Benaras/Varanasi is a place where people want to go for different reasons. Some people want to visit the holy places to get blessings of gods and some go to see narrow alleys of one of the oldest city in the human history. People believe that if you want to break from endless cycle of birth and death you come to take blessings of Lord Shiva in the city and take bath in Holy Ganga River. Being a local of the city I have created a list of best places to visit in city.
The soul of the city lives in the narrow alleys and ghats around the Ganga River. Every morning you can spot devotees taking a dip in the holy water of river Ganga and doing Suryanamaskar in the front of rising sun. Another beautiful thing about Ganga ghats is that when you take a walk early morning you will see groups of people doing yoga and breathing life.
The fragrant smell of incense sticks will elevate your mood and you feel warm on a cold morning. The ghats are also an interesting place for photographers; just take out your phone and capture early morning aesthetics of the ghats.
We have talked enough of beauty of ghats, now let’s pick on some details on where to go in Benaras.
This is one of the most popular ghats known for its evening Aarti. Every evening locals and tourists gather together to witness auspicious aarti that is performed by a group of men and women in a group. People even t6ake boats and go to the other side of the river bank to see the grand aarti. While you are there you will see vendors selling small diyas and flowers that you are supposed to light, make prayer and make it float in the river.
This is the second most popular ghat in Benaras where people come to visit a Shiv lingam which lies under a fig tree. You will also spot musicians playing flutes and setting up the evening. You can also expect arts students from Banaras Hindu University practicing their art and making sketches of the scenery and people.
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Benaras is not only a strong hold of Hindu religion but it also is home to Buddhism. Sarnath is 12 km away from the main city and is one of the most important seat of Buddhism. You will find it on every ‘best places to visit’ list. Sarnath is the place where Buddha gave his first teaching to his six disciples. You can see Dhamek Stupa made 1500 years ago. The structure is more than 43 mtrs tall and almost 28 mtr in diameter. Buddha gave the teaching of Eightfold Path in Sarnath. You can wander around the village and visit monasteries of different countries. You can also expect good places serving authentic South East Asian food.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Kashi Vishwanath Temple is a popular pilgrimage for people from every part of India. People come all year round to take blessings of Lord Shiva and make prayers to him. It is possible that you have to wait in line to get darshan of Lord Shiva. During festivals people stand in queues of more than a kilometre to take blessings of Shiva.
Bharat Mata Mandir
Bharat Mata Mandir is near main railway station of the city. The temple is an exemplary example of architecture. It is a temple of Bharat Mata and the main attraction is an elaborate geographical map of India carved in stone. Don’t miss to look at the map from small windows that give you lateral view of the map. You will feel enormously happy after the visit. If you are lucky you may find a saint with a huge king cobra on his body. You can click a picture with him and say thank you.
The fort stands tall on the other side of a river bank and you have to go to the fort by crossing a bridge. The fort is made of sandstone built in 18th Century. The fort has multiple museums with antique weapons, vintage automobiles, royal clothing and jewellery. You can also visit temples within the fort complex. A part of the fort is restricted and inhabited by the royal family till date. Tourists are not allowed to enter the residential area. It is one of the best places to visit in the city during day time.