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Varanasi GUIDE

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  VARANASI TOURIST INFORMATION

Varanasi, one of the oldest living cities of the world, is situated on the north bank of Ganga and is located midway between Delhi and Calcutta. it is known as the religious and cultural capital of India. Its known history dates back to about 3500 hundred years, during which it has continuously been populated. However, Hindus believe that the city is eternal. Varanasi has also been known as Kashi and Benares, but its present name is restoration of an ancient name meaning the city between two rivers - the Varuna and Asi. For the pious Hindu the city has always had a special place. Varanasi is one of the largest cities in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Products of the city include shawls, saris, gold-embroidered cloth, hand-hammered brassware, and heavy gold and silver jewellery. Varanasi is especially known for its fine silk fabrics. It is also home to the Diesel Locomotive Works of Indian Railways, one of the largest locomotive manufacturing plants in the World. The Ganges or the Ganga River is one of the greatest attractions of Varanasi. Devout Hindus make pilgrimages from all parts of India to bathe in the Ganges, whose water they believe to be sacred. Along the river, stairways have been set-up, known as ghats, from which people can bathe before saying their daily prayers. Every year, over a million pilgrims visit the city. Varanasi is also known for its large temples and its monasteries and palaces.
 
 

  VARANASI HISTORY

The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been an ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Often referred to as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world and as Mark Twain said, "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together". Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi, would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, who are believed to be the foremost citizens of the city as they lived here for sometime after their marriage and worshipped for being the holiest city along side Ganga, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals and thus, the innumerable Ghats of Ganga in the city are accounted for. Situated in the U.P. region, Ganges is said to have its origins in the tresses of Lord Shiva and in Varanasi, it expands to the mighty river that we know of. The city is a center of learning and civilization for over 3000 years. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10 km away, it has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Varanasi has also been a leader in the promotion of Hindi language and honored authors such as the ever-famous novelist Prem Chand, Tulsi Das, the famous saint-poet who wrote Ram Charit Manas and Ravi Shankar, the internationally renowned Sitar maestro are all sons of the blessed city or have lived here for major part of their lives. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts have all flourished here for centuries. Also a pilgrimage place for Jains, Varanasi is the birthplace of their Tirthankar Parsvanath.
 
 

  VARANASI FACTS AND FIGURES


Varanasi Facts & Figures
State Uttar Pradesh
Area 83.05 km² 
Population  
Altitude 80.71 m
Languages Hindi, English, Sanskrit
STD code 0542
 
   

  HOTELS IN VARANASI

   
 Five Star Hotels :-  First class Hotels :- Budget Hotels :-
Nadesar Palace Palace on Ganges OK International
Ramada Plaza Hindustan International Palace on Steps
Taj Gateway Hotel Ganges Ideal Tower Siddharth
Radisson Meraden Grand Pradeep
  Clarks Varanasi Best Western Kashika
    Clarks Tower
    Varanasi Ashok
    Varanasi Shiv Ganga
 
   

  VARANASI ATTRACTIONS

Annapurna Temple » Bharat Kala Museum » Bharat Mata Temple » Ramnagar Fort » Sankat Mochan Temple » Vindhyachal » Sarnath » Chunar Fort » Chandraprabha Sanctuary
 
   

  VARANASI TRAVEL INFO

By Air - There are daily domestic flights to and from Varanasi to several cities in India. In fact, the daily flights on Delhi-Varanasi-Khajuraho-Varanasi route are quite popular among the tourists.

By Rail - There are two railway stations in Varanasi, the Kashi Junction and the Varanasi Junction, also known as the Cantonment Station. It is well connected to Delhi and Calcutta by many trains and also to the other significant Indian cities. Rajdhani Express from Delhi or from Calcutta passes through Varanasi too. Alternatively, one can also take trains for Mughalsarai, just 10 km south of Varanasi.

By Road - Varanasi has a good network of roads, frequent public and private buses and road transport to all the major towns of Uttar Pradesh and nearby areas.
 
   

  VARANASI FAIRS AND FESTIVALS

Fairs and festivals are celebrated with traditional gaiety and fervor to invoke divine blessings as well as for the sheer joy of living. A celebration of life at its best.

Ganga Festival :
Celebrated usually in October or November, this festival at Varanasi is dedicated to River Ganga. Ganges is worshipped for her glory and ritualistic importance with ardent fervor and festivity.

Bharat Milap :
Celebrating Lord Ram's return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile and His reunion with His brother Bharat, the festival is held one day following Dussehra. Attended by the Kashi Naresh resplendent in regal finery, the festival attracts at least a million devotees.

