Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India

India is a country known for ‘Spiritualism’ and it attracts spiritual seekers worldwide for its countless religious places. The oldest amongst all these spiritual places is the city of Varanasi. Also known as Banaras or Kashi, this city is considered to be sacred by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Varanasi is located on the banks of the holiest river Ganga in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is believed by the Hindus that, if anyone dies in Varanasi than he/she will get Nirvana (Moksha).

Varansi is also among the 12 Jyotir Linga spots in India and is believed to be the dwelling of Lord Shiva. This city has been a hub of civilization and education for more than 3000 years. Sarnath, the site where Lord Buddha sermonized for the 1st time after his enlightment is also very close to this city. Varanasi is also believed to be the birth location of the 23rd tirthankar of Jainism, Shree Parshav Nath Ji. All in all Varanasi is considered as India’s spiritual capital.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi ghats
Varanasi



How to Reach Varanasi


1. If you are coming via airways, than, you don’t have to worry too much. Varanasi has its own airport called Lal Bahadur Shastri International airport and is only 29 kms away from the city. This airport is well linked with all the major Indian cities and a few cities in abroad like Singapore, Colombo and Bangkok. You will get rented cabs which will charge in between 500 to 800 bucks and auto rickshaws which will charge 400-500 bucks to reach the city. The bus stand is only 1 km away from the airport. So, if you are on a budget trip than, you can reach the city from airport via bus which will cost 50-70 bucks per person.

2. If you are coming via railways, than, you have to reach the Varanasi Junction Railway Station. This station is well connected with the cities/towns of India. The Varanasi city is only 3 kms away from the railway station. Outside the station auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available to reach your preferred location.


NOTE: Ola and Uber cabs are also available in Varanasi.



Places to Visit in Varanasi

There are many places to visit in this ancient spiritual city. The best among them are listed below:



1. The Ghats of Varanasi


Varanasi being situated on the banks of river Ganga is also known as the ‘City of Ghats’. More than eighty eight ghats are there and each ghat is used for some special purpose. Temples were constructed near these Varanasi ghats and devotees use these ghats for boating in Ganga, puja rituals and bathing in Ganga as according to Hindu religion, the river Ganga is a sacred river and by bathing in the holy water of Ganga, you can wash away all your sins. Some of the popular ghats are:

Dashashwamedh Ghat

Panchganga Ghat

Assi Ghat

Manikarnika Ghat (Burning Ghat)

Ahilyabai Ghat

Kedar Ghat

Scindia Ghat

Most of these ghats were re-constructed in the 18th century when Varanasi was under the reign of the Maratha Dynasty.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi ghats
Ghats of Varanasi



2. Kashi Vishwanath Temple

As Varanasi is a spiritual city, you will see countless big and small temples in and around this city. Among all these temples the most famed is the Kashi Vishwanath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is also called Golden Temple and is among the 12 Jyotir Lingas in India and it is a very significant pilgrimage for the Hindus. You will witness huge crowd all through the year in this temple and especially during Mahashivratri.

This temple was erected by the queen of Maratha Dynasty, Ahilya Bai Holkar in 1780. Two domes were built over the temple and covered with gold donated by Sikh King Ranjit Singh of Punjab, who was also known as ‘Punjab Kesari’. Later on, in 1983, this temple came under Uttar Pradesh Government and is under the management of the present Kashi Naresh (King) Anant Narayan Singh. A visit to this temple will make you feel peaceful and content and will revive your soul.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, Kashi vishwanath temple
Kashi Vishwanath Temple

Also Read >> 6 Must See Places to Visit in Mysore


3. Bharat Kala Bhavan

Bharat Kala Bhavan is a museum constructed inside the premises of the age-old Banaras Hindu University erected in the year 1916. This museum exhibits a great compilation of ancient paintings, historic manuscripts, a good collection of ancient coins, sculptures, art works, maps, idols of Lord Buddha, sculptures from different archeological places like Sarnath. All these stuffs are kept very nicely and are in a good condition. This museum will be very helpful for the students of history to know the Indian architecture and art better. The entry charge is only 20 bucks which is really pocket friendly. Art and history buffs should visit this place.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi weather
Bharat Kala Bhavan



4. Ram Nagar Fort

This 18th century fort is situated on the east banks of river Ganga and was constructed by the Kashi Naresh by beige colored sandstones. The present Kashi Naresh (King) resides in this Fort. According to the legends, during the period of Mahabharat, Sage Ved Vyas used to reside in Ramnagar and in 18th century the King decided to erect this fort in respect of Sage Ved Vyas. 

Located just 2 kms away from the Banaras Hindu University, the Ram Nagar Fort is a must visit place in Varanasi. The construction of this fort was done in Mughal style with engraved pillars, patios, balconies, reception room and a Darbar hall as well. You will see many temples of Hindu deities inside this fort. A museum called Saraswati Bhawan is there which exhibits old manuscripts, books, American vintage cars, old weapons, silver artifacts, gold coins, elephant saddles, palanquins etc.

