is the main ghat of Varanasi and the most spectacular one. The 45-minute evening aarti at this Ghat is the grandeur at its best. It is something you simply cannot miss while in Varanasi. You can sit in a boat near to the ghat and watch the priests paying tribute to Lord Shiva, Goddess Ganga, Sun God and Fire God in a well organized manner. Multi-tiered oil lamps, fragrant incense sticks, sound of the conch shell, the holy chants and a number of devotees fill the atmosphere with a rare charm. Be captivated by this divine event and click your favourite memories.
4. Explore Chet Singh Ghat
Chet Singh Ghat is a calm and quiet ghat with historical significance. It is a witness to the fierce battle fought between the British troops and the army of Chet Singh in 1781. The ghat has three Lord Shiva temples dating back to the 18th century and an old fort located at the top. You can either take a boat ride from Assi Ghat to the Chet Singh Ghat or explore the place by foot. People avoid bathing here due to sharp water currents.
5. Visit The Ruins of Sarnath
Located at a distance of 12 kilometres from Varanasi, Sarnath is one of the four major holy Buddhist sites. It is the place where Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon of Dharma after enlightenment. Check out the ruins of the ancient buildings destroyed by the Turks, the 128 feet high Dharmekh Stupa dating back to 200 BC, remains of the Ashoka Pillar and a Deer Park. The Sarnath Archeological Museum houses some of the greatest treasures of Indian Buddhist art.