Varanasi (Kashi) Information

Varanasi or Banaras, the ‘Abode of Lord Shiva’ is one of the oldest living cities in the world.  Its place in Hindu mythology is virtually unrivalled and is in fact, the microcosm of Hinduism.  According to legends, the city was created by Lord Shiva himself and the Puranic literature dates its existence ot at least three millennia.  The early history of Varanasi is replete with hoary tales of plunder and destruction by conquerors and religious zealots.  Kasha, the mythological name of this eternal city is said to be derived from the word ‘Kasha’, meaning shine or bright, as it was considered to be the ‘city of light’ or spiritual luminance.  The present name is a combination of Varuna and Asi, the two tributaries of Ganga flowing along the northern and southern borders of the holy city.  At Varanasi, Buddha and mahavira preached and Shankracharya wrote his commentaries on Hinduism.  Patanjali, the Sanskrit grammarian wrote his commentaries on Hinduism.  Patanjali, the Sanskrit grammarian wrote Mahabhasya and Tulsidas composed Ramcharitamanas.  And Kabir preached amity between religions.  Varanasi is also an important centre of education and has produced several world renowned academicians, musicians and artists.  It is a famous centre for fine arts and crafts.  The Benarasi silk sari with zari brocading in gold and silver and fine metal wires is a priceless possession of any Indian woman.  It also has a rich repertoire of silver, brass, copper artefacts and trinkets as well as aromatic perfumeries.  There is no Indian attraction like Varanasi.  It is much more than just a mere city, but is a way of life.

The holy city of Varanasi, also known as Banaras, is situated on the West bank of the Ganga.  Named after the confluence of two rivers, Vauna and Asi, it is not just the most sacred place of India, but is also one of the most visited destinations by tourists.  The city is centred on the ghats that line the waterfront, each honoring Shiva in the form of a Linga.  While the city stretches along the crescent of the River Ganges, its waterfront is dominated by long flights of stone ghats.  It is here that thousands of pilgrims and residents come for their daily ritual ablutions.
Millions of pilgrims to the city of Varanasi believe that Ganges has the power to wash away the sins of mortals.  It is for this reason that the innumerable ghats of Ganga are accounted for.  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 death.

Varanasi is blessed with a unique combination of physical, metaphysical and supernatural elements.  It combines the virtues of other places of pilgrimage across the country.  It is believed that anyone dying within the area marked by the Panch Kosi road goes straight to heaven.  It is also an important pilgrimage centre for Buddhists.  Buddha visited the place in 500BC after he achieved enlightenment.  Saranath, located close to Varanasi, is also popular among the Buddhists.  It was at Sarnath and Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment and shared his wisdom.
Today, Varanasi is also a centre of education, art and craft.  Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world.

A crumbling maze of a city that rises from the ghats (steps) on the western banks of the Ganges, Varanasi is in many senses the quintessential India. With an ancient history— Mark Twain famously described it as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together”—it is also one of the most sacred cities in the world today. Kashi, or “City of Light, where the eternal light of Shiva intersects the earth,” as Varanasi is seen by devotees, is the holiest of Indian pilgrimages, home of Shiva, where the devout come to wash away their sins. It is also one of the holiest tirthas (literally a “crossing” or sacred place where mortals can cross over to the divine, or the gods and goddesses come to bathe on Earth), where many return to die in the hope that they may achieve moksha, the salvation of the soul from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Named after the confluence of two rivers, Varuna and Asi, the city is centered on the ghats that line the waterfront, each honoring Shiva in the form of a linga—the rounded phallic-like shaft of stone found on every ghat. Cruise the waterfront at dawn and you will witness the most surreal scenes, when devotees come to bathe, meditate, and perform ancient rituals to greet the sun. Or even come at sunset, when pundits (priests) at Dasashwamedh Ghat perform arti (prayer ritual) with complicated fire rituals, and pilgrims light candles to float along the sacred waters.

Earliest accounts of the city go back 8,000 years, and “the city of learning and burning,” as it is affectionately referred to, has attracted pilgrims from time immemorial, not all of them Hindu—even Buddha visited here in 500 B.C. after he achieved enlightenment, sharing his wisdom at nearby Sarnath. Successive raids by Muslim invaders (the last of whom was the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb) led to the destruction of many of the original Hindu temples, which means that most of the buildings here date back no further than the 18th century. Yet the sense of ancient history is almost palpable. Getting lost in the impossibly cramped labyrinth, you are crowded by pilgrims purchasing flowers for puja (offering, or prayer), grieving relatives bearing corpses, chanting priests sounding gongs, and sacred cows rooting in the rubbish—an experience you will never forget.

WHAT TO SEE & DO

If you do only one thing in Varanasi, take a boat cruise past the ghats at dawn (see below); you can repeat this at sunset or, better still, head for Dasashwamedh Ghat to watch the Ganga Fire Arti. For 45 minutes, young Brahmin priests perform age-old prayer rituals with conch shells and burning braziers accompanied by drummers, while children hawk candles for you to light and set adrift. Aside from these two must-sees, you should set aside some time to wander the ancient lanes of the Old City, particularly those centered around Kashi Vishwanath Temple (see below)—but a few hours of picking your way past cow pats amid the incessant din of clanging temple gongs, not to mention striking out to view the 24-hour cremations at Manikarnika Ghat, are likely to have you craving peace and solitude. Hire a car and visit Sarnath, where Buddha first revealed his Eightfold Path to Nirvana, and where you can spend a few hours exploring the archaeological ruins, visit a modern Buddhist temple, and admire the beautiful Indo-Greek and Mathura styles of Buddhist art and sculpture at the museum. Alternatively, stay in Varanasi to explore the fascinating collection in the Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum at Benaras Hindu University. Both experiences are enriched by having a good guide with you.

History

The city of Varanasi, situated in U.P., expands to the Ganges.  Hindus believe that the mighty river originated from the tresses of Lord Shiva.  For over 3000 years, the city has been a centre of learning and civilization. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10km away, Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance.

Over the years, Varanasi became a great Hindu centre.  However, from the 11th century onwards, it was looted a number of times by Muslim invaders.  Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, brought the climax of these destructive visits.  He destroyed almost all the temples and converted the most famous one into mosque.

During the past, Varanasi has been a leader in the promotion of Hindi language.  Rows of famous people belong to the soil of this land.  Renowned 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 this blessed city.  For centuries, knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion and Indian arts and crafts have flourished, benefiting not just the Indians, but attracting admirers and devotees from all over the world.

Varanasi, being the birthplace of Tirthankar Parsvanat, is also a pilgrimage place for Jains.  Vaishnavism and Shaivism have co-existed in the city amicably.

A number of temples marking the skyline of the city persuaded Mrs.  Annie Besant to choose the palace as the home for her 'Theosophical Society'.  It is here that Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya established Banaras Hindu University, the biggest university in Asia  Ayurveda, believed to the basis of modern medical sciences, such as plastic surgery, cataract and calculus operations, is said to have originated here.

Climate

Varanasi lies at the Tropic of cancer.  So, it's very hot and humid there.  During summers, weather can be as hot as 45°C.  Torrential rains and high humidity accompany the monsoons. The two months of monsoon usually start from late June or early July.  However, the city is relatively free from the menace of Pollution.

Delicious and juicy mangoes buy a relief from the hot and sweating weather.  With the onset of winters, the scenario changes and dons a pleasant look.  During the cold season, the temperature tips down to about 7°C.  The climatic conditions are most favorable for the tourists from October to April.

Nonetheless, in spite of changes in temperature, the city remains a hot destination amongst the tourists.  For those who are ready to face the sun and enjoy the beauty and splendor of the city, it is a place to visit all the year round.

Flora & Fauna

Varanasi is picturesquely placed on both sides of Ganga.  Its northern part is alluvial plain, while its southern part has hilly tracts of mountainous ranges of Vindhyas.  The district is made up of two natural divisions.  The first part is the plain under the Ganga and its tributaries.  The plateau area of Naugarh forms the second part.  Naugarh development block has mountainous ridges overcast with dense forests and deep valleys drenched with rushing streams.  Farmers in Varanasi grow different kinds of rabi and kharif crops.  Their rabi crops include crops such as wheat and other vegetables such as radish, cauliflower, chana/peas, potato, onion, garlic and spinach.  Their kharif crops include paddy, maize, jowar, arhar, cauliflower and brinjal.

Culture

Varanasi is a museum of architectural designs.  Here, the temples, mosques and other historical buildings present changing patterns and movements in the course of history.  The city has a rich and original variety of painting and sculptor styles and equally rich treasures of folkart.  During the ages, Varanasi has produced master craftsmen and has earned name and fame for its sarees, handicrafts, textiles, toys, ornaments, metal work, clay and wood work and leaf and fibre crafts.

This holy and mythical city is a sacred complex that houses social and religious places, apart from sheltering culturally plural and linguistically and ethnically diverse groups.

The city has its share of extreme highs and lows, with poverty, disparity and slums existing along with affluence, intellectuals, traditions, castes and customs.  Traditional pleasures, like pans, thandai gamcha and bahri alang, characterize the culture as a unique one.

Varanasi is also the city of music, drama and entertainment.  It has its own gharana of music and dance tradition.  Add to this a rich stock of folk music and drama, the traditional musical sooiress, fairs and festival and the exciting tradition of Akharas, games and sports.

Varanasi is known for its religious and spiritual lifestyle.  Temples, mosques and worship play an important role in the day-to-day lives of the people of Varanasi. However, though the socio economic aspects of the city are highly influenced by religion and spiritually, yet the city is no way behind in the modern world.  Apart from housing growing modern industries, the city is also famous for Banaras Hindu University that has given some of the world-renowned scholars.

Varanasi (Kashi) Tourism Information

The Ghats

The major attraction of Varanasi are the 5km stretch of bathing and burning ghats that line the western bank of river Ganga.  About 100 big and small ghats were built during 18th and 19th century, some of them have withered away, while most of the ghatsghats have withstood the vagaries of time.  High above the chain of stone steps of the ghats are pavilions and palaces, temples and terraces.  Every ghat has its own religious significance, but bathing in the five most important ones Assi, Dasashvamedha, Harishchandra, Panchganga and Manikaranika in the same order on the same day absolves pilgrims from their sins.

Sri Kashi Vishwanath Temple

The ancient temple of Lord Shiva in the heart of Varanasi, enshrines the first of the twelve Jyotirlingas.  Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Vishwanath or Vishveswara, the ‘Lord of the world’ and the shrine is the main centre of devotion for the pilgrims visiting Varanasi.  The temple has been a living embodiment of cultural traditions since time immemorial.  The original temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb and was rbuilt in 1776, by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore.  In 1835, the shikaras of the temple were gold plated by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh of Punjab and shrine also came to be known as golden temple.  The shrine of Annapurna Bhavani dedicated to goddess Shakti is located nearby.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple Of the more than 2,000 temples in Varanasi, the most important is Kashi Vishwanath Temple, or “Golden Temple,” dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the city. Because of repeated destruction by the invading sultans and later by Aurangzeb, the current Vishwanath is a relatively modern building: It was built in 1777 by the Maharani of Indore, and the shikhara (spire) and ceilings were plated with 820 kilograms (1,808 lb.) of gold, a gift from the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in 1839. Five major aartis are held daily, but the temple is always abuzz with worshippers. Sadly, non-Hindus may not enter, but by taking a stroll through the Vishwanath Galli (pronounced gul-ley, meaning lane) that runs the length of it, you can get a glimpse of the interior, which exudes pungent smells and constant noise. For a small donation, you can also climb to one of the second floors or rooftops of the shops that line the lane and get a good view. Note that adjacent is Gyanvapi Mosque, built by Aurangzeb on a Hindu temple site and heavily guarded to ensure that no trouble erupts. Ironically, this is also the starting point for many pilgrims on their quest to visit all the tirthas in a ritual journey, accompanied by a priest who keeps reciting the sankalpa, or “declaration of intent.” Nearby is Annapurna Temple, dedicated to Shakti.

Gyanvapi Mosque

It lies adjacent to the Vishwanath temple and was built on the ruins of the original Vishwanatha temple in 17th century, by Aurangzeb.  The foundation and rear of the mosque reveal rare specimens of the ancient temple art.

Alamgir Mosque

Aurangzeb destroyed the Vishnu temple here and built the mosque on its ruins.  It is a blend of Hindu Muslim architecture and religious sentiments and is also known as “Beni Madhav ka Darera”.

Bharat Mata Temple

This unique temple was gifted by two nationalists Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta and Durga Prasad Khatriand inaugurated in 1936, by Gandhiji.  It enshrines one of the most perfect relief maps of Indian sub-continent and Tibetan Plateau, carved out of marble.

Tulsi manas Temple

This beautiful modern temple dedicated to Lord Rama is said to be located on the same place where Tulsidas, the great medieval seer and poet, lived and wrote the epic “Shri ramcharitmanas”.

Durga Temple

The 19th century shrine is one of the finest temples of Varanasi.

Banaras Hindu University

It was established in 1916, by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and is considered to be the largest residential university in Asia, sprawling over an area of about 2000 acres.  The New Vishwanth Temple and the Bharat Kala Kendra located within the premises of the university are worth visiting.

Varanasi Tour Information

Sarnath (10km)

Sarnath After gaining enlightenment, this is where Buddha gave his first sermon some 2,500 years ago, and continued to return with followers. For many centuries after this, it was renowned as a Buddhist center of learning, housing some 3,000 monks, but successive Muslim invasions and later lootings destroyed the monasteries and much of the art. Today it still attracts many pilgrims, but—unless you’re very familiar with Buddha’s personal history or are an archaeologist—the site itself is nowhere near as inspiring as his teachings. The most impressive sight is Dhamekh Stupa, if only for its sheer age. Built around A.D. 500, with a massive girth, it still towers 31m (102 ft.) into the air and is said to mark the very spot where Buddha revealed his Eightfold Path leading to nirvana. The ruins of Dharmarajika Stupa lie immediately north of the entrance. Beyond is the Ashokan Pillar—the stupa is said to have been one of 28 built by Ashoka, the 3rd-century-B.C. Mauryan king and bloodthirsty warrior who was to become one of the most passionate converts to Buddhism. Beyond these are the ruins of monasteries. Across the road from the entrance to the main site is Sarnath Archaeological Museum, where you can view the four-headed lion that once topped the Ashoka Pillar. The lion, with the wheel beneath representing Buddha’s “wheel of dharma,” is today a national emblem for India, found on all currency notes and official government documents. East of the Dhamek Stupa is Mulagandha Kuti (temple), which houses an image of Buddha (ironically enough, against his wishes, images of Buddha abounded after his death). The walls contain frescoes pertaining to his life history— a good crash course for the novice if accompanied by a guide.

It is considered to be the most important Buddhist pilgrim centre after Bodh Gaya.  Lord Buddha preached his first sermon at the fabled Deer Park over here after attaining enlightenment.  Later on, emperor Ashoka built magnificent stupas and other structures. The golden perod of Sarnath was around 640AD.  There were over 1500 priest, an imposing Stupa and a might Ashokan pillar.  Sarnath is a treasure house of Buddhist antiquities raging from the times of Ashoka to the 12thcentury AD.

