Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple – which means ‘Ruler of the Universe’ – stands on the banks of the river Ganga and is one of the most famous religious centers in India. Part of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the temple has been mentioned in Hindu scriptures quite often and is one of the holiest shrines of Hinduistic philosophies.
Millions come to seek benediction and inner peace in the temple, which offers a soul-cleansing experience with its various rituals like the Bhog Aarti that takes place around midday. The temple has been visited by a number of great saints like Swami Vivekanand, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati, Adi Shankaracharya and many other revered figures.
At Dhamma Cakka you can embrace a unique form of meditation known as ‘Vipassana’, one of India’s most traditional techniques that involves ‘seeing things as they really are’. More than 2500 years old and mainly popularized by S.N. Goenka and Mahasi Sayadew, this technique was part of the ‘Art of Living’ that aimed to develop mindfulness and instill a realization of a selfless being. A ten day course in the residential compartments of the Sarnath Vipassana Centre in Varanasi will spiritually enlighten you as you gain insight into sacred traditions in Buddhism. The technique has now become quite popular in Western culture.
The Dashashwamedh Ghat is one of the oldest and most scenic ghats in Varanasi, nestled near the ancient Vishwanath Temple. The name refers to the ‘river front of the ten sacrificed horses’, an age old myth relating to Lord Shiva. It is believed that Lord Brahma created the ghat to welcome Lord Shiva, and it was reconstructed back in the year 1740 by Bajirao Pesava I. It is a well known fact that ten horses were sacrificed as part of a ritual by Bhara Shiva Naga rulers in the second century. Popularly known for the Agni Pooja, the ghat is a wonderful place to see if you’re visiting Varanasi on a spiritual tour.
Visit to Mrigadava at Sarnath: Located around 12 kilometers away from Varanasi, Sarnath is one of the four holy sites that has been marked by Lord Buddha as a unique pilgrimage spot. Attracting a great number of Buddhist followers annually, Sarnath is home to the beautiful ‘Deer Park’ also known as Mrigadava, a name that withholds the legendary belief that when Buddha was born, devas came down from heaven to announce his birth to 500 holy men. Sarnath is the initial site of Lord Buddha’s journey towards enlightenment, where he delivered his first discourse, the ‘Dhammacakkhapavathana Sutta’, a central teaching that is fundamentally based upon the Noble Eighfold Path. Here you’ll come across ancient buildings embedded with intricate carvings of Lord Buddha, the Ashoka Pillar, and historical relics at the Sarnath Archaeological Museum.
Boat Rides and Sunset Views: A 45 minute boat ride across the river Ganga is a splendid expedition for travelers who come to visit Varanasi for more than just a spiritual awakening. Tour past holistic rituals at Dashashwamedh Ghat, catch a glimpse of Ramnagar Fort and ride through Manikarnika, a well renowned site for the cremation ceremony which is also known as the burning ghat.
Make a stop at the colorful Flower Market in Varanasi, a lane brimming with miniature stalls filled with different aromas. The magic of the boat ride ends with the breathtaking view of the sunset as the boat slowly swims back to the Dashashwamedh ghat.
Food is an integral part of the culture of Varanasi, so if you’re visiting this eclectic city in Uttar Pradesh don’t forget to gorge on piping hot samosas, spicy kachoris and refreshing paans. You cannot miss out on the Blue Lassi, one of the most famous joints in Vishwanath Gali that serves a delightful assortment of thandaais or chilled savories.
They give a special touch to a glass of Lassi, enriched with fresh fruits like custard apple, bananas, pomegranate and a punch of lemon zest, served in earthen pots.