6 Things You Will Love To Do In Varanasi
It was my first time in Varanasi and I, for sure, was absolutely looking forward to visiting and experiencing it. A very popular town in Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state in India and supposedly one of the notorious too. But hold on before you start to form your judgement. This state has got some of the holiest places, has some fantastic national parks, has one of the seven wonders of the world and now has the longest railway platform in the World as well. And the list is not over. These things are the first things that struck me now when I am in process of writing this blog post. So, for about 2 days before the flight, I had planned to do a lot of things in Varanasi and I did them too.
Which things are they ? Read on…
6 Lovely Things To Do In Varanasi
Visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple
(Picture Courtesy: Nityanand Times)
Built around 500 AD and located on the western side of the holy river bank of Ganges, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and hence, one of the most sacred of Shiva temples. A jyotirlinga is a sacred place of worship of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva’s another name is Vishwanath, meaning the ruler of the Universe and Varanasi is also known as Kashi. Hence, this temple is known as “Kashi Vishwanath” Temple. There are 4 gates to enter the temple through some of the very narrow lanes. In the centre is the main deity silver coated Shiva Linga. It is also said that the brownie points you earn through your visit to the other 11 Jyotirlingas located across India can be offset by a single visit to this place.
Purify Yourself From The Aarti Of The Ganges
Varanasi is located on the banks of the holy river Ganges. Hence, to acknowledge it’s significance and always have her blessings, an Aarti (Agni Puja) is performed every evening on the bank of the river around 6.15 in winters or around 7.00 pm in summers and lasts for about 45 minutes. All the priests wear the same clothes and perform in unison. It is absolutely lovely to watch this, especially with the brass lamps lighted over.
- You may opt to sit on the first floor of a small office just opposite to this Aarti spot at a nominal charge of INR 50/- for an awesome view
Take A Boat Ride In The Ganges
I took a boat ride in the river Ganges and it was great. Once you visit any of the Ghats (bank of a river), the boatmen will themselves approach you. It helps to opt for an exclusive boat if you are with your family or friends. The boatman shows you all the different Ghats. It is also interesting to note that the centre of the river Ganges is close to 50 feet deep. I never imagined that.
- You may opt for an entire boat for up to 3-4 members for about INR 600/-
- Alternatively, you may join in with other tourists for about INR 100-150/-
- Boating is closed for 4 months during the rainy season
See The Various Ghats
Ghats are the riverfront steps situated at the bank of a river. The holy city of Varanasi has around 90 Ghats (it’s a different issue that my boatman told me there are 365 ghats !! Don’t know why ???). These 90 ghats are riverfront steps leading to the river Ganges, developed and donated by different rulers or leaders of different era, namely Ahilyabai Holkar Ghat, Manmandir Ghat, Lalita Ghat etc. Out of all these, Dashaswamedh Ghat is considered as one of the most important ghats & the Evening Aarti happens here on this ghat. Equally, I was horrified to see the “Manikarnika Ghat”, which is dedicated for cremation of dead bodies. Cremation, as per Hindu tradition, is one of the rites of passage and Varanasi ghats are considered auspicious for this purpose.
- Boating is one of the most preferred ways to seeing the Ghats, from a distance
Visit Temples in Sarnath
Sarnath is a small town around 13 kms from Varanasi city centre. A place very important as it is here that Gautam Buddha first delivered his learnings on Dharma. A little away from this site is also the birthplace of the 11th Tirthankar of Jainism Shreyansanath. Apart from the Dhamek Stupa, this place has many wonderful things to see & to learn namely Digambar Jain Temple, Ancient Buddhists Monasteries, Tibetan Temple and a Museum as well.
- It takes about 2 hours at Sarnath to see everything
- The place is open from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm
- Autos (having capacity to seat 3) charge around INR 300/- to & fro, including waiting time
- Guide charges you around INR 100/-
Try Shopping Locally (Banarasi Silk Sarees)
(Picture Courtesy: Banaras Silk Emporium)
Sarees have been an Indian bride’s soulmate since long. And then, some of the specialized varieties available, like the Banarasi Silk, have undoutedly flattered her time and again. A Banarasi silk saree is a coveted possession of an Indian females, that makes her feel and look more feminine, soft and vivacious. Although I do not understand the nuances of the process of weaving, identifying the fake from the original or the pricing for that matter, but I do know that women love to wear this form of clothes and that I am right in the heart of where this gets manufactured. Very simple thinking, isn’t it ? 🙂
How To Reach Varanasi ?
Varanasi has direct flights from a majority of Indian big cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Besides road transport and railways are also other popular ways to reach the place.
- Varanasi airport is around 22 kms from the city centre (Cantt Area) and pre paid taxis charge INR 700 for a medium size AC sedan.
- Railway Station is located in the city centre itself and autos are easily available to reach to your hotel
Best Time To Visit
The winter months from October mid week to February mid week are good to go.
Do let me know how did you find my post. In case you feel there are some other authentic things I missed to include, do not hesitate to write them to me. 🙂