11 Best Places to visit in Varanasi
Varanasi or Benaras, (also known as Kashi) is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi`s Prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrevealed. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the city draws pilgrims who bathe in the River Ganges’ sacred waters and perform funeral rites. Along its winding streets are some 2,000 temples, including Kashi Vishwanath, the “Golden Temple,” dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
Varanasi has always being in prominence for all the good reasons. During the ancient times, it was an important religious center. It also became the capital of the kings of 16 Mahajanpadas. Buddha in 528 BC gave his first sermon at Sarnath, it is also known as “Dharam Chakra Parivartan” means turning the wheel of law. The religious importance continued to grow in the 8th century, when Adi Shankara charya established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi. Prominent writer Tulsi Das wrote Ram Charita Manas in Varanasi. Apart from him Kabir and Ravidas belonged to Varanasi.
During the Medieval period, Guru Nanak visited Varanasi in 1507 on the occasion of Mahashivratri. It gained prominence again during the Mughals. Akbar the Great, who was religious tolerant constructed two beautiful temples dedicated to lord Shiva and Vishnu. . The Kingdom of Benares was given official status by the Mughals in 1737, and continued as a dynasty-governed area until Indian independence in 1947.
In the Modern period, Varanasi became a center of learning. The British Governor General Warren Hasting, Jonathan Duncan founded a Sanskrit College in 18th Century. It was an important center of rebellion during the first war of independence 1857. In 1897, author Mark Twain said about Varanasi, “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Mrs. Annie Besant founded the Central Hindu College, which later became a Banaras Hindu University in 1916. Besant founded the Central Hindu College because she wanted to bring men of all religions together under the ideal of brotherhood in order to promote Indian cultural values and to remove ill-will among different sections of the Indian population.” Since 2014, our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modiji is the MP of Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. The best places to visit in Varanasi are:
- Dashashwamedh Ghat
This is the prominent ghat of Varanasi where Ganga Aarti is performed with full religious rituals and it is also the most photographed ceremony of India. It is said that Lord Brahma created this ghat by sacrificing ten horses. By sunset, pilgrims flock around this place to witness the Ganga Aarti. Some even hire a boat to watch the ritual from the water. If you want to enjoy a clear view of the ritual, dine at any of the rooftop restaurants near the ghat. The boat owners will lurk you into taking a Ganges boat ride, while the shop keepers try to make you tour their shops.
- Assi Ghat
It is located towards the southern side of the river, this ghat is specifically chosen by tourists to worship Lord Shiva. Thus, it goes without saying that this ghat becomes very grand during any festival pertaining to Lord Shiva. It is a lively spot famous among tourists and pilgrims. Ganga Arti is performed in this ghat too. This is one of the biggest ghats of the region.
- Manikarnika Ghat
This is the cremation ground for Hindus. You can always spot glowing pyres in this region. Many earthen oil lamps will be left to flow on the river, as an offering. It is considered to be a sacred place on earth for cremation to attain eternal salvation.
- Scindia Ghat
This ghat is said to be the birthplace of Agni, the demigod of fire. Devotees visit this ghat to pray to Vireshwara for granting a heroic son.
5. Kashi Vishwanath Temple
This temple should not be confused with the New Vishwanath temple of Varanasi. This is one of the holiest Shiva temples on earth. It is also called as the golden temple of Varanasi. The temple was destroyed numerous times in the pasts by invaders and rulers. The current structure was built in 16th century. The exact year of initial construction of the temple is unknown. The whereabouts of the temple were indicated in holy scripts, which are several centuries old. In 12th century, the temple was first demolished. You can also find the mosque built by Aurangazeb, near the temple. The mosque was built after demolishing the temple.
According to the legends, during a dispute between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma, about who the mightiest was, Lord Shiva came up with an idea. He turned into a large column of light and announced that he who could find the end of the light will be the mightiest. After trying, Lord Vishnu admitted that he failed to find the end. On the other hand, Lord Brahma lied about finding the end of the light. He cursed him that he would not have any place of worship on land. The column of light pierced earth on 12 places. These 12 places are considered as jyotirlinga. One of those twelve places is the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
- Durga Temple
Durga temple is also called as the Monkey temple. Do not confuse it with the temple for Monkey God. This temple literally has huge number of monkeys in the complex. This is one of the reasons to why children would love to visit this place. Located near Durga Kund, this temple has an iconic red color. Built in 18th century, this temple was commissioned by the queen of Bengal. The pond (Durga Kund) lies very close to the temple. On each corner of the pond, there is a watchtower to get a great view of the region.
- Bharat Mata Temple
This is the temple for Mother India. This is a unique temple, which is dedicated to a country. There are no deities in the temple and it does not represent any religion. It was constructed in 1936 and was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi.
- Ramnagar Fort & Museum – The Mughal era fortification
It is located opposite to the Tulsi Ghat, the Ramnagar Fort is an 18th-century crumbling ruin in dire need of restoration. However, the crimson sunset as viewed from inside this enclosure is reason enough to give Ramnagar Fort a spot on the list of places to visit in Varanasi. This old rampart is also home to a vintage museum that is famous for its rare collection of old American cars, ivory works, medieval costumes, and a huge astronomical clock.
- New Vishwanath Temple
This is the biggest attraction of the region. This temple is located inside BHU and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The tower of the temple is the tallest in the world. Built in 20th century, this temple was inspired by the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
- Saraswati Bhawan
It is the museum located inside the Ramnagar Fort. This museum is located in the Public Audience Hall of Ram Nagar Fort. The museum has unique collections of American vintage automobiles, ivory works, royal palanquins, and medieval royal costumes, elephant saddles made of silver, Varanasi silk articles and others. The armor hall holds ancient swords, guns of Africa, old matchlocks, daggers, musical instruments and a rare astronomical clock. In addition, you can find many ancient and unique manuscripts, miniature paintings, books and much more.
It is located 10 km away from Varanasi, it is a destination for Buddhist pilgrimage. This is the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment. In addition, Sarnath is the birthplace of the 11th Tirthankara. Thus, it is of religious importance for Jain too.