Facts & Figures :
VARANASI LOCATION.... V
||104.82 sq km
||Hindi & English
|Best time to visit
||October to March
(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 placeBenaras. For a relatively short period, while under
Mughal rule, Varanasi was also known as Muhammadabad.
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. OctoberNovember and
FebruaryMarch are usually comfortable and sunny.
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.....
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
There are five important ghats in Varanasi
where the pilgrims flock to take a baththe 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
oclock 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 citya 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.
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.
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
The rustle of silk, the sheen of pure gold, the
magical weave, and the gentle tugs on sitar stringsthe 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
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 touriststabla, pakhawaj, shehnai, to name a few.
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....
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.....
is well connected by air to several cities in India. It is on the popular
daily tourist service DelhiAgraKhajurahoVaranasi route.
Varanasi has two railway stationsKashi and Varanasi Junction
(also Cantonment Station). The Rajdhani Express from Delhi or from Calcutta
is your best bet to reach Varanasi in 89 hours. Even though there are
not many trains running directly between Delhi and Varanasi, most DelhiCalcutta
trains pass through Mughalsarai, which is 10 km south of Varanasi. For local
transport, city buses, taxis, and auto-rickshaws are available.