Varansi India

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Varansi India Guide

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Vanarsi Ghat
Facts & Figures :
Area : 104.82 sq km
Population : 1,057,972
Languages : Hindi & English
Best time to visit : October to March
STD Code : 0542
Literacy : 51.4%


VARANASI LOCATION....
Varanasi (also Benaras) is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and extends latitude 25°20' N and longitude 83°00' E. Sandwiched between the rivers Varuna and Ashi as they join the Ganges, Varanasi takes its name from its location. It is also called Kashi, the city of light, but the British, in an endeavor to simplify matters, had coined their own name for the place—Benaras. For a relatively short period, while under Mughal rule, Varanasi was also known as Muhammadabad.

Modern-day Varanasi is situated along the west bank of the Ganges (also Ganga) and extends into a myriad collection of narrow lanes that form an integral part of it. The city winds itself around these vines of communication, stretching from one ghat to the other.

CHENNAI HISTORY....
Almost midway in its long journey from the slopes of the mighty Himalayas to the inflamed shore of Bay of Bengal, the muddy waters of the Ganges flow by a city that is five centuries older than Christ. The city finds mention in the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. It was already an old city when Rome was founded, and was a flourishing center of trade when Buddha came to Sarnath, some 10 km away, to preach his first sermon in 500 bc. It is a city of temples and for more than 2,500 years, it has attracted pilgrims from near and far. According to Hindu belief, Benaras or Varanasi as it is known, is the cosmic center of the Universe. The renowned American novelist Mark Twain once wrote, "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together."

Down the ages, Varanasi has stood as a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Swathed in an aura of history, religion, and tradition, Varanasi preserved the rituals and traditions of Hindu philosophy. From a time stretching beyond human memory, pilgrims from distant lands have come to Varanasi in search of divine blessings.

CLIMATE....
Because of its proximity to the Tropic of Cancer, Varanasi enjoys a pleasant winter with a daytime temperature of around 20°C. The temperature can touch a low of around 10°C in late December and January with heavy fog in the early part of the day. October–November and February–March are usually comfortable and sunny.

The summer season is, however, harsh in Varanasi. Beginning in April and continuing through June, it is extremely dry and daytime temperatures often climb up to as high as 45°C.

The monsoon season, which starts by late June or early July, brings torrential rains and high humidity to the city. By late September, however, the weather returns to a comfortable level.

SITES TO VISIT IN CHENNAI.....
The numerous ghats along the bank of the Ganges present a varied scene from dawn to dusk. A ghat is a series of well-paved steps that lead to the water. A ghat in Varanasi usually has small temples built into its side, while the larger structures, housing the powerful gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon, form a formidable backdrop to the serene beauty of the meandering river. These ghats numbering more than a hundred, with their entourage of temples, form the axis on which the city developed. For centuries, the Hindus considered it very auspicious to bathe at the ghats of Varanasi. Everyday at dawn thousands of pilgrims can be seen offering salutations to the Sun God in waist-deep water, secure in their conviction that the muddy waters of the Ganges will wash away all the accumulated sins of their life. The oil lamps (diyas) and flowers set afloat on the river at dusk make a fascinating sight.

There are five important ghats in Varanasi where the pilgrims flock to take a bath—the Assi, Dasawamedha, Barnasangam, Panchganga, and Manikarnika. Each ghat has its own history and its own following. Many of the ghats were built and owned by the royal families of India; the Maharaja of Benaras built the Kali (or Sivala) Ghat, Maharaja Man Singh built the Mansarovar Ghat, while Ahilyabai Ghat is named after that legendary Queen Ahilyabai of Indore.
The best time to visit the ghats is at the break of dawn, when pilgrims perform the Surya Pranam immersed waist deep in the waters of the holy Ganges.

The best way to catch the essence of Varanasi is to travel down the Ganges by boat at six o’clock in the morning. Boats can be hired by the hour from the main steps of the Dasawamedha Ghat. The steady creek of ancient oars, the slap of wet garments, incessant chatter of the bathers amid a tinkling of scattered temple bells, watching Varanasi from the environs of a gently swaying boat is truly an experience worth treasuring.

