Being a traveller is all about rambling in the horizons of a plethora of virtues a city carries with itself and gaining the most out of them while you stay, and we at OYO care the most about our travellers. So while we’re talking about values and heritage, it would be unfair not to talk about Varanasi, perceived to be the focal point of spirituality in India. The following blog was contributed by one of our travellers who visited Varanasi recently.
Varanasi is known by a lot of names, famous of which are Kashi and Banaras. Kashi is believed to be the oldest city of the world and it is believed that it was created by Lord Shiva himself. Situated on the banks of the river Ganga, known as ‘Gange Maa’ among the locals, Kashi is famous for its numerous temples, many ghats, the evergreen Benarasi Paan (betel leaf with a variety of spices, flavours and fragrances), the Banaras Hindu University campus, and silks of the finest quality. It is one of the seven holy cities, and also one of the twelve Jyotir Linga sites in India. With so much of spiritual sanctity associated with Kashi, it is undoubtedly among the most popular pilgrimage points in the country.
Ghats of Varanasi
The people of Varanasi take great pride in living in the city of Moksha, for it is believed in Hinduism that it is the gateway to heaven and the penultimate place to attain liberation from the cycle of life and death. Therefore, the locals, who are highly religious, believe that they must have done great deeds in their previous lives which got them the chance to be born in Varanasi. The people of this ancient city are also very hospitable.
It is believed that one bath in the holy waters of Ganga can wash away all the sins of one’s life. Therefore, the ghats are always flooded with tourists from all around the world seeking spiritual enlightenment, except in monsoon, when the water level is too high. Even then, you can always find pundits and Aghoris lost in penance. The entire city is full of temples and shrines that leave tourists awestruck and rejuvenate their souls.
Ghats: Located on the banks of the river Ganga, the ghats are places where tranquillity flows through little waves and serenity prevails in the breeze. The eye-catching beauty attracts a lot of travellers. Take a boat ride and visit the ghats one by one. There are 84 ghats in the city, all wonderful in their own ways. Some of the famous ghats are Assi Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Tulsi Ghat, Panchganga Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat. A Varanasi trip is considered incomplete if you do not witness the Gange Aarti that is performed each evening at the Ghats by priests.
Temples: The religious importance of Kashi cannot be overstressed. It’s believed that the entire city is situated on the trident of Lord Shiva. Each ancient temple has a fascinating religious belief or a mythological story related to it. Foreign tourists hire guides to know about the cultural depth attached to these structures of marble and stone. Some of the prominent temples to visit are Golden Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple, Annapurna Temple, and Nepali Hindu Temple.
Ashram & Math: There are a lot of Ashrams and Maths in Benaras where you can relax by practising yoga and meditation.
Sarnath: One of the four sacred Buddhist locations, Sarnath is situated near Benaras. Buddha gave his first sermon here and a lot of historical evidence from the time of Buddha and King Ashoka was discovered here. A lot of Buddhist followers come here and the wonderful surroundings make the small town a traveller’s paradise. Moreover, the breathtaking museum, Deer Park, and many Stupas from history only enhance the aura around Sarnath.
Forts & Museums: Ram Nagar Fort, which is at the other bank of Ganga belonged to the King of Kashi or Kashi Naresh. Also, a lot of museums with huge collections of artefacts and antiques are present. Some of the well-known centres of these collections are Jantar Mantar, Bharat Kala Bhawan, Saraswati Bhawan, and the Archaeological Museum.
Food: Like most cities in India, Varanasi too has a mouth-watering array of foods available all across the city, right from the area near the ghats to the narrow bylanes in the interiors. Popular foods that tourists in particular enjoy are hot kachoris, paans, lassi, sweets and thandai.
All of these reasons make Varanasi an amazing tourist destination and a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience real India.