Buddh Purnima : Celebrating the birth of Lord Buddha, this festival is celebrated with gaiety and rare abandon. A large fair is held at Sarnath and the relics of the Buddha are taken out for a public display on a procession, on this day.

Ramlila : This world renowned Ram Lila has been based on Goswami Tulsidas's 'Ramcharitmanas' and one can see a live demonstration of ancient rituals. A month long feast for the tourists. Ramlila is performed in the form of Ram Janmotsav, Dhanush Bhang, Surpnakha Nasika Chedan etc. at various places.

Mahashivratri : On this day every Shiv Mandir in decorated. In Varanasi a marriage procession of Lord Shiv is taken out starting from Mahamritunjaya temple, Daranagar to Kashi Vishwanath temple via chowk. Round 50,000 - 60,000 people gather to see this event.

Panch Koshi Parikrama : It has a special importance in the ancient Parikramas of India, starting and finishing at Manikarnika Ghat. Each parikrama passes through 5 places : Kardmeshwar, Bhimchani, Rameshwar, Shivpur and Kapildhara.
 
   

  VARANASI SHOPPING

Silk weaving is perhaps the most coveted art of Varanasi and Banarasi silk sarees form an essential part of an Indian bride's trousseau. The world-famous gold and silver brocades and richly worked saris are known to have passed on from generations to generations much like family jewels without their charm fading with time. Besides Banarasi saris and brocades, the visitors may look for exquisite pieces of brassware, copperware, wooden and clay toys and antique designs of heavy gold jewellery in the city. Other shopping attractions of the city include the hand-knotted carpets of Mirzapur, musical instruments, the 'khatta-meetha' (sweet 'n' sour) 'Langda Aam', a popular variety of mangoes available during summer season and the famous betel leaf that is considered a specialty of the region. We can see Benarasi people chewing betel leaves as a part of their cultural upbringing and they even welcome their guests by offering them the famous betel leaves. The shopping hotspots in the city are Chowk, Gyan Vapi, Vishwanath Gali, Thatheri Bazar, Lahurabir, Godoulia or Dashswamedh Gali and Golghar. Varanasi is a noted centre for silk weaving and brassware. Besides the illustrious and fine silks and brocaded fabrics, one can also buy shawls, carpets, wall hangings, Zari work, stone inlay work, glass beads and bangles, masks of Hindu and Buddhist deities and lampshades in the city. However, one has to be on watch while buying silk saris and beware of the imitations that are much cheaper than the real silk ones but are not so easy to distinguish. People say that the test for real silk is to ask for a sample of cloth and burn it. If it is real silk, smoke will be odorless. One can also buy 'kamandalu' or brass water pot from here, which is often used by 'sanyasis' to carry water. People buy bottled 'Ganga jal' or jerrycans from the riverbank too for religious purposes or to be used as Holy Water in various rituals. Alternatively, people can fill water of Ganges themselves from the mid-river.
 
   

  VARANASI CUISINE

The sumptuous and delicious but tangy and spicy North Indian food and snacks are the best options to try at Varanasi. However, one can get good Chinese, Italian, Continental and South-Indian food too. There are good number of Byzantine eateries and restaurants in the cities where one can explore for the food that suits one's tastes. The wide variety of mouth-watering sweets and snacks are just not to be missed. There is 'paapri-chaat', which plays with your taste buds with its tangy and spicy flavor of ginger and tamarind chutney and the cooling and soothing yoghurt. While talking about the specialties of Benarasi flavors, who can ever forget the sour and sweet 'Langda aam', a variety of mango available in summers and the frVaranasint 'Benarasi paan' that is often added with aromatic essences such as that of rose and 'supari' (areca-nut) along with other goodies. Chewing this 'paan' seems to be a part of the cultural identity of the people of Varanasi.
 
   

  GHATS OF RIVER GANGES

In Varanasi, Ghats of Ganga are perhaps the holiest spots in the city of Varanasi. These bathing ghats are full of pilgrims who flock to the place to take a holy dip in the Ganges that is believed to absolve one from all sins. There are number of temples on the bank of the river for people, thus cleansed physically, mentally and spiritually, to pray and worship. Since centuries, people go to these ghats even before dawn so that they can offer their prayers to the rising sun. There are more than 100 ghats along side Ganga in Varanasi alone but perhaps the most popular one is the Dasaswamedh Ghat situated on the western bank of the river.