Varanasi or Banaras is one of the oldest cities of India located on the western bank of the river Ganga in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh(U.P). It is also known as Kashi or the “City of Spiritual Light”. It is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage places for the Hindus preserving the oldest tradition and philosophy of Hindu religion. Numerous sacred ghats along the banks of the river Ganges, Ashrams(spiritual schools) and a number of ancient temples are the major sources of tourist attractions of this place. This eternal city is an important centre of learning from the very ancient time and can be seen from the present Banaras Hindu University(BHU), one of the oldest in India.
Pilgrimage Shrines :
Various ancient temples and ghats are the major pilgrimage attractions in this place. Some notable ones are :
Kashi Vishwanath Temple - Dedicated to lord Shiva, the ancient temple of kashi Vishwanath was built by Maharani Ahalya Bai in 1780. It later underwent structural changes with the addition and renovation under different rulers during late 18th and early 19th century. The main attraction of the temple is the gold plated domes, which were covered by the gold donated by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Now it is under the Ministry of Cultures and Religious Affairs of U.P. Govt. The temple is open daily to people of all caste and creed.
Ghats - There are around 100 ghats along the river Ganges used generally for bathing. Pilgrims also perform various rituals, meditations and yogas on these ghats. There are also some burning ghats where bodies are cremated.
Bharata Mata Temple - Dedicated to Mother India, this temple was built by Babu Shiv Prasad in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth. The temple houses a marble statue of Mother India and was inaugurated in the year 1936 by the 'Father of the
Nation' Mahatma Gandhi himself.
Durga Temple - The 8th century built temple dedicated to Goddess Durga- the female power is one of the most important temple in Varanasi. Built in Nagara Style architecture with an ornamented shikhara, various carved columns and a courtyard. Non Hindus are not allowed to the inner side of the temple.
Tulsi Manas Temple - Built in 1964, the temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is belived that this is the place where the great medieval seer Tulsidas had written the great epic “Shri Ramacharitmanas”. The carved walls of the temple depict various
scenes from this great epic.
Other Attractions :
Banaras Hindu University(BHU) - Founded by Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya, it is one of the oldest educational centres of India. It is probably the most important educational centre to study the great Indian Art, culture, music and Sanskrit. The Bharat Kala Bhawan Museum inside the university complex has a fine collections of miniature paintings, sculptures, old coins, old
photographs, manuscripts and several rare historical artifacts.
Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies - Established by Dalai Lama in 1971, the institute provides education in Tibetan language. The institute has a rare collection of Buddhist texts and manuscripts.
Getting to Varanasi :
By Air - The city has its own airport(Babatpur Airport) at a distance of 22 km from the city centre. It is connected to Delhi, Agra, Khajuraho, Kolkata, Mumbai, Lucknow and Bhubaneswar.
By Rail - The two railway stations the Kashi Junction and Varanasi Cantt. Junction are connected to most of the major tourist destinations of India.
By Road - A good motorable road network links the city with all important towns of Uttar Pradesh and surrounding areas. Some major road distances are: Agra(565km), Allahbad(128km), Kanpur(330), Khajuraho(405km), Lucknow(286km). Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation(UPSRTC) has bus services to all these places.
Local Transport - Taxis, auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available for travelling within the city.