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Friday, August 15, 2008

Varanasi



Varanasi was known as Kashi in the ancient times and as Benaras more recently. The city is more than 3000 years old and is believed to be one of the oldest living cities in the world. It is much sacred to Hindus for centuries and according to Hindu mythology, those who die in Kashi gain instant salvation and freedom from the cycle of births and deaths. It is situated on the bank of the holy river Ganges, known as 'Ganga' in this region and its worshippers are said to be the upholders of the true Hinduism, who are known to keep the Hindu traditions and rituals alive. The city got the name 'Benaras' due to mis-pronunciation of 'Varanasi' by the British. The city is the house of one of the twelve famous 'Jyotirlingas'.

It is considered an important seat of learning and knowledge, especially when it comes to Hindi, Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy in its purest form. There are hundreds and thousands of temples in the city that can be seen every few steps and in every home along with a number of schools and colleges. Brahmins of Kashi who had the duty and privilege to be well versed in scriptures and spread their knowledge to the common people are the most venerated. Banaras Hindu University is still one of the best institutions of India and churns out some of the cream of the Indian society. Arts and crafts of Varanasi are famous too, especially the Benarasi silk sarees with broad brocade work done in gold and silver threads that are essential part of the Indian bridal trousseaus. Music and dance has also flourished well in the city.

Varanasi's Prime Attractions

Ghats of Varanasi The numerous Ghats of Varanasi on the banks of river Ganges come alive with the dawn as the river water assumes different hue of red, orange, gold and yellow at the different times of the day and thousands of devotees take the ceremonial dip in them, offering prayers to the sun and the river while standing waist-deep in the water. There are over all 85 bathing ghats in the city, the most notable being the Dashashwamedha Ghat and the Manikarnika Ghat, where it is said that there is continuous burning of dead bodies at all times.

Durga Temple The busiest temple of Varanasi, it is dedicated to Goddess Durga. The large rectangular tank called Durga Kund nearby has an idol of Goddess Durga seated on it and is believed to be the abode of Durga Devi, as stated in Puranas. It is said that she has lived here for centuries as the guardian deity of the city in the form of one of the warrior goddesses known as Chandikas.

Bharat MataTemple The unique temple is dedicated to 'Mother India' and is much more contemporary. The nationalists Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta and Sri Durga Prasad Khatri built it. The temple has one of the perfect relief maps of India, which has accurate scaling and is made in marble. Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated the temple.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple Kashi Vishwanath Temple or the Golden Temple is one of the twelve temples around the world that enshrine the famous 'Jyotirlinga' that symbolizes Lord Shiva and is known as Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha (meaning the God and Master of the World respectively). It is said that mere catching a glimpse ('darshan') of the idol grants benediction and spiritual peace to the deity. Its significance is even more enhanced as it is believed that a visit to this temple equals the gains of holy visits to all the other eleven 'jyotirlingas' combined. The present temple is said to be built by the Late Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780.


Tulsi Manas Temple Tulsi Manas Temple has modern construction with a 'Shikhara' typical to North Indian temple architecture. It was built in 1964, in marble and is dedicated to the great saint Tulsi Das who wrote the famous epic, 'Ram Charit Manas'. Tulsi is said to have lived here and wrote the verses here. He died in 1623. The movind statues depict scenes from the epic again and again on the second floor, which is the chief attraction here.

Annapurna Temple The temple complex has a small sanctum that enshrines the idol of Goddess Annapoorna (Goddess of Food). It was inaugurated in January 1977 and the famous Shankaracharya of Shringeri consecrated the idol. It is said that the devotes of the Goddess never suffer from starvation.

Manmandir The Somesvara ghat of Varanasi is now more known for housing the Manmandir Palace built by Raja Savai Man Singh of Amber in 1585. Windows of the palace have intricate carvings while there is a Hindu Observatory at the top floor, which was built by Raja Sawai Jai Singh II.

Bharat Kala Bhawan Bharat Kala Bhawan situated in the campus of Benaras Hindu University (BHU) is a museum that showcases the rich collection of Mughal miniature paintings, sculptures, contemporary art, bronze statues and brocade textiles belonging to the period of 1st to 15th centuries.


Banaras Hindu University Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya founded BHU as a centre for the study of Indian art, culture, music and Sanskrit and is one of the oldest educational centers in India. It has been known to play an important role in the independence movement and has evolved into the greatest center of learning in India and has produced many eminent freedom fighters, scholars, artists, scientists and technologists. It sprawls across 1300 acres and has good roads and lots of greenery in its campus. The university is a small city in itself and has its own temple, airstrip, Bharat Kala Museum, hospital, large playgrounds, a massive auditorium, a flying club and many other facilities.


Varanasi City Facts


Location: Situated in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Climate: Tropical climate with hot summers, highly humid monsoons and pleasant winters with misty mornings.


How to Reach:


By Air: Nearest airport is the Babatpur Airport, 22 km from the city, with daily flights to and from Agra, Bhuvaneshwar, Calcutta, Delhi, Khajuraho, Mumbai and Lucknow.
By Train: Varanasi is an important and major rail junction and trains connect it to all the major cities of India including Delhi and Mumbai.
By Road: Smooth good road network and National Highways connect Varanasi to and from Calcutta, Delhi, Kanya Kumari and Gorakhpur.

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