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Varanasi, also known as Benares, Banaras, or Kashi, is a city on the banks of the river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, India, 320 kilometres south-east of the state capital, Lucknow, and 121 kilometres east of Allahabad. A major religious hub in India, it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism and Ravidassia. Nickname of Varanasi is “The spiritual capital of India”.Varanasi lies along National Highway 2 and is served by Varanasi Junction railway station and Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport.

Varanasi grew as an important industrial centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BCE when he gave his first sermon, “The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma”, at nearby Sarnath. The city’s religious importance continued to grow in the 8th century, when Adi Shankara established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi. During the Muslim rule through the Middle Ages, the city continued as an important centre of Hindu devotion, pilgrimage, mysticism and poetry which further contributed to its reputation as a centre of cultural importance and religious education. Tulsidas wrote his epic poem on Rama’s life called Ram Charit Manas in Varanasi. Several other major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including Kabir and Ravidas. Guru Nanak visited Varanasi for Maha Shivaratri in 1507, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism.

Varanasi has been a cultural centre of northern India for several thousand years, and is closely associated with the Ganges. Hindus believe that dying here and getting cremated along the banks of the “holy” Ganges river allows one to break the cycle of rebirth and attain salvation, making it a major center for pilgrimage. The city is known worldwide for its many ghats, embankments made in steps of stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions. Of particular note are the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the Panchganga Ghat, the Manikarnika Ghat and the Harishchandra Ghat, the last two being where Hindus cremate their dead and the Hindu genealogy registers at Varanasi are kept here.

Climate of Varanasi

Varanasi has a humid subtropical climate with the great fluctuations in the summer (around 22°C to 46°C with hot dry winds) and winter (about 5 °C with deep fog). The rainfall in Varanasi is normal which is around 1,110 mm annually.

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Transport in Varanasi

Whether it is road line, railway line or airline Varanasi has very convenient transports. For railways the stoppage is at Varanasi junction or Varanasi Cantt Railway Station and Manduadih Railway station. Airport of Varanasi is Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport or Babatpur Airport. In Varanasi 24 hrs transport facility is available.

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Temples in Varanasi

Kashi Vishwanath Temple

Varanasi- Kashi Vishwanath Temple

Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most ancient temples and a marvel to must have if someone visits Varanasi. Kashi Vishwanath temple is also known as the Golden temple because its gold plated structure of tower in Varanasi. This Golden temple is dedicated to the Lord Shiva who is the most adored deity of Varanasi, known as Kashi in ancient times. Kashi Vishwanath temple was constructed in the year 1780 by the proud Maratha ruler, Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, Madhya Pradesh.The Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh, donated gold to plate two mighty towers of Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Birla Temple

Birla Temple is located in the Banaras Hindu University, campus in Varanasi and is known as the Birla Temple because it is built by the Birla Group of Industries as part of the CSR. The foundation of the temple was laid by the Raja Birla of the Birla family of industrialists. It was planned by the Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya, the founder of the Banaras Hindu University, as part of the Banaras Hindu University campus to provide a space for inspiration to those who believe in divinity of god.

Sankata Temple

Sankatha Temple, dedicated to ‘Goddess Sankatha’ or ‘Goddess of Remedy’, is located at Sankata Ghat in Varanasi . There is an idol of Goddess Sankata in temple which is four armed like many other deities of Indian pantheon.

Durga Temple

Varanasi- Durga Temple

Durga Temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga who is represented as sitting on a Tiger or Lion with sword, shield, trident etc. in her eight hands.

Kaal Bhairav Temple

Varanasi- Kaal Bhairav Temple

It is one of the most ancient temples of Varanasi, perhaps as old as Varanasi City itself.

Kaal Bhairav is the God of Immortality, which a fantasy for the real world. It is believed that he had conquered death or ‘Kala’.

Winning death and worshipping god who has conquered death is a practice to be eternal, immortal, relieve from suffering and pain and final deliverance.

Markandey Mahadev Temple

Varanasi- Markandey Mahadev Temple

‘Maha’ meaning ‘Great’ and ‘Deva’ meaning ‘Lord’ is often synonymous of Lord Shiva. Markandey was the name of the divine boy who was born to a couple by blessings of Lord Shiva.

But in General it is considered that Markandey was the incarnation of Lord Shiva. He is also considered as a sage who composed Maha mrityunjaya Mantra or hymn. The hymn is popularly chanted in all rituals of Hindus. It is believed that Maha mrityunjaya mantra makes one free from fear of death.

Mrityunjay Mahadev Temple

This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and located on the way from Daranagar to Kaal bhairav temple in Varanasi. There is an ancient well which has much religious importance and it is believed that its water is curable to several diseases and existence of well is huge attraction of devotees as everyone wants to get free of diseases.

Sankat Mochan Temple

‘Sankat’ translates to ‘danger’ and ‘Mochan’ meaning ‘remover,’ thus the SankatMochan Temple is dedicated to the Lord Hanuman who is considered to be the remover of dangers of devotees. The temple is located in southern part of Varanasi. It was built by Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya who is also credited to have planned Banaras Hindu University and Birla temples.

Adi Keshava Temple

Adi Keshava is one of 24 incarnations of Lord Vishnu as considered in Indian mythology.The Adi KesavaTemple is located where the River Varuna pours into the River Ganges thus making a confluence. The river-side is known as Adi Keshava Ghat or now called Raj Ghat.

Annapurna Temple

Varanasi- Annapurna Temple

Annapurna meaning who gives complete food. As the name indicates, the Annapurna temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Food.

