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Varanasi – The Spiritual Capital Of India

Panoramic view of a ghat in Varanasi

Bengaluru, June 9 (UITV) -  Varanasi is a holy city located in the state of Uttar Pradesh on the bank of the river Ganges, the other popular names of the city are Kashi, Banaras, and Benaras. It is a major religious hub in India for Hinduism and Buddhism and is famous for temples and ghats and is known as the favorite city of Hindu God Lord Shiva. The city has more than 2000 temples and famous ghats on the bank of the river Ganga and this makes Varanasi the Spiritual Capital and Major Religious Hub of India. It is also believed that Buddha has founded Buddhism in Varanasi around 528 BCE. The place has a long history and the existence of humans and Hindu tradition here is believed to be ancient. American writer Mark Twain described Varanasi as “Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks as twice as old with all of them put together.”

It attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world, the important spots are ancient temples, Ganga ghats, and events like Ganga aarti in the evening. The city is related to Lord Shiva since ancient times and in the 8th century, Adi Shankara established a religious group from Varanasi to worship Lord Shiva. Varanasi is the birthplace of legends like Kabir Das and Ravidas, famous poet Tulsidas wrote ‘Ram Charit Manas’ a poem on Ram's life in Varanasi. Guru Nanak the founder of Sikh visited Varanasi in 1507 on the eve of Maha Shivaratri before founding the Sikhism.

Temples in Varanasi:

The temples in Varanasi were built by kings, saints, communities, and monasteries at different times throughout the history, and temples built in ancient times and modern times are found here. Varanasi is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism and is one of the oldest colonized cities in the world. During the rule of Aurangzeb in the 13th century, some historic temples were destroyed and mosques were built at that place. Below are the famous temples of different deities:

  • Shiva - Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Kaal Bhairav Mandir, Mrityunjay Mahadev Mandir, The New Vishwanath Mandir, Shri Tilbhandeshwar Mahadev Mandir, Nepali Mandir, Ratneshwar Mahadev temple.
  • Durga - Durga Kund Mandir, Sankata Devi Mandir.
  • Hanuman - Sankat Mochan Mandir.
  • Parvati - Annapurna Devi Mandir, Lalita Gauri Mandir, Vishalakshi Temple.
  • Vishnu - Adi Keshava temple, Manikarnika Ghat Vishnu temple.
  • Other temples -  Bharat Mata Mandir, Dhanvantari.

Ghats in Varanasi:

Ghat refers to a slope of steps leading down to a river and ghats in Varanasi lead steps towards the river Ganga. There are more than 85 plus ghats in Varanasi and are categorized into two namely bathing ghats and puja ceremony ghats. The burning of dead bodies is also carried out in the ghats. Most of the ghats were built under the Maratha rule in the 18th century. Boat ride in the morning is one of the major tourist attractions. As per ancient sources, there are 5 important ghats associated with the history of Varanasi that is located on the riverfront, they are Assi Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Panchganga Ghat, and Adi Keshav Ghat. Other popular ghats are Raj Ghat, Scindia Ghat, Maan-Mandir Ghat, Lalita Ghat, Jain Ghat, The Maan-Sarowar Ghat, Darbhanga Ghat, Tulsi Ghat.

Ganga Aarti in Varanasi:

Ganga aarti is a ritual of offering prayer to the river Ganga at the time of sunset. Aarti is performed by the orderly movement of lamps on the tune of bhajans and is carried out daily to worship the Goddess Ganga. The aarti is offered on the ghats by a group of priests along with the people. Dashashwamedh Ghat is the major ghat on the river Ganga and Ganga aarti is carried out daily here.

The city is also famous for education centers, many ancients poets and Hindu philosophers have emerged from the city. The Banaras Hindu University(BHU) is one of the largest residential universities is located here and is given the status of ‘Institute of National Importance’. There are several other private and Government colleges and universities located in Varanasi. The city has also played an important role in preserving Indian culture, tradition, Vedas, Yoga, Ayurveda, and Sanskrit language.

Nearby Places and Cities:

  • Sarnath - 40 km from Varanasi.
  • Allahabad - 121 km from Varanasi.
  • Khajuraho (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) - 392 km from Varanasi.
  • Ayodhya (A Sacred Hindu City) - 203 km from Varanasi.
  • Gorakhpur - 206 km from Varanasi.
  • Lucknow (The City Of Nawabs) - 320 km from Varanasi.
  • Agra (Pay Homage To Love) - 627 km from Varanasi.
  • Kushinagar (For The Buddhism Chants) - 240 km from Varanasi.
  • Bandhavgarh National Park (Day With The Tigers) - 349 km from Varanasi.

How To Reach Varanasi:

By Airways: Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport located 26 k away from the city. Various flights from major cities in the country and the world connect people to Varanasi.

By Railways: Varanasi Junction is the city’s railway station. More than 240 trains pass through this each day. Trains from Varanasi to every part of the state ply on a daily and weekly basis.

By Roadways: Varanasi is situated on the National Highway 19, NH28 connects Varanasi to India-Nepal border and NH31 connects Varanasi to Unnao.

By Shashikant Chaurasia