Varanasi or Banaras, mentioned in the scriptures as Kashi, is less of a city and more of a dreamy experience. It is a paragon of Indian culture, philosophy, traditions and spiritual ethos since times immemorial. It is among the Sapta Puries, meaning seven sacred cities of Ancient India. The city is located on the bank of River Ganga which has two tributaries in the city: Varuna and Assi; hence the name Varanasi. The combination of Kashi – the holy city, Ganga- the sacred river and Shiva- the supreme God, makes Varanasi an immortal destination. Today, Varanasi remains the hub of cultural and holy activities. In the field of learning, especially of Religion, Philosophy, Yoga, Ayurveda, Astrology, Dance and Music, the city is certainly unparalleled. The Banarasi Silk Sarees and Brocades are known worldwide for its elegance. Varanasi is full of surprises abounding every corner; the more one explores it, the more one falls in love with it!
SHRI KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE
Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple is a major sacred attraction, dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the city. The temple houses a Shivalinga, which is said to be one amongst the twelve Jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light, by which Lord Shiva beckoned his divine supremacy, broke through the earth’s crust and gleamed towards the heaven. The present temple was built by Rani Ahailya Bai Holkar of Indore in the year 1776, however, Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple was existent even before the present one. About 800 kg of gold being used to cap the spire by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, hence it is also known as the Golden Temple in Varanasi. The temple has been built and re-built several times over the past centuries. The temple derives its name from Kashi, another name for Varanasi. This tirth also finds mention in old religious texts like Skanda Purana. The devotional atmosphere here is almost palpable. For the pilgrim who may have travelled thousand miles, the sanctity of the temple is only heightened by the teeming crowds, chanting of mantras and the continuous ringing of bells. Within the courtyard stands many smaller shrines, and a 2.1 metre high figure of Shiva’s bull, Nandi. The aarti held here is one of the most overwhelming experiences you can have on your trip to Varanasi.
SANKAT MOCHAN TEMPLE
The Sankat Mochan Temple is one of the oldest temples in the city dedicated to Lord Hanuman. It is situated on the banks of Pauranic River Assi. Goswamiji has specifically named the deity "Sankat Mochan" which means reliever from troubles. In the temple, "besan ke laddoo" are served as an offering to Lord Hanuman and his idol is decked with a pleasant marigold flower garland. This temple has the unique distinction of having Lord Hanuman facing his Lord Rama, whom he worshiped with steadfast and selfless devotion. It is said that Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitmanas here. According to Hindu mythology, one who visits the Sankat Mochan temple regularly gets their wishes fulfilled. It is considered that the temple was built from the time when Goswami Tulsidas had a vision of the Lord Hanuman. The temple was established by the great saint Goswami Tulsidas.
According to the ancient history, it is said that the Goddess Durga (consort of the Lord Shiva) had thrown her sword in the river (called Assi River) after killing the demon Shumbha-Nishumbha. Assi Ghat is described in the Kashi Khand as “Assi Saimbeda Tirtha” means the one who gets a dip here once in his life will get punya (blessings) of all the Tirthas (religious places of the Hindu). Generally Hindu pilgrims gather to take a holy dip here in the Chaitra (month of March/April) and Magh (month of Jan/Feb) as well as some other significant events like solar/lunar eclipse, Probodhoni Ekadashi and Makar Sankranti. At this Ghat, a huge Shiva lingam is situated under the Peepal tree where pilgrims offer Jal and worship after taking holy bath in the Ganga water. Another Shiva Lingam is - Asisangameshwar lingam, in a small temple of the marble near to the Assi Ghat. The Ghat has been also described in the ancient Hindu literatures like the Matsya purana, Kurma purana, Padma Purana, Agni purana and Kashi khanda.
The Jain literature refers to Kashi or Varanasi as a Jain Tirtha (Holy Place), as four of the Jain Tirthankara’s were born in Varanasi. According to Jain tradition, Varanasi is the birthplace of Sri Suparshavanath, Sri Chandraprabhu, Sri Sreyansnath and Parshavanath -- the 7th, 8th, 11th, and 23rd Jain Tirthankaras.
TULSI MANAS MANDIR
Built in 1964 the Tulsi Manas Mandir is one of the most famous temples in Varanasi. It is made up of white marble and the beautiful garden adds to its attractiveness. The temple is dedicated to the Lord Rama and was constructed by the Sureka family of Banaras. The temple has beautiful images of the Lord Ram, Mother Sita, Lakshman and Lord Hanuman. The wall of the temple has various scenes depicted from the epic Ramcharitmanasa. There is a museum in the premises which has a rare collection of manuscripts of the Ramayana and other artefacts.
HOW TO GET HERE
Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, Babatpur located at distance of 22 KM from Varanasi. Direct flights are available from Delhi, Agra, Khajuraho, Mumbai, Lucknow, and Kathmandu (Nepal).
You can hit the road from any of the major cities to Varanasi. It is well connected to the rest of the country with good motorable roads. The road distances from some of the cities are: Agra- 565 KM, Allahabad- 128 KM, Bodh gaya- 240 KM, Lucknow- 286 KM and Sarnath- 10 KM.
The Varanasi, Manduadeeh and Mughal Sarai are the important railway junctions, connected to all the major cities. The stations are the nearest ones and regular trains run to and from these stations.