In this Ram Nagar fort you will also see a huge and rare astronomical clock built in the 19th century. This shows month, week, day and time as well as details regarding the positions of moon, sun and planets. No entry charge is needed for this fort but to enter the museum the entry charge is 20 bucks for Indians and 160 bucks for the foreigners.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi
Ram Nagar Fort



5. Sarnath

You can also visit Sarnath which is only 11 kms away from the Varanasi city. This place is visited by the tourists from all over the world. This is the place where Lord Buddha sermonized for the 1st time after receiving enlightment. This place holds religious significance for the devotees of Buddhism. In Sarnath you can visit the Bodhi Tree, under which Gautam Buddha received enlightment, ruins of Dhamekh Stupa, Dharmarjika Stupa and the Deer Park. You can also visit the Archeological museum to check the Buddhist works of art.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, sarnath
Sarnath



Things to do in Varanasi

A lot of things are there in which you can indulge while you are in Varanasi. Some of them are listed below:


1. Sandhya Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat

Take part in the quintessential and famed Sandhya Aarti also called Ganga Aarti of Varanasi which takes place every day at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. This ritual is performed soon after the sunset near the bank of river Ganga by a group of young Hindu priests. These trained priests wear traditional attires and perform the rituals by swinging huge metal fire lamps and singing and chanting the mantras for Goddess Ganga and Lord Shiva. 

Thousands of devotees and tourists participate in this ritual daily.
You can also take a small lamp made up of plant leaves and after lighting it let it go off into the river. Another way of witnessing this Sandhya Aarti is by hiring boats and watching this from the river. Taking part or watching this legendary Ganga Aarti in Varanasi is once in a lifetime experience.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi
Ganga Aarti



2. A Sunrise/Sunset Boat Ride along the River Ganga

A boat ride on the river Ganga during sunrise or sunset is an activity you can’t miss while you are in Varanasi. Boats are available along the banks of almost all the Varanasi ghats and you will get one easily but don’t forget to bargain with them. While boating on the holy river Ganga and watching the ghats on the banks in the mystical and breezy morning/evening ambience is really amazing. The essence of spirituality you will feel everywhere.

You can see people performing Puja rituals on one ghat and death rituals on another ghat which is a unique experiencing you won’t see in another other place. You can also see the other activities of the city like people taking sacred bath on the river, washing clothes, people doing meditation and yoga etc. The view of the sunrise and sunset while sailing in the river is also splendid.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi ghats
Boating on Ganga



3. Take a Holy Bathe in Panchganga Ghat

According to the locals, in this ghat the confluence of 5 sacred rivers namely Ganga, Yamuna, Sarawati, Kiran and Dhutapapa takes place. Thus, bathing in this confluence will wash away all your sins and ensure nirvana. Huge crowd of devotees gather in this deep and broad ghat for holy bathe in between October to November (as per Hindu calendar Karthik Month). If you are not interested in bathing than, you can spend some time alone here in this breezy ambience during sunrise or sunset and you will feel contend and refresh.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, river ganga
Holy Bathe on Ganga



4. Take Pleasure in the Cuisines of Varanasi

While walking through the narrow lanes of Varanasi, you can taste some mouth-watering cuisines of North India and Varanasi. You won’t get too many options for non-vegetarian cuisines in Varanasi yet you can try the non-veg restaurants like Lajawaab, Singh’s Delight etc. but the vegetarian cuisines available here are also equally delicious. Some popular street delicacies you must try are as below:


Kachori Sabji

This is a dish which includes fried kachoris with a tangy and spicy curry made up of potatoes. This is among the most famed breakfast food in Varanasi which you should try in the shops of Kachori Galli and Thatheri Bazaar.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi
Kachori Sabji




Dahi aur Chutney Golgappe

Crispy golgappe served with tangy and sweet chutney of tamarind and mint along with curd is another popular snack which you can try in Gol Ganj.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi
Dahi aur Chutney Golgappe


Tamatar Chaat

This is a Varanasi version of Aloo chaat which is a perfect mix of tomatoes, potatoes, green chillies, chopped coriander and onions along with spices like ginger powder and garam masala. This dish you can try in Dashashwamedh road.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi
Tamatar Chaat


Thandai

Thandai is a delicious and refreshing dessert of Varanasi which is prepared with Rabri, ice-cream, roasted nuts and rose flavor. The ingredients saffron, fennel seeds, cardamom powder and vetiver seeds are also added to enhance the taste of this desert. This dessert can be tried in Kachori Galli.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi
Thandai


Banarasi Paan

Banarasi Paan is a must try thing after food in Varanasi. The sweet banarasi paan is served with sweet beetel nuts (supari), cardamom, a jelly made with rose petals (gulkand), lime etc. Banarasi paan you will get everywhere in Varanasi but the best place to try it is in the Paan shops near Dashashwamedh Ghat.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi
Banarasi Paan



5. Shopping in Varanasi

You will get a hand full of things to shop in Varanasi. You will see the markets full of crowd all the day. Some unique stuffs which you can shop from Varanasi are:

Persian Carpets

Essential Oils

Sacred Books and Religious Books

Metal statues of Deities

Woolen clothes

Banarasi Sarees

>Holy water of Ganga in small sealed pots etc.

Do bargain for the items you will buy to get them at a reasonable price.


Varanasi - The Spiritual Capital of India, varanasi
Varanasi Market



Where to Stay in Varanasi

In Varanasi you will get both budget options and luxury options. The budget options are mainly near the ghats and in the narrow lanes of Varanasi. If you are planning a trip during season time from October to February or during Festivals than book your Varanasi hotels in advance to avoid chaos.



Best time to Visit Varanasi

During summer season, the Varanasi weather remains hot and humid and the temperature rises to a maximum of 45 degrees. Sightseeing is almost impossible in this weather. So, it is better to avoid the summers from March to June.
In monsoon season, Varanasi receives plentiful of rainfall from July to September. The temperature varies in between 23 degrees to 36 degrees. Planning a trip during monsoon season is advisable but a chance of shower is always there during boating and sightseeing.

In winter season, from October to February you will get the best weather in Varanasi. The temperature remains pleasant for exploring the roads, ghats and boating in the river. So, the best season to plan a trip to Varanasi is during winters.

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