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 goddesses.
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 Ramcharitmanas'.
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.
How to Reach Varanasi
Varanasi is well connected by air to several cities in India. It is on the popular daily tourist service Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi route. Is also has two railway stations, the Kashi and Varanasi Junction, as well as the Cantonment Station for rail travel.
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