Search

North India Tour Packagesdfg
Golden Triangle Tour Packagesdfg
Rajasthan Tour Packagesdfg
Exclusive Tour Packagesdfg
Top Travel Destination
Fairs & Festivals
Indian Wildlife
Heritage Hotels
Varanasi


The name Varanasi, has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi for it lies with the confluence of Varuna with the Ganges being to its north and that of Assi and the Ganges to its south. Another speculation about the origin of the name is that the river Varuna itself was called Varanasi in olden times, from where the city got its name. Through the ages, Varanasi was variously known as Avimuktaka, Anandakanana, Mahasmasana, Surandhana, Brahma Vardha, Sudarsana, Ramya,Benaras and Kasi, regarded as holy by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.

Varanasi is home to the Banaras Hindu University. Residents mainly speak Kashika Bhojpuri, which is closely related to the Hindi language. People often refer to Varanasi as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", "the city of learning" and the "culture capital of India".

American writer Mark Twain wrote: "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together."

HISTORY
According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity, Shiva, around 5,000 years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. It is one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus. Many Hindu scriptures, including Rigveda, Skanda Purana, Ramayana, and Mahabharata, describe the city.

Varanasi is generally believed to be about 3,000 years old. Varanasi was a commercial and industrial center famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautama Buddha (born circa 567 BC, Varanasi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kashi. The celebrated Chinese traveler, Xuanzang, attested that the city was a center of religious, educational, and artistic activities, and that it extended for about 5 km along the western bank of the Ganges.

During successive invasions starting with the hordes of Mahmud of Ghazni in 1033 CE followed by Mohammed Ghori in 1193 CE, Muslims pillaged and destroyed several times Hindu temples (which were being continually rebuilt) in Varanasi, and used the temple material to build mosques. At the start of the seventeenth century, Mughal Emperor Akbar brought some relief in the destruction of Hindu temples, but near the end of that century, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb led another temple destruction and even renamed the city as Mohammadâbâd. In these years of Muslim rule, learned scholars in Varanasi fled to other parts of India.until Marathas came to rescue it. Marathas brought old pride of city back when it was under their control
Varanasi under subsequent British rule, remained a commercial and religious center. In 1910, the British made Varanasi a new Indian state, with Ramanagar as its headquarters but with no jurisdiction over the city of Varanasi itself. Kashi Naresh (Maharaja of Kashi) still resides in the fort of Ramanagar.

GEOGRAPHY
The city of Varanasi is located in the middle Ganga valley of North India, in the Eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, along the left crescent-shaped bank of the Ganga river. It has the headquarters of Varanasi district. The "Varanasi Urban Agglomeration" — an agglomeration of seven urban sub-units — covers an area of 112.26 km² (approximately 43 mi²). The urban agglomeration is stretched between 82° 56’E - 83° 03’E and 25° 14’N - 25° 23.5’N. Being located in the Gangetic plains of North India, the land is very fertile because low level floods in the Ganges continually replenish the soil.
On a local level, Varanasi is located on a higher ground between rivers Ganga and Varuna, results in absence of tributaries and canals, the main land is continuous and relatively dry. In ancient times, this geographic situation must have been highly favorable for forming settlements.

Varanasi has a humid subtropical climate with large variations between summer and winter temperatures. Summers are long, from early April to October, with intervening monsoon seasons. Cold waves from the Himalayan region cause temperatures to dip across the city in the winter from December to February. The temperature ranges between 32°C – 46°C (90°F – 115°F) in the summers, and 5°C – 15°C (41°F – 59°F) in the winters. The average annual rainfall is 1110 mm (44 in). Fog is common in the winters, while hot dry winds, called loo, blow in the summers.

The city is relatively free from air pollution. Through a combination of water pollution, new constructions of upstream dams, and increase in the local temperature, the water level of the Ganges has recently gone down significantly, and small islands have become visible in the middle of the river.

CULTURE
The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in northern India for several thousand years. The Benares Gharana form of Indian classical music developed in Varanasi, and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians resided or reside in Varanasi, Tulsidas wrote his Ramacharitamanas there, and Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath near Kashi. Ayurveda is said to have originated at Varanasi.

Regions of Varanasi near the banks of Ganga are extremely crowded and have narrow winding lanes that are flanked by road-side shops and several Hindu temples. The main residential areas of Varanasi (especially for the middle and upper classes) are situated in regions far from the ghats; they are more spacious and less polluted.

Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats. Many of the ghats were built when the city was under Maratha control. Marathas, Shindes (Scindias), Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwes (Peshwas) stand out as patrons of present-day Varanasi.
Many ghats are privately owned. The former Kashi Naresh (Maharaja of Kashi, Kasi) owns Shivala or Kali ghat.

Most of the ghats are bathing ghats, while others are used as cremation sites. Many ghats are associated with legends or mythologies.


PLACES OF TOURIST INTEREST

GHATS

Assi Ghat
Situated at the confluence of Ganga and Asi rivers, Assi Ghat is the southernmost Ghat in Varanasi, where pilgrims bathe before paying their homage to Lord Shiva in the form of huge lingam situated under a peepal tree. Assi Ghat also constitutes the southern end of conventional city. Another lingam worshipped here is the Asisangameshwar lingam representing the lord of confluence of the Asi, enshrined in a small marble temple near the Assi Ghat. It was at the Assi Ghat where the famous Indian poet saint, Tulsi Das had written the much-celebrated Ramcharitmanas.