Although Varanasi is famous as a Hindu pilgrimage center, one cannot ignore its distinct Muslim heritage. The powerful Sultans of Delhi and later the emperors of the Mughal dynasty were instrumental in constructing several mosques, and this predominantly Hindu city gradually attained a degree of cosmopolitanism. Aurangzeb, the last of the mighty Mughals, hastened this process of evolution and the mosques that he built still stand today. The great mosque of Varanasi, Gyanvyapi Masjid, has minarets towering 71 m above the Ganges and is an integral part of the city's skyline.

There is also the Golden Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple today sits across the road from its original site. The present temple was built in 1776 by Rani Ahilyabai, while three and a quarter ton of gold plating on the towers were provided by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore. Next to the temple is the Well of Knowledge, where, as legend goes, the original Shiva lingam lies hidden.

There is another temple in this holy city—a temple dedicated not to the gods, but to Mother India. The Bharat Mata temple, as it is known, does not have idols or images of gods and goddesses: what it has is a marble relief map of Independent India. The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, inaugurated the temple.

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Boat
Benaras Hindu University is the largest residential university in Asia, a center of Sanskrit, Indian art, culture, and music. This university covers an area of 2000 acres, and was gifted by the king of Varanasi, a scholar of Sanskrit and Hindu philosopher himself. The university is around 10 km from the railway station.

Of the numerous temples that dot this ancient city, the important ones are the Durga Temple, Tulsi Manas Mandir, Vinayaka Temple, Annapurna Temple, Kal Bhairav, Jateshwar Mahadeo, and Maha Mritunjaya Temple.

SHOPPING IN VARANASI....
The rustle of silk, the sheen of pure gold, the magical weave, and the gentle tugs on sitar strings—the shopping experience at Varanasi transcends time and space. Magical and mystical as the holy city itself, even shopping here is done with reverence to the exquisite craft and the craftsmen.

Benarasi silks and brocades are famous all over India. Brides resplendent in silken wonders from Varanasi are only some from a multitude who have Benarasi shopping to sport and show-off. Besides intricate and expensive wedding silks, Varanasi also boasts of fine silk with very little dazzle of gold. However, silken saris are not the only shopping to be done here. Rich brocades are part of an ancient weaving tradition. Yards and yards of plain and printed silks and brocades adorn the shop windows and racks. A shopping experience that is unique to Varanasi alone is the Saree Satti of Kunj Gali. In this street, silk and brocade saris are actually auctioned. Primarily a wholesale outlet, individual buyers too are served with the same aplomb and style by these commission agents.

For those with a musical bent, the city of music maestros like Ravi Shankar and Ustad Bismillah Khan boasts of skillfully designed sitars (a stringed musical instrument). A city with a long history of music, Varanasi also offers various other musical instruments to the tourists—tabla, pakhawaj, shehnai, to name a few.

VARANASI FESTIVAL....
The festive magic never ends in Varanasi. If Poornima cleanses, Maha Shivratri blesses. If Holika-Dahan is a celebration, Dhrupad Mela is a revelation…. One does not require making his itinerary according to the dates and months of the festivals. One can come and enjoy the festive season anytime of the year here.

WHERE TO STAY....
Accommodation is not a problem in Varanasi. Hotels ranging from high-end to economy class are all available. Many of them have magnificent views of the Ganges in exclusive suites.

HOW TO REACH VARANASI.....
Varanasi is well connected by air to several cities in India. It is on the popular daily tourist service Delhi–Agra–Khajuraho–Varanasi route.

Varanasi has two railway stations—Kashi and Varanasi Junction (also Cantonment Station). The Rajdhani Express from Delhi or from Calcutta is your best bet to reach Varanasi in 8–9 hours. Even though there are not many trains running directly between Delhi and Varanasi, most Delhi–Calcutta trains pass through Mughalsarai, which is 10 km south of Varanasi. For local transport, city buses, taxis, and auto-rickshaws are available.





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