Varanasi Travel Guide
Varanasi Travel Guide : A city dedicated to the dead and the dying, it comes as an enormous cultural- even a spiritual- shock. For ages, “going to Kashi” (Varanasi) has meant preparing for death in India and the entire city celebrates death in unsurpassed glee. Hawans, kirtans, singing and dancing are the order of the day. People here spend a large part of their lives living with the death. At a deeper level, this city can help you with that terrible reality of life – death that strikes everyone- irrespective of whether they are our dear ones.
Discover, experience and reach the ultimate bliss here. Move around, to touch, feel and sense its rich tapestry of music, arts, crafts and education. Some of the world- renowned exponents have begun their journey from here. You can even pick up some inimitably precious Banarasi silk saris and silk brocades, Carpets and brassware- collector’s items across the world, even today. And if you’re adventurous – try the Banarasi paan (betel leaf) it’s legendary condiments will lift your soul.
Place To Visit in Varanasi
If Varanasi liberates soul from human body, the Ganga Ghats of Varanasi become the place of the release. Not surprisingly, the Ghats are perhaps the holiest spots of Varanasi.
Right here, the famous Indian poet saint, Tulsi Das had written the much-celebrated Ramcharitmanas. The southernmost Ghat in Varanasi is the place where pilgrims bathe before paying their homage to Lord Shiva’s lingam under a peepal tree. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims take holy dip here in the months of Chaitya (March/ April) and Magh (Jan/Feb) and other important occasions like solar/ lunar eclipse.
Literally meaning the Ghat (river front) of ten sacrificed horses, Dasaswamedh provides a beautiful and colorful riverfront view. While innumerable Sadhus perform religious rites here all through the day, you must not miss the Aarti in the evening. Thousands of diyas (earthen lamps) are immersed in the waters of the holy Ganges imparting a divine look to the river at dusk.
Harish Chandra Ghat
One of the oldest Ghats of Varanasi, Hindus from distant places bring the dead bodies of their near and dear ones for cremation here. For, here , a person is certain to get salvation or “mocha”.
The main cremation Ghat of Varanasi, here, the mortal remains are consigned to flames with the prayers that the souls rest in eternal peace. The sacred well called the Manikarnika Kund is said to be dug by Lord Vishnu himself.
It is believed that the Ramlila (story of Lord Rama’s life) from Tulsi Das, Ramcharitmanas was staged here for the first time. Many of his relics are preserved at the Tulsi Ghat. People come here for the bath of Lolarkkunda (to be blessed with sons and their long life) and the sacred bath to get rid of leprosy. It is also a center of cultural activities.
Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir
It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the city. Said to be one of the holiest spots, it is supposed to be the spot where Lord Shiva proved his supremacy. The temple remains the devotional focus of Varanasi.
Maharaja Banaras Vidya Mandir Museum, Ramnagar
Originally built by Maharaja Balwant Singh (1740-70 AD.) as Ramnager fort, it now houses the Banaras Vidya Mandir Museum. The museum collection mainly comprises of textiles, pieces of decorative arts, arms & armors, utilitarian objects, means of transport-old bagghis, palkis – furniture & manuscripts.
Unique shopping in Varanasi
A premier centre for some of the finest handicrafts it is renowned for its silk weaving. “Banarsi Sarees” produced by local craftsmen are among the most preferred across the world. It forms a part of every Indian bride’s wedding trousseau. Brassware, copperware, ivory ware, glass bangles, wood and clay toys and exquisite gold jewelry are some other famous crafts. The city is also famous for its hand – knotted carpets — Mirzapur and Bhadohi. Another specialty of the city is Betel leaves. These are generally eaten by locals in form of “Paan” with condiments rolled into it. The main shopping areas are confined to Chowk, Vishwanath Gali, Gadoulia and Dashwamedh Gali.
How to reach Varanasi
Varanasi is easily accessible from all parts of the country. Very well connected by road, rail and air, the City offers convenient and comfortable traveling options to and from other cities of India. The Babatpur airport is 22 km away and it is an important and major rail junction. Varanasi, is on NH2 from Calcutta to Delhi, NH7 to Kanya Kumari and NH29 to Gorakhpur and is connected to the rest of the country by good motorable, all – weather roads.
Do’s and Dont’s
- A trip Varanasi should include a boat ride in river Ganga.
- A side-trip to Sarnath is very desirable. It takes not more than few hours from your schedule.
- Beware of pick-pockets and touts.
- Always keep your hotel room locked when there or when out for sight seeing, shopping
- Take autorikshaws from pre paid kiosk wherever available. Otherwise settle the amount before embarking on the journey.