Varanasi or Kashi was already old when Rome was founded, a flourishing trading centre in 500 B.C when Buddha came to Sarnath to preach his first sermon. An ancient city, its sense of the archaic is alive; it holds a millennium of civilisation. The outer facade has changed, but the city and its voice are authentic.
The antiquity of Varanasi is veiled in immortal time. An `eternal' city, it abounds with a rich and vibrant past. Varanasi has been the religious capital of Hinduism since times immemorial. It is one of the foremost `tirthas' (place of pilgrimage).
Varanasi, as the legend goes was created by Shiva, the cosmic Lord. It figures prominently in the epic Mahabharat. Written records of the Skanda Purana and the Mahabharta mention its existence as long as 3000 years ago.
Varanasi has been a great centre for learning and civilization and is sacred to the Hindus. It has an endearing universal mystique which has to be experienced to be understood.
More on Uttar Pradesh|
Agra: City of Taj Mahal
Dudhwa National Park
Varanasi's original name Kashi, is said to have been derived from the word `Kasha' meaning bright which defines its significance as the `city of light' or its spiritual luminance. The present name is believed to be a combination of Varuna and Asi, the two rivers on its northern and southern periphery. Banaras, as it is popularly known, is only a corruption of the name by an ever changing culture.
The wealth of Varanasi and its religious significance were also its bette-noir. Its past is replete with hoary tales of plunder and destruction by conquerors and religious zealots. But such is the invigorating strength of the holy waters of the Ganges, that Varanasi refused to die.
There is no Indian attraction like Varanasi. There are no architectural splendours, no exquisitely carved palaces or impregnable forts, and yet the city has an inherent charm. Situated on the west bank of the Ganges, it extends back from the riverbank ghats to a winding maze of picturesque alleys overlooking tall houses alongside, dotted with temples. It is a fascinating area to wander around.
Varanasi's principal attraction is a long string of bathing ghats which line the river. Pilgrims of all castes and creeds make their sin cleansing dip in atonement. The best time to visit the Ghats is at dawn, where pilgrims come for their early morning dip. The city comes alive with magical lights, the keen scent of spices, incence, aromatic oils and crushed flowers. The air reverberates with chanting of mantras and jangling bells alongwith cries of vendors.
Varanasi today, is also a centre of education, art and craft. The city has given birth to many academician, musicians and artists of world acclaim. As a centre of art and craft it has a vast repertoire, right from silver, brass, copper artifacts to perfumeries and trinkets.
However, Varanasi is most reputed for its silk brocade sarees and carpets. The Banarasi saree is more than a garment, it is sheer poetry in five yards of silk that comes to life with zari brocading in gold and silver and fine metal wires.
The Ghats :
Other special ghats are the Asi, Barnasangam, Panchganga and Manikarnika, Ghats.
Bhawan is one India's finest museums. It houses a superb collection of Indian miniatures, sculptures and terracotta.
Other places of Interest:
Gyan Vapi Mosque - Constructed in the 17th century by Emperor Aurangazeb on the ruins of a temple.
Banaras Hindu University - Probably the largest residential university in Asia. Other places on interest Annapurna Temple, Manmandir, and Alamgir Mosque.
Later, Ashoka, the great Mauryan Emperor erected magnificent stupas and other buildings alongwith his mighty stone pillar, Dharmarajika Stupa. The 110 ft. tall Damekh Stupa marks the place where Buddha preached first sermon. Closeby Jain Temple was built in the honour of Sriyansanth. Malgandhu Kuti Vihar is another famous place to visit.
Sarnath has been a premier centre for Buddhism, second only in importance to Bodh Gaya.
Buddh Purnima - Sarnath:
The Ramlila :
Hanumat Jayanthi :
Dhrupad Mela :
Panch Koshi Parikrama:
Main Shopping Centres: