Varanasi is the symbol of undying
faith to millions of devotees who throng the Ghats and temples of this holy
city. The significance of Varanasi/ Kashi can be gauged from the fact that
Hindus from different parts of India wish to spend their last days in the
eternal city to attain liberation. This very facet of the holy city pulls
curious westerners as well as diehard devotees to her fold.
The Legacy of the Varanasi
The legend of Varanasi dates ages back. The city of Varanasi finds mention in
the great dauntless of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Varanasi was a prosperous trade
center when Buddha came to Sarnath, about 10 kilometers away, to preach his
first sermon in 500 BC. The famous 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.
"The Ghats of Varanasi
Varanasi's major tourist attraction are the long stretch of ghats, which line
the west bank of the Ganges. Ghats are the steps which lead down to the river.
There are around ghats in Varanasi, each with its own significance. Most Indians
believe that anyone dying on the banks of the river, in Varanasi, attains
instant 'moksha' or enlightenment.
The eighteenth century Durga Temple is also known as the Monkey Temple due to
the presence of the many monkeys that live here. Durga is represented as the
embodiment of shakti or female power, clad in red, riding a tiger and fully
armed with Shiva’s trident, Vishnu’s discus and a sword.
Bharat Mata Temple
This unique temple has a huge relief map in marble of the whole of Indian
subcontinent and Tibetan plateau installed instead of icons of gods and
The Alamgir Mosque is also known as Beni Madhav Ka Darera and is a blend of the
Hindu and Mughal styles of the architecture. The mosque was built by Aurangzeb
on the site of the Vishnu Temple.
Tulsi Manas Temple
This temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and is situated where the great medieval
seer Tulsidas is believed to have lived and written the great epic ‘Shri
The temple is located in the premises of the Banaras Hindu University and was by
the Birlas. It was planned by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and is open to all
irrespective of caste or creed.
Banaras Hindu University
The Banaras Hindu University is one of the oldest educational centres in India
which was built in 1917. Its campus is spread over five square kilometres and
houses the Bharat Kala Bhavan, which has a fine collection of miniature
paintings, sculptures from first to fifteenth centuries, old photographs of
Varanasi and brocade textiles.
Excursions in Varanasi
Varanasi has numerous excursion sites located nearby. Some of the major cities
are listed below.
Sarnath is a major Buddhist centre where Buddha preached his message of the
‘middle way’ to nirvana after achieving enlightenment at Bodhgaya. It is located
10 kilometres from Varanasi and Ashoka erected the Famous Stupa here. Several
Buddhist structures were built here in Sarnath.
Kushinagar lies about 51 kilometres from Gorakhpur, and is famous for the
Mahaparinirvana (death) of Lord Buddha. The town was once celebrated as the
centre of the Malla kingdom and has many stupas and viharas that date back to
230 BC-413 AD.