There are numerous references of Assi Ghat in early literature of the Hindus. We find the mention of Assi Ghat in matsya purana, Agni purana, kurma purana, padma purana and kashi khanda. According legends, Goddess Durga had thrown her sword after slaying the demon, Shumbha- Nishumbha. The place, where the sword had fallen resulted in a big stream, known as Assi River. Assi Ghat is located at the confluence of River Ganga and Assi River. In Kashi Khand, Assi Ghat is referred as Assi "Saimbeda Tirtha" and according to it one gets punya of all the Tirthas (religious places) by taking a dip here. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims take holy dip here in the months of Chaitya (March/ April) and Magh (Jan/Feb) and other important occasions like solar/ lunar eclipse, Ganga Dussehra, Probodhoni Ekadashi, Makar Shankranti etc.


Dasaswamedh Ghat

Dasaswamedh literally means the Ghat (river front) of ten sacrificed horses. According to legends ten horses were sacrificed by Lord Brahma to allow Lord Shiva to return from a period of banishment. In spite of the fact that Dasaswamedh is one of the oldest Ghats of Varanasi, dating back to many thousand years, the Ghat has remained unspoilt and clean.
Dasaswamedh provides a beautiful and colorful riverfront view. A large number of Sadhus can be seen performing religious rites on this Ghat. Devotees must not miss the opportunity of visiting the Dasaswamedh Ghat in the evening when after Aarti, thousands of earthen lamps are immersed in the waters of the holy Ganges and the floating lamps give a divine look to the river at dusk.

 

Harish Chandra Ghat
Harish Chandra Ghat is one of the oldest Ghats of Varanasi, name after a mythological King Harish Chandra, who once worked at the cremation ground here for the perseverance of truth and charity. It is believed that the Gods rewarded him for his resolve, charity and truthfulness and restored his lost throne and his dead son to him. Harish Chandra Ghat is one of the two cremation Ghats (the other being Manikarnika Ghat) and is some times referred as Adi Manikarnika (the original creation ground). Hindus from distant places bring the dead bodies of their near and dear ones to the Harish Chandra Ghat for cremation. In Hindu mythology it is believed that if a person is cremated at the Harish Chandra Ghat, that person gets salvation or "moksha". The Harish Chandra Ghat was somewhat modernized in late 1980's, when an electric crematorium was opened here.


Manikarnika Ghat

Manikarnika Ghat is the main cremation Ghat of Varanasi. Manikarnika Ghat is one of the oldest and most sacred Ghats in Benaras. According to the Hindu mythology, being burned here provides an instant gateway to liberation from the cycle of births and rebirths. Lying at the center of the five tirthas, Manikarnika Ghat symbolizes both creation and destruction. At Manikarnika Ghat, the mortal remains are consigned to flames with the prayers that the souls rest in eternal peace. There is a sacred well at the Manikarnika Ghat, called the Manikarnika Kund. Manikarnika Kund is said to be dug by Lord Vishnu at the time of creation while the hot ashes of the burnt bodies makes one remember the inevitable destruction of everything in the world.



Tulsi Ghat

Tulsi Ghat is named after the great Hindu poet of the 16th century, Tulsidas. Tulsi Ghat is an important window into the Hindu mythology. Tulsi Das composed the great Indian epic, Ramcharitmanas at Varanasi. According to mythology, when Tulsi's manuscript fell into the River Ganga it did not sink and kept floating instead. It is also believed that the Ramlila (story of Lord Rama's life) was staged here for the first time. Perhaps, to commemorate this a temple of Lord Ram was built on the Tulsi Ghat. The house in which Tulsidas died has been preserved and his samadhi, wooden clogs, pillow and the idol of Hanuman, which Tulsi worshipped, are all still intact here.

Earlier, Tulsi Ghat was known as Lolark Ghat, is associated with a number of important activities such as bath of Lolarkkunda (to be blessed with sons and their long life) and the sacred bath to get rid of leprosy. Tulsi Ghat is also a center of cultural activities. During Hindu lunar month of Kartika (Oct/Nov), Krishna Lila is staged here with great fanfare and devotion.


BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY

Varanasi is the site of three public universities. Banaras Hindu University, which includes Institute of Technology and Institute of Medical Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth University and Sampurnanand Sanskrit University are the other two universities.
Banaras Hindu University (1916) was founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya with the cooperation of Dr Annie Besant. Its 1350 acre (5.5 km²) campus was built on land donated by the Kashi Naresh.
Governor General Lord Cornwallis establish the Sanskrit College (1791), which was the first college in Varanasi. After independence this college turned to in Sampurnanand Sanskrit University.
The Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies at Sarnath is a deemed university with a preference for the traditional Tibetan method of teaching within a framework of modern universities. Varanasi is also noted to provide Hindu religious teaching. Since ancient times people have been coming to Varanasi to learn philosophy, Sanskrit, astrology, social science and religious teachings. In Indian tradition, Varanasi is often called "Sarva Vidya Ki Rajdhani" (capital of knowledge).The city also has the Jamiah Salafiah, a Salafi Islamic institution.