Top 10 Places to visit in Varanasi: Varanasi or Banaras or Kashi is the spiritual capital of India. It is one of the districts of the state of Uttar Pradesh and is located on the banks of River Ganga. The name ‘VARANASI’ is linked to the two Ganges tributaries Varuna (north) and Assi (south). The essence of the city is its historicity and cultural significance. It is one of the 7 sacred places in India. Being born in Varanasi, these are some of my favourite places. Let me introduce you to them-
Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple
A jyotirlinga site dedicated to Vishwanath, a manifestation of Lord Shiva. The site has seen many demolitions and constructions over time and the current structure is the fruit of the efforts of the Maratha ruler, Ahilya Bai Holkar in 1780. The inner sanctum houses the jyotirlinga. One of the highlighted features of the temple is the Gold dome, hence the name the Golden Temple. Of the 51 shakti peethas in the Hindu religion, Manikarnika Ghat near the Vishwanath temple is of great significance. It is considered to be the gateway to one’s Salvation/Moksha.
There are a total of 88 Ghats in the city. Some of the most revered are the Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat (as mentioned above), Assi Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat, Rajendraprasad Ghat, etc. The most magical experience that one can get is at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. The dusk is the witness to the magnificent Ganga Aarti at the ghat which occurs daily and is a spectacle for tons of people. It generates an ambience of harmony and spirituality.
The Assi Ghat is a great attraction for pilgrims from all over the country for a dip in the Holy river. Some of the Ghats have significance because of the stories associated with them in the Puranas, for example, harishchandra ghat. The Rajendra Prasad Ghat finds its mention because it was named after the first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad in 1979. It is known for hosting several cultural programs like Ganga Mahotsav.
Taking a tour of Varanasi? then this site cannot be a miss! One of the sacred Buddhist sites is located in suburban Varanasi. It is of significance both historically and religiously. This is where Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon marking the event of Dhammachakrapravartana. It is a pilgrimage centre for people all around the world. The Dhamek stupa at Sarnath is where he gave his sermon. Sarnath is also famous because King Ashoka built the Lion Capital, officially adopted as the National Emblem of India.
Around 1 km from Sarnath is Singhpur, an important pilgrimage for the Jains. It is because the eleventh Tirthankara, Shreyansanath was born here. Some of the prominent places at Sarnath are Dharma Chakra Jina Vihar, Dharmarajika Stupa, Chaukhandi Stupa, Digamabar Jain Mandir and Sarnath Archaeological Museum. It is one of the most popular tourist spot for both Indians and Foreigners. The best time to visit the site is in the winters for its pleasant and mild while the summers are hot and sweaty.
Sankat Mochan Temple
With Lord Hanuman as its chief deity, this temple is one of the oldest in the city. The term ‘Sankat Mochan’ refers to one who removes all the toils and troubles. It was Tulsidas who established the temple on the banks of the Assi river. Some days of the week in particular like Tuesday and Thursday witness a swarm of people in queues to offer their prayers. The devotees also get to relish the sweet ‘besan ka laddoo offered as prasad.
Kaal Bhairav Temple
One of the oldest Shiva temples in Varanasi. The temple is the abode of Bhairav, a fierce form of Shiva. He is the Kotwal of Kashi, the protector of his disciples. The temple is highly auspicious and is witness to thousands of devotees daily. The Temple has a peaceful aura and serenity attached to it.
Batuk Bhairav Temple
The temple worships Batuk Bhairav, a child form of Lord Shiva. Mythological stories suggest Lord Shiva took this form to calm his consort Goddess Kali. The child manifestation evoked motherly affection in her and she calmed down. The humbleness of the deity is the beauty of the temple. He blesses his devotees with prosperity and happiness.
Tulsi Manas Mandir
The temple has a historical significance. Saint Tulsidas is said to have completed the Ramcharitamanas at this place in the 16th century. The Highlight of this temple is the marble carvings and paintings of scenes of Ramayana all over the temple.
Durga Kund Temple
It is the abode of Goddess Durga. She came to save Varanasi in time of need. The architecture of the temple is in Nagara style. It also encloses a pond known as Durga Kund. An interesting thing for the visitors is that this temple worships not the statue of Goddess Durga but her face and feet.
It is located opposite Tulsi Ghat near the Ganga River. It was built in 1750 by Kashi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh. The architecture of the fort resembles the Mughal style. The location has an aesthetically pleasing view. Even today the king of Kasi resides in the building. The fort lights up during the Ramlila festival in October. The scenic beauty is apt for film shootings as well.
Banaras Hindu University
The Banaras Hindu University complex is not only an academic highlight but also a historical structure. The university was founded in 1916 by Madan Mohan Malviya in the presence of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a national university which attracts students from all over India and abroad. It’s an architectural delight. The complex also houses a temple, New Vishwanath temple.
These were some of the holy places in Varanasi that are worth visiting. It’s not just for those who are spiritual or religious by nature but also for admirers of varied cultures and traditions and architectural aesthetics. There is a sense of peace and tranquillity that gushes through the atmosphere which automatically unveils the purity of one’s soul.