Varanasi Travel Guide


State: Uttar Pradesh
Distance: 813 Km SE of Delhi
By Road: 13hrs 30min
Location: On the banks of the Ganga in eastern Uttar Pradesh, 300 km from Lucknow

Fast Fact

  • When to go Varanasi

    October to March

Varanasi (name originated from the name of two rivers Varuna and Assi), is also famously known as Banaras or Kashi (the luminous one). It is sited on the banks of the River Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. It is about 320 kilometres (4 hours 32 minutes) from state capital, Lucknow. Varanasi is considered to be the oldest city in the world and the oldest holy city in India by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in North India for several thousand years.

Varanasi is also said to be "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", "the city of learning", and "the oldest living city on earth."

History of Varanasi
The city was founded by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva, several thousand years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. It is also a general belief that it stands on the weapon "The Trishool" (Trident) of Lord Shiva.

It is said to be located between two confluences: the Ganges and Varuna on one side, and other of the Ganges and Assi. The distance between these two confluences is around 4 kilometres. It is often followed by religious Hindus, a round trip between these two places, famously known as the Pancha-kroshi Yatra (a five mile (8 km) journey) and ending it by visiting Sakshi Vinayak Temple as a holy ritual.

  • Shopping Attractions of Varanasi

    Fine silks and brocaded fabrics, exquisite saris, shawls, Zari work, stone inlay work, glass beads, bangles, brassware, jewellery, woodcraft, carpets, wall hangings, lamp shades and masks of Hindu and Buddhist deities.

    Shopping Areas of Varanasi
    Chowk, Gyan Vapi, Vishwanath Gali, Thatheri Bazar, Lahurabir, Godoulia or Dashswamedh Gali, Golghar and in order to keep pace with urbanization, they have recently built malls and multiplexes such as IP Mall in Sigra and JHV Mall in the Varanasi Cantonment area One should be beware of the imitations that are not so easy to distinguish but are much cheaper than the real silk ones.
  • Art and literature of Varanasi

    Varanasi is a city of fine art and literature. Great Indian writers such as Kabir, Ravidas, Tulsidas, Kulluka Bhatt and many more have lived in this city.

    Art lovers and historians such as Rai Krishnadasa, Anand Krishna, Gopal Mishra, Ravi Shankar, Bismillah Khan, Girija Devi, Siddheshwari Devi and numerous others have kept the city alive to the spiritual aspect of fine arts apart from their ability to entertain.
  • Festivals of Varanasi

    All night, open music concerts like ones organised at Sankat Mochan Temple, Hori, Kajari and Chaiti Mela, Budwa Mangal, are annual features that draw connoisseurs from all over.
  • Forts, Temples and Museums of Varanasi

    Jantar Mantar: An observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh, of Jaipur in the year 1737 is situated close to the Dashashwamedh Ghat, overlooking the ghats on the Ganges.

    Sarnath: It is the oldest site museum of Archaeological Survey of India. The building was completed in 1910 to house, display and study the antiquities in their right perspective. There are five galleries and two verandahs on the museum to display the antiquities ranging from 3rd century B.C. to 12th century A.D. found at Sarnath. It is about 13 Km from Varanasi.

    Bharat Kala Bhavan: The Bharat Kala Bhavan evolved in January 1920. Its first Chairman was poet Rabindranath Tagore and its Vice-Chairman was his nephew Silpacharya Abanindranth Tagore. The museum has more than 100,000 arts and artefacts. The collection includes archaeological materials, paintings, textiles and costumes, decorative art, Indian postage stamps and literary and archival materials which are mostly of historical significance, visually and uniquely beautiful.

    Ramnagar Fort: This fort is ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras that lies about 14 km from Varanasi and is located on the opposite bank of river Ganges. Maharaja Balwant Singh built this fort-palace in the 18th century with red sandstone. This fort has a temple (dedicated to Ved Vyasa) and a museum within the grounds. The museum has a rare collection of manuscripts, especially religious writings, a precious handwritten manuscript by Tulsi Das and many books illustrated in the Mughal miniature style.

    Vishwanath Temple: Also known as the Golden Temple. The temple was destroyed multiple times by Mughal invaders and was re-constructed by Hindu kings who followed them. There is strict security which makes entrance a little difficult. Bags, Mobile phones, or pens are not allowed and thus there is a provision for these to be deposited at the temple entrance.

    Kaal Bhairav Temple: Kaal Bhairav is a dreadful form of Lord Shiva signifying death. Here one needs to buy black threads (costing about Rs. 15 to 20), keep it on the shrine and then wear it on the arm, wrist or around the neck as a protection against evil forces.

    Nepali Hindu Temple: A small golden temple built using Nepali architecture.

    Banaras Hindu University: A lush green and peaceful campus. The famous Annie Besant used to work in Banaras to promote theosophy and thus founded the Central Hindu College which later became a foundation for the creation of Banaras Hindu University. It is the largest residential university of Asia, having approximately 124 independent departments.

    Gauri Matha Temple: The deity for whom this temple is famous was the sister of the lord Kashi Vishwanath. In order to finish the yatra/custom and to yield good results, one must visit her and offer her with sea shells (available there) just before you leave Kashi.

    Other places for sightseeing include Alamagir Mosque, Man Mandir Observatory, Tulsi Manas Temple, Durga Temple, etc.
  • Ghats of Varanasi

    Panchganga Ghat is where five rivers meet.

    Manikarnika Ghat is the main cremation ghat where taking photographs is considered a crime.

    Dasaswamedh Ghat is the main ghat where large evening aarti takes place. This ghat is mostly reachable by foot and is a 5 minutes' walk south from Godaulia.

    Kedar Ghat is famous amongst photographers as it is brightly painted in stripes and busy with bathers.

    Narad Ghat is where bathing with spouse is not advisable.

    Harishchandra Ghat is cremation place where Raja Harishchandra did the last rituals of his son.

    Tulsi Ghat is a large water purification plant

    Assi Ghat, the most popular place to stay as it is equipped to provide one with many hotels, restaurants and cyber cafes.
  • Accessibility to Varanasi

    By foot, by bicycle, by cycle-rickshaw, or by pre-paid auto-rickshaw are the most commonly used mode of transport within the city. Besides these modes one can opt for a car from many car rental companies available.

    Bus is another transport in Varanasi which has a very good frequency (every 1 hour) and is well connected throughout North India.

    Train is the easiest transport to reach Varanasi from all parts of the country with multiple daily services from Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Mumbai and Kolkata. Varanasi as two major railway stations Varanasi Junction and Mughal Sarai Junction, about 15 km east of the city.

    If one wishes to board a Flight/Plane there is a Varanasi Airport about 25 kilometres from the City Centre. There are daily flights to Delhi and Mumbai.

    Always be prepared for traffic jams in order to get to the airport. So plan the departure from your hotel to the airport an hour earlier than the scheduled time.
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