Dhamek Stupa

The 110ft high Stupa marks the site where Buddha delivered his first sermon.  It was built around 500 AD and was rebuilt a number of times.  The geometrical and floral patterns on the stupa are typical of Gupta period.  Originally, there was a second stupa known as Dharmarajika Stupa.  It was dismantled in the 18th century by Jagat Singh of Benares.  Near the ruins of the stupa stands the majestic Ashoka Pillar surmounted by the superb capital with Ashokan symbol of four back to back lions.  The capital is now exhibited at Sarnath museum and is the national emblem of modern India.

Chaukhandi Stupa

This imposing mound of brick-work is said to be originally built by emperor Ashoka.

Mulagandha Kuti Vihar

The elegant shrine was built in 1930s, by the Mahabodhi Society.  It houses excellent murals and frescoes done by Japanese artists and ancient relics of Buddha. The ancient Mulagandha Kuti temple is located among the brick ruins of Sarnath.  Other interesting modern temples at Sarnath are Thai, Chinese, Tibetan, Burmese and Japanese monasteries.

Archaeological or Saranath Museum

It has a rich collection of Buddhist sculptures recovered from the ruins at Sarnath.  The main attraction is the superb capital from the Ashokan pillar depicting four back-to-back lions.

Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies

It was set up Dalai Lama in 1971 and is only one of its kinds in the entire world.

Digamber Jain Temple

The sacred shrine was built in 1824 and is said to be the birth place of Shreyanashnath, the 11th Jain tirthankara.

Ramnagar Fort (14km)

The 17th century fort overlooking the river Ganga is not far away from Assi ghat.  It was the presidential palace of the former Maharaja of Varanasi and the personal collection of the erstwhile royalty can be seen here.  Ramnagar is also known for the Ramlila, based on Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas the Dussehra celebrations.

Ramnagar Fort, the palace of the former Maharaja of Varanasi, is billed as another worthwhile attraction. Although the actual palace is beautiful in a run-down sort of way, and the location (the only Varanasi site on the east bank of the river) is lovely, the museum is filled with dusty, moth-eaten, decaying exhibits, such as the once-ornate howdas (elephant seats) that transported the royal family—fascinating in a way to see such beauty so discarded. Do stop for a glance at the palace’s grand Durbar Hall, though it’s hard to see through the filthy windows. The lack of care says much about the dedication of the current young Maharaja. Although he is said to involve himself in local tourism, his name certainly does not enjoy the reverence that the Maharajas of Rajasthan still evoke. That said, at press time, some renovations were underway, so do check for improvements. Last but not least of Varanasi’s fascinating sights, Bharat Mata, or Mother India Temple (located just north of the Old City) is worth highlighting, if only because it is the incarnation of the spoken Hindu belief that the very land of India is sacred (ironic, given the pollution). Pilgrims walk around a large relief map of the subcontinent before Partition, featuring all its holy tirthas, mountains, and rivers. Varanasi has produced some of India’s most talented musicians (the great Ravi Shankar was born here; if you’re unfamiliar with his genius, purchase without delay the CD Chants of India, produced by George Harrison—highly recommended). Ask your hotel what performances are being hosted while you are in town, or head for the International Music Centre in Ganesh Mahal on Wednesday and Saturday (check with your hotel for exact dates and times) for live Indian classical music performances by up-and-coming artists. Naach Ghar (Bungalow no. 25, Cantonment, near SSP Residence; & 93354-93084) is another place that puts on a dance performance almost every evening around 7:15 for Rs 500 ($11) per head. If you’d like to learn to play the tabla (set of two small drums) in Varanasi, which is renowned for its tabla merchants, head for Triveni Music Centre (D24/38 Pandey Ghat) and ask for Nandlal. Nandlal and his father also stage regular concerts at Triveni. An imitation of the Triveni Music Centre, called Triveny Musical House, can be found at Shivala behind the Bread of Life Bakery. Here Neeraj (& 94153-53668; 8am–6:30pm) can give you a crash course in a few Indian musical instruments (tabla, flute, sarangi, sitar, and violin) for Rs 100 ($2.30) an hour; he’s not bad if you’re just trying to get the feel of things and aren’t too serious about the experience. Yoga schools and teachers are a dime a dozen in Varanasi; even your hotel will likely have a morning yoga session you can join. If you’re keen on learning some serious yoga or the philosophy behind it, however, contact Dr. Vagisa Shastri at his residence behind the Bread of Life Bakery (Vagyoga Chetanapitham, B 3/131A, Shivala) between 7 and 9am. He charges Rs 450 ($10) for a 3-hour session and expects students to be disciplined, interested listeners.