Food is a part of human survival and so the creation of a Goddess to worship is human attempt to be free from the fear of food scarcity. Annapurna Temple is said to keep Varanasi City free of Food Crisis.

Til Bhandeshwar Temple

Varanasi- Til Bhandeshwar Temple

Til Bhandeshwar Temple is one of the most loved and oldest temples of the Varanasi city.

It exhibits a unique culture.It has assimilated Malayali and Hindu cultures in its broad fold. The temple has Shivalingam in the Garbhagriha. Like many other temples of the world’s oldest living city of Varanasi, the temple has surfaced itself and hence called Swyambhu, translates to appeared itself.

Vyasa Temple

Varanasi- Vyasa Temple

Sage Vyasa is highly regarded as an intellectual who gave this world an extraordinary composition of literature. It is said that Sage Vyasa was forcefully evicted from Varanasi or old Kashi by Lord Shiva and was never allowed to enter into the city again. This Lord Shiva did in a fit of anger, for which he is well known. Later, Sage Vyasa stayed there on opposite side of River Ganges, now called Ramnagar. He made there a hut and composed epic Mahabharata, the longest epic of the world. The place where Sage stayed, worshipped, meditated and composed Mahabharata is constructed into a temple to pay tribute to the legendary Sage Vyasa.

Vishalakshi Temple

Varanasi- Vishalakshi Mandir

Vishalakshi Temple is dedicated to Goddess Vishalakshi who is the main deity of this temple. Vishalakshi is derived from Sanskrita words; Vishal meaning wide and akshi meaning eyes and given to describe one who has wide eyes. Vishalakshi is one of the many incarnations of the Goddess Parvati, the better half of Lord Shiva. Vishalakshi temple is also known as Vishalakshi Gauri Temple. The temple is located on the Meer Ghat of the River Ganges. This temple is considered to be one of the Shakti Pithas established throughout India. Shakti Pitha translates to Post of Power and here it refers to the authority of the Divine Goddess of Power.

Tulsi Manas Temple

Varanasi- Tulsi Manas Mandir

Tulsi Manas Temple has a very historical as well as cultural importance for not only Varanasi but also for the whole of India. This is precisely because the place is connected to an event that still rules the Indian Psyche. The famous Hindu Epic of Ramayana was composed at this very place. Goswami Tulsi Das was the man who composed Ramayana in Hindi in the form of “Ram Charit Manas”. Prior to that, Ramayana was only available in Sanskrit and that is why it was out of the reach of general masses.

Bharat Mata Temple

Varanasi- Bharat Mata Temple

The Bharat Mata temple at Varanasi is the only temple dedicated to Mother India. It is located in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus near railway station. 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.

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Famous Landmarks in and around Varanasi

Dashashwamedh Ghat
Manikarnika Ghat
Assi Ghat
Manikarnika Ghat
Panchganga Ghat
Ramnagar Fort
Gyan Vapi Well
Bharat Mata Temple
Durga Temple
Buddhist Temple

Main Markets of Varanasi

Vishwanath Gali  or Lane
Thatheri Bazaar

Not to miss when in Varanasi

Kashi Vishwanath Temple Darshan
4:00 AM to 11:00 AM
1:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Ganga Aarti
Summer- 7:00 PM to 8:00PM
Winter- 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Puris & Kachoris (puris with flavoured flour and spices) served with potato and tomato gravy.
Bati Chokha
Varanasi- Baati Chokha

Banarasi Paan
Varanasi- Banarasi Flavoured PaanYou might remember famous Bollywood song, “khaike Paan Banaras wallah” from the movie Don starring Amitabh Bachhan as Don and singing the song . Such is the fame of Banarasi Paan that it has attracted cinema too.
Banarasi Paan is almost same as other Paan of any other part of India. But the process of making, way of service and creativity to shape Paan in different sizes and shapes is remarkable and makes Banarasi Paan distinct from other Paans.
Banaras has unknown tradition of Paan being served and prepared in each and every corner of street. There is no gali in Varanasi where you couldn’t find Paan. These Paan serving and offerings have great traditions from ancient times. Paan is a Hindi word for Betel leaves laced with areca nut and Pickling Lime. People eat this Paan because of its remarkable taste and fragrance.

Silk Weaving in Varanasi

Varanasi is well known all over India for its production of fine silk and Banarasi saris. Silk weaving industry is dominant in Varanasi. A number of Muslims called as Momin Ansari Muslims are involved in the manufacturing industry. Due to its intricate design and finest silk the Banarasi saris are used on wedding and some other special occasions. Ansari is the name given to the Muslims who belong to a weaver community. Ansari means “helper” in Arabic. Weaving is generally done in the household. From generations they are working in the weaving industry. It’s an art, it’s a culture, it’s a heritage product but it’s a dying art.

Banarasi Saree

Banarasi Sarees are fine and comfortable fabrics embroidered exquisitely.Varanasi is famous for brocade sarees and dress material. These sarees have a history of over thousand years and are in great demand all over world.It also finds mention in Kautilya’s Arthshastra and in account of many foreign scripts. Heavy embroidery blended with fine gold and silver brocades makes these sarees a thing of wonder and it is also a representation of aristocratic lifestyle because of its high cost.
Banarasi Saree is an Indian woman’s coveted possession. For a long time Banarasi Saree has been an important part of the Indian bride wardrobe and rarely fails to flatter a woman, making her feel delicate and feminine. The Banarasi sari speaks volumes of the genius of the traditional weaver.
Sarees are generally woven on hand loom or power-loom in nearby villages of Varanasi with the help of weavers of Varanasi. Its heavy embroidery blended with fine gold and silver brocades makes these sarees a distinction.