Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old with all of them put together" - so said Mark Twain of Varanasi. Indeed with its pre historicity, its world famous river ghats, its temples and its lovely saris, it is a must visit for anyone interested in a true blue India experience. Trips to India are surely not complete if the itinerary doesn't include Tours to Varanasi.
Flanked by the River Ganges, this city has a quintessential charm that lures not just the religious minded to consider Tours to Varanasi but also the common tourists to visit it at least once in their lifetime. Also popular by the names of Benaras and Kashi, Varanasi is of tremendous religious importance to the Hindus. It is believed that if one dies here he or she will be liberated from the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth.
Best known for its narrow winding lanes, its numerous temples and its ghats that are the centers of a lot of religious activities, Varanasi is akin to Jerusalem and Mecca and features amongst the top holy places in the world. Varanasi owes its essence to the River Ganges.
From dawn to dusk, the banks of the river are frequented by a large number of pilgrims. These ghats bustle with a whole lot of activities performed by them. The devotees take a dip in the sacred river, perform various religious rites, collect water in pots to take back home for different rituals, seek blessings of the sadhus and sanyasis and then return.
Places to Visit
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
It is said that the original Vishwanath Temple was located just opposite the road on which the present temple now stands. It was built more than 1000 years back. Unfortunately that temple was destroyed as a result of the invasions of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the year 1669. The present temple was built in 1778 by Maharani Ahalya Bai Holkar of Indore. Much later in the year 1839, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab donated 1000 kg of gold and that was used for gold plating the domes of the temple. It is for its golden spires that the temple is also referred to as the Golden Temple.
Kanak Bhavan Temple, Ayodhya:
Popularly called Kanak Sone ki Mandir, the Kanak Bhawan Mandir, Ayodhya gets its name from the richly ornamented idols of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita. Kanak in Hindi means gold. The idols of Rama and Sita have been decorated with a large amount of gold ornaments. It looks gorgeous to see the duo in the golden throne bedecked with gold ornaments. The Kanak Bhawan Temple is of special attraction for the people of India as well as for the foreigners. The mesmerizing sunrise and the thrilling sunset from the spot where the temple is located is a beautiful sight. Spectators are highly elated if they get an opportunity to capture it in their camera film.
Bharat Mata Temple
Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta and Shri Durga Prasad Khatri are credited with the construction of the Bharat Mata Temple, the former was a nationalist leader and the latter a reputed numismatist and antiquarian. It struck them that Benaras or Kashi (the other two names by which Varanasi is known) is home to many temples and mosques. But there is no such edifice in this cultural capital of the country which would stand as a fine symbol of the spirit of nationalism and secularism. So they hit upon this novel idea of a temple where the country would be worshipped, where there would be no customary Gods and Goddesses and which would have no religious association.
Tulsi Manas Temple
This temple is a very modern temple built only recently in the year 1964. The ancient Indian epic Ramayana was largely beyond the understanding of the common people of the country because it was written in Sanskrit, a language in which only a learned few were versed. Goswami Tulsi Das took upon himself the responsibility of translating the Ramayana into Hindi. This would considerably reduce the number of people who were being deprived of such a fantastic literary work. He composed his Ram Charit Manas at this very spot in Varanasi or Kashi.
Varanasi is a place highly revered by the Shaivite Hindus. The general trend noticed is that Durga Temples are a rare find in regions which has many followers of Lord Shiva. This is why it is indeed quite surprising to find a Durga Temple in a place like Varanasi reputed for being a Shaivite stronghold. Anyways the temple was constructed by a Bengali Maharani. It was built in the 18th century. Even though she is credited with the construction of the temple, the deity that is enshrined within the temple was not established by her. According to popular legend, Durga herself appeared in this temple at Benaras (the other name by which Varanasi is known), India.