Things to See & Do in Varanasi

 

Varanasi, the name associates with a city, which is unrelenting chaotic, unapologetically careless yet the enchanting charm is hard to resist. The oldest living city, also known as Kashi, is a cauldron of Hindu’s culture. The seventh holy city is flocked by pilgrims to take a dip in the holy water of Ganges, where it is believed that a dip will wash away all sins. There is also a prevalent belief that if a Hindu is died in this city, he or she will attain Moksha (liberation from the eternal birth and death cycle). Such the authority of this city!

Varanasi is not a place for those who want to see heritage in beautiful attire. It is a place where the most intimate rituals of life and death perform in public sights. The aura of this oldest city always overwhelms people who come here for the first time. A walk along the numerous ghats or a boat ride on a tranquil Ganges is indeed a memorable experience. And not to mention the mysterious lanes and bylanes where even three people can’t walk side by side. These disorienting galis (lanes) are often too confusing to lose the path, but one will eventually end up a ghat.

History

Varanasi, also known as Kashi, is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. The city’s history dates back to around 1200 BC, but came to prominence in 8th Century AD when Shankaracharya, a saint, scholar and reformer of Hinduism, established Shiva worshop in Kashi. During the Muslim invasion around 1300 AD, most of the temples and houses were destroyed by Afghans and dropped the waste to nearby Sarnath. The most destructive Mughal emperor Aurangzeb looted and destroyed almost all the temples and turned this city into ruins.

Sights & Activities

Ghats – Varanasi is quintessentially a city of ghats. The steps near Ganges hold spirituality in a time warp and a fantastic sight to capture in the memory. Most of the ghats are used for bathing, but there are some ghats for cremation. The principle ghat is Manikarnika, which is often viewed some public burning and funeral processions. The most colourful of all is Dasaswamedh Ghat; it is a wonderful place to sit at calm and watch people. Every evening an elegant Ganga aarti is staged here.

The best time to visit ghat is at dawn when the whole atmosphere is soaked into a mellow light and pilgrim and sadhus come to ghats to pray.

Vishwanath Temple – Varanasi is sprinkled with temples, but the most illustrious one is Viswanath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple was built in 1776 by Ahalya Bai of Indore. The area is under high security and tourists must deposit cameras and mobiles phones in lockers before entering the alleyway.

Ramnagar Fort & Museum – This dilapidated but impressive fort was built in 17th century, located on the eastern bank of the Ganges. The fort houses an eclectic museum, displaying a wide variety of items from Vintage American cars to jewel-encrusted sedan chair.

River Trip – River trip along the Ganges is an experience not to be missed. Better if one can rowing early because the inspiring morning light and fantastic sights of pilgrims bathing and performing puja are like a motion picture before eyes.  Boats are available in most of the ghats. One can also hire a motorboat and trip to Ramnagar fort.

Learn Yoga & Music -The renowned one is Yoga Training Centre, running by yoga master Sunil Kumar. The training centre is in the 3rd floor of an old building near Meer Ghat.  One can learn Hatha yoga, Iyenger, Pranayama and Ashtanga.

Music classes are also prevalent in Varanasi where one can learn the basics of Hindustani classical music and various Indian instruments. Some of the names of music schools are: Ankit Music House, International Music Centre Ashram.

Shopping in Varanasi – Varanasi is famous of its silk brocades and saris. Beware of touts whose main objective is to rip you off. It is advisable to wander along with the shopping area and find good deal. Other than saris, Varanasi shopping is famous for ingeniously made toys, Bhadohi carpets, brass ornaments, perfumes and sitars.

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