Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India (also known as Kashi and Benaras) is regarded as an eternal holy city. Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world and has been a popular centre for learning for centuries together. Even today, people come to learn Sanskrit, the mother of all languages, and yoga in Varanasi.
The ghats of Varanasi are the prime attractions of this holy pilgrimage city. Regarded as sacred by Hindus, every ghat of Varanasi has a history attached to it. Some of these sacred ghats also find mention in ancient Indian scriptures. The most prominent is the Dasaswamedh ghat. Stretching up to a distance of 4 kms, many religious rituals are held at the ghats on a regular basis. The ghats of Varanasi are best viewed at dawn, when devotees perform various kinds of rituals and earthen lamps are immersed in the waters.
The Durga temple of Varanasi is also held in high reverence by Hindus. In this temple, Goddess Durga is worshipped as an embodiment of shakti or female power, clad in red and riding a tiger. The deity is shown in an angry posture armed with a sword. The earlier ritual of animal sacrifice in the temple has now been discontinued.
The Bharat Mata Temple is a relatively new building in this ancient city. Inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936, the temple houses a perfect relief map of India carved out of marble. The most unique feature of this temple is that instead of worshipping any religious deity, the temple is dedicated to motherland India.
Bharat Kala Bhawan is famous for its impressive collection of miniature paintings. The wide collection includes Rajasthani paintings, pahari paintings, Nepalese & Tibetan Thankas, and also paintings of many contemporary artists. The museum has also preserved many ancient scriptures and offers a nice break from the religious places of Varanasi.
One of major Buddhist pilgrimage centres, Sarnath is 10 kms from Varanasi. Sarnath is the place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after gaining enlightenment. Later, Emperor Ashoka erected several magnificent stupas like Dharmarajika Stupa and Dhamekh Stupa and other impressive buildings. Sarnath also houses the Ashoka Pillar, dating back to the 3rd century, which bears the Ashokan symbol of four back-to-back lions, which is today the national emblem of India.
Varanasi city is renowned for its silk weavers, who prepare the finest types of woven silk fabrics. When in Varanasi, visit silk weavers and cooperatives to have a first hand experience in silk weaving.
Enjoy an early morning boat ride on the Holy River Ganges, worshipped by the locals as the river of birth and death. See the ‘bathing ghats’ where thousands of pilgrims pay homage to the Sun God by immersing themselves in the holy water of River Ganges, and the ‘burning ghats’ where cremations are conducted.
Varanasi is renowned as the oldest living city in the world. Enjoy a guided heritage walk through some of the oldest streets of Varanasi experiencing history thousands of years old and appreciating the belief of saadhus (holy men) and locals in God and spiritualism.
Varanasi has some of the oldest Yoga learning centres of India. Enjoy the unique opportunity of learning yoga from the masters.
Established by the Dalai Lama in 1971, the Central Institute of Higher Tibetian Studies is the only institute of its kind in the world, imparting education in Tibetan language. The institute is located at Sarnath, and houses a rare collection of Buddhist texts, Tibetan manuscripts and ancient journals.
Varanasi has earned global acclaim for exquisite silk saris with intricate floral patterns and elaborate zari (golden thread) works. These beautiful creations are adored by Indian women and considered precious possessions which are passed on from one generation to the next.
Besides the illustrious fine silks and brocade fabrics, one can also buy shawls, carpets, wall hangings, stone inlay work, glass beads and bangles, masks of Hindu and Buddhist deities and lampshades in Varanasi.
The main shopping areas are Chowk, Godowilia, Vishwanath Lane and Thatheri Bazaar.
When in Varanasi, dining at the Nadesar Palace is an indulgent experience starting with breakfast on the sun-kissed verandah, a spiritually inspired plated meal at lunch in the dining room, or a barbeque dinner by the poolside. Set along the banks of River Ganges, amidst verdant gardens, mango orchards, marigold and jasmine fields, Nadesar Palace is a haven of peace and tranquillity in the holy city of Varanasi.
Ganga Fuji Restaurant : The restaurant serves multi cuisine food and is a cozy and comfortable place for a night out.
El Parador : One of Varanasi’s most remarkable restaurants, El Parador serves Mexican and continental cuisine. Dine on the rooftop terrace amidst planted herbs or in the quaint first-floor restaurant.
Shiv Prasad Lassi Bhandar : Varanasi’s lassi (the famous Indian yogurt drink) is not-to-be-missed and one of the best is available at Shiv Prasad Lassi Bhandar.
Keshava Tambakoo Bhandaar and Lakshmi Tambakoo Bhandaar : Don’t leave Varanasi without tasting the Benarsi paan (Betel leaf), laced with zarda (mouth- freshener) and sweeteners!