Varanasi, known by many names such as Kashi, Benaras& Banaras, is an important pilgrim destination in India and is situated on the banks of the holy river ‘Ganga’ (Ganges). Varanasi is believed to be more than 5000 years old, which means that it is not only the oldest city in India but also one of the oldest living civilizations in the world.
Varanasi is often referred to as the ‘holiest city of India’. It is a very popular belief among the Hindus that river Ganges has the power to wash away the sins of anyone who takes a dip in this river. They also believe that when a person dies in Varanasi and is cremated in this city, he gets free from the cycle of births &re-incarnation. Even the Buddhists and Jains consider Varanasi as a holy city.
This city is also known for one of the oldest forms of Indian classical music called ‘The BenarasGharana’. It is home to a number of well known Indian writers, musicians, poets and philosophers. A number of tourists visit this city not just for its pilgrim factor but also to shop for the world’s finest quality of silk garments and handicrafts.
What to See
People from across the globe visit this city for its rich history and culture. This city is well known for its cultural and religious sites. The holy river ‘Ganges’ and its ancient ‘Ghats’ are undoubtedly the most famous attraction. Travelers to this city enjoy the boat rides on the holy river and even participate in the ‘Ganga Aarti’ ceremony. Besides the Ghats and the Ganges, Varanasi is renowned for a large number of Hindu temples like the Vishwanath Temple, Durga Temple, TulsiManas temple, SankatMochan temple, etc. A short drive towards the outskirts of Varanasi is ‘Sarnath’, where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. The ‘Stupa’ here is a holy pilgrimage spot for the Buddhists and so is the temple inside the Sarnath complex called ‘MulgandhaKutiVihara’.
Best Time to visit
The best time to visit Varanasi is from October to March, November being the most ideal. Varanasi hosts the world famous ‘Dev Deepawali’ festival in the month of November. It is a festival of lights and the Ghats are decorated with earthen lamps which is a spectacular sight to behold.
It is not advisable to travel to Varanasi during monsoons as the river Ganges often gets flooded and one may not be able to experience the boat ride on the river Ganges. With high water levels, the boat ride gets cancelled and it is indeed a must experience, especially for the sunrise boat ride at the Ganges, so it is best to avoid the monsoon season.