Chunar (40km)

The historical town is famous for its impregnable fort, which is said to be originally built by the legendary king Vikramaditya of Ujjain, in memory of his brother Raja Bhartihari, who had taken live Samadhi here.  The Fort witnessed several battles and was associated Sher Shah Suri, who defeated Mughal emperor Humayun.  In 1575, Akbar recaptured the fort and was presided over by the Nawabs of Avadh.  It passed into the hands of British in 1764.  The fort has a sun dial and a huge well.  It affords a fine view of the Ganga.  Chunar is also known for its sandstone, which has been used most famously in Ashokan pillars.

CRUISING THE GHATS

Drifting along the Ganges, admiring the densely textured backdrop of 18th- and 19th-century temples and palaces that line the 84-odd bathing ghats, you will be confronted with one of the most spiritually uplifting or downright weird tableaus on the entire crazy subcontinent: Down below, waist-deep pilgrims raise their arms in supplication, priests meditate by staring directly into the rising sun or are frozen in complicated yoga positions, wrestlers limber up, and disinterested onlookers toss live rats from the towering walls of the Old City, among other assorted goings-on. Note that you’ll need to get here between 4:30am and 6am (check sunrise times with your hotel, as well as the time it takes to get to the ghats), so plan an early wake-up call. You should be able to hire a boat anywhere along the ghats, but most people either catch one from Assi Ghat, the southernmost ghat, or—particularly if you’re staying in the Cantonment area—from Dasashwamedh (meaning “10-horse-sacrifice,” referring to an ancient sacrifice performed by Brahma). Situated roughly halfway, this is the most accessible and popular ghat and is always crawling with pilgrims, hawkers, and priests surveying the scene from under bamboo umbrellas. Boats here operate at a fixed rate (at press time) of Rs 100 ($2.30) per hour. The following descriptions of the 100-odd ghats assume that you will leave from here; note that it’s worth traveling both north and south. You can do another trip in the evening as the sun is setting, but don’t travel too far—no boating is allowed after sunset (except at the time of arti, when you can sail up to Manikarnika Ghat—see “Up in Flames,” above). Heading North from Dasashwamedh Ghat From here, you pass Man Mandir Ghat which, along with the beautiful palace that overlooks it, was built by the Maharaja Man Singh of Amber in 1600. Jai Singh, who built the Jantar Mantars, converted the palace into an observatory in 1710. Hours are 7am to 5:30pm; entrance costs Rs 100 ($2.30). Next is Mir Ghat, where the New Vishwanath Temple, Vishalakshi shrine, and Dharma Kupa (where the Lord of Death relinquished his hold over those who die in Varanasi), are found. North lies Lalita Ghat, with its distinctive Nepalese Temple, and beyond it is the “burning” Manikarnika Ghat, the principal and favored smashan ghat (cremation ground) of Varanasi, where you can see funeralpyre flames burning 24 hours, tended by the doms, or “Untouchables”—touching the dead is considered polluting to all but these low castes. Boats are requested to keep their distance as a sign of respect. On this ghat is the venerated Manikarnika Kund, the world’s first tirtha, said to have been dug out by Vishnu, whose sweat filled it as he created the world as ordered by Shiva. Some say that Shiva shivered in delight when he saw what Vishnu had created, dropping an earring into the pool; others say that it was the earring of Sati, Shiva’s dead wife, hence the name Manikarnika: “jeweled earring.” Between the Kund and the ghat is what is supposed to be Vishnu’s footprint. Adjacent is Scindia Ghat, with its distinctive, half-submerged Shiva temple, toppled by weight; then Ram Ghat and Panchganga Ghat (said to be empowered by the five mythical streams that flow here into the Ganges), and one of the five tirthas at which pilgrims perform rituals. Behind the ghat glowers Alamgir Mosque, built by Aurangzeb on a Hindu temple he destroyed; note also the almost submerged cells where the Kashi pundits (priests) are freeze-framed in meditation poses. Proceed from here to Gai, Trilochana, and Raj ghats, but it’s best (if you still want to proceed south) to turn back at Panchganga (or explore the north banks further on foot). Heading South Passing Chaumsathi Ghat, where the temple houses images of Kali and Durga; and Dhobi Ghat, alive with the sound of laundry workers rhythmically beating clothing that have been “cleansed” by the Ganges, you come to Kedara Ghat, notable for its red-and-white-striped South Indian–style temple. Farther south lie Harishchandra Ghat, Varanasi’s second cremation ghat (though less popular because it also houses an electric crematorium); and Tulsi Ghat, named in honor of Goswami Tulsidas, a revered Hindu poet. Nearby is Lolark Kund, where childless women come to bathe and pray for progeny. The final stop (or the first, if your accommodations make a south-north journey more convenient) is Assi Ghat, a simple clay bank situated at the confluence of the Ganga and Assi rivers. From here you can walk to Durga Temple, which lies farther west from the ghat. Note: If you want to walk from Assi Ghat to Dasashwamedh, the trip will take a leisurely 60 to 90 minutes. Although the best time to walk or cruise the river is at sunrise or before sunset, you may wish to see the river in a completely different and relatively quiet “avatar,” in which case take a late-afternoon stroll down the ghats in winter.

Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum

Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum As is so often the case in India, this museum suffers from poor curatorship, with exhibits—which are marvelous—haphazardly displayed and poorly labeled. You may even have trouble persuading the guards to turn on all the lights and show you the rooms behind the screen—hence the need for a good guide. The miniature-painting collection is superb, as are many of the Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and Mughal artifacts, though again, without a guide there is no way to know, for instance, that the otherwise nondescript coin behind the glass was minted by the Mughal emperor Akbar—and in keeping with his legendary religious tolerance, it has a Hindu symbol printed on one side and an Islamic on the other. Set aside 2 hours to explore.

Varanasi Distance Guide

Varanasi to Aligarh 607 Km
Varanasi to Allahabad 122 Km
Varanasi to Almora 825 Km
Varanasi to Badrinath 1123 Km
Varanasi to Banda 291 Km
Varanasi to Bareilly 530 Km
Varanasi to Budaun 638 Km
Varanasi to Dehradun 949 Km
Varanasi to Etawah 451 Km
Varanasi to Faizabad 201 Km
Varanasi to Fatehgarh 450 Km
Varanasi to Ghazipur 69 Km
Varanasi to Gonda 242 Km
Varanasi to Gorakhpur 225 Km
Varanasi to Haridwar 870 Km
Varanasi to Jhansi 497 Km
Varanasi to Kanpur 315 Km
Varanasi to Lakhimpur 417 Km
Varanasi to Lucknow 286 Km
Varanasi to Mathura 669 Km
Varanasi to Meerut 763 Km
Varanasi to Moradabad 622 Km
Varanasi to Nainital 699 Km
Varanasi to Pithoragarh 897 Km
Varanasi to Rampur 714 Km
Varanasi to Saharanpur 957 Km
Varanasi to Shahjahanpur 454 Km
Varanasi to Uttar Kashi 998 Km
Varanasi to Agra 565 Km