Varanasi, or Benaras, (also known as Kashi) is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi`s prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrivalled. Mark Twain, the English author, who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Benaras, once
wrote : "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together" . According to the ‘Vamana Purana’, the Varuna and the Assi rivers originated from the body of the primordial person at
the beginning of time itself. The tract of land lying between them is believed to be ‘Varanasi’, the holiest of all pilgrimages.
The word ‘Kashi’ originated from the word ‘Kas’ which means to shine. Steeped in tradition and mythological legacy, Kashi is the ‘original ground ‘ created by Shiva and Parvati, upon which they stood at the beginning of time. Varanasi is the microcosm of
Hinduism, a city of traditional classical culture, glorified by myth and legend and sanctified by religion , it has always attracted a large number of pilgrims and worshippers from time immemorial.
To be in Varanasi is an experience in itself an experience in self–discover an eternal oneness of the body and soul. To every visitor; Varanasi offers a breathtaking experience. The rays of the dawn shimmering across the Ganges, the high-banks, the temples
and shrines along the banks bathed in a golden hue soul stirring hymns and mantras alongwith the fragrance of incense filling the air and the refreshing dip in the holy waters gently splashing at the Ghats.
Varanasi is a land where experience and discovery reach the ultimate bliss. Varanasi is also renowned for its rich tapestry of music, arts, crafts and education. Some of the world renowned exponents India has produced in these fields were schooled in Varanasi’s
cultural ethos. Luminaries apart, Varanasi abounds in the art of silk weaving, an exotic work of art which manifests itself in precious Banarasi Silk Sarees and Silk brocades which are cherished as collector’s items across the world today.
History of Varanasi
Sarnath is one of the four most important Buddhist pilgrimage centres of India. Buddha, the great sage , after attaining enlightenment (Buddha-hood) at Bodh Gaya came to Sarnath and delivered his first sermon to five disciples (i.e. Kaundinya, Bashpa, Bhadrika,
Mahanaman and Ashvajit) for redeeming humanity. It is this place where foundation of a new order of monks (Sangha) and a new order of religious doctrine (Dhamma) was laid.
Sarnath is also sacred to the Jains because they look upon it as the site of asceticism and death of Shreyamshanath, the 11th Trithankara. In ancient Buddhist literature the place finds mention as Rishipatna and Mrigdava or Mrigadaya. The place was called
Rishipatna , as it was here the bodies of five hundred Pratyeka Buddhas or Rishis(Sages) fell after their attainment of nirvana (Salvation). According to the Jataka, in one of his previous births, Buddha as a leader of a herd of deer,for saving life of a doe,
appeared before the king of Benaras,who relished on the flesh of a deer everyday.
Culture of Varanasi
Banaras is said to be the cultural capital of India and has special importance for hindus.
Archaeology, mythology, geography, the history of Banaras, the unique location alongside the Ganges and its journey through the history of India what makes it oldest living city.
Arts, Crafts and Architecture of Banaras:
You will be amused to see that Varanasi is a Museum of architectural designs. It presents changing patterns and movements in course of history. It has a rich and original variety of paintings and sculptor styles and equally rich treasures of folk art. 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, leaf and fibre crafts.
The holiest of the holy river- its mythology, socio-economic aspects, its monumental ghats and their story – Ganges has been the lifeline of Varanasi for ages.
The City of Music and Drama and Entertainment:
Banaras has been famous for its music both vocal and instrumental. It has its own dance tradition. Apart from this Banaras is famous for a very rich stock of folk music and drama (esp. Ramlila), the traditional musical soirees, fairs and festival, the rich
tradition of Akharas, games and sports and classical Banaras Transport vehicles like Ekka.
Discover the fast developing city of heavy, light and cottage industries, local handicrafts and other small scale industrial units. ( DLW, BHEL, Electric, Cycle,Pumps, Paper, Glass, Fertilizer etc.)
Varanasi is the home of ancient College of Plastic Surgery, Sushruta, Dhanvantri (God of Medicine), Divodas, and practice of all the ancient and modern systems of medicine in action.
Banarasi Sari And Brocades
Banaras is one of the rich weaving craft centres of India, famous for Brocade saris and allover dress material. Exclusive varieties of the saris are Jangla, Tanchoi, Vaskat, Cutwork, Tishu, and Butidar which are made of silk warp and silk weft, on plain/satian
ground base, brocaded with extra weft patterns in different layouts introducing Buties, Bells, creepers, Buttas in ground, border and Anchal for getting glamours appearance.
In the History of the India Banaras is known since regveda. A period of Ramayana and Mahabharat refers about the famous Banarasi Sharee and Fabrics as Hiranya Vastra (Putamber Vastra). In the ancient time Banaras was famous for the weaving of cotton saree
and dress materials, but slowly it has switched over to silk weaving. During the Mughal period around 14th century weaving of brocades with intricate designs using gold & silver threads was the speciality of Banaras.
Brocade refer to those textiles where in patterns are created in weaving by transfixing or thrusting the pattern-thread between the warp. In regular weaving the weft thread passes over and under the warp thread regularly. But when brocade designs are to
be woven in gold, silver silk or cotton threads , special threads are transfixed in between by skipping the passage of the regular weft over a certain number of warp threads (depending upon the pattern) and by regularising the skipping by means of pre-arranged
heddles for each type of patterning.
There are several sets of heddles so arranged that on different occasions, they raise and depress irregular number of threads in turn, as required by the exigencies of the pattern.
Places To Visit
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Also known as the Golden Temple, it is dedicated to Lord shiva, the presiding deity of the city. Varanasi is said to be the point at which the first jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which shiva manifested his supremacy over others gods, broke through
the Earth’s crust and flared towards the heavens. More than the Gaths and even the Ganga, the Shivalinga installed in the temple remains the devotional focus of Varanasi.
Banaras Hindu University
Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U) founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in 1917 AD is the largest residential university in India. At the entrance, there is the grand statue of its founder and the Vishwanath temple in its centre. The huge temple was built
in 1966, under patronage of the Birlas. It has a 677 meter high rising white top and its well carved architecture attracts pilgrims.
Bharat Kala Bhawan (Art Museum)
In the cool and calm surroundings of B.H.U is the Bharat Kala Bhavan which has established in 1920 AD and has a vast collection of paintings, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and other materials of archaeological studies.
River Front (Ghats)
The spectacular 4 km sweep of the Ghats is unique sight, best viewed at dawn, in that "soft first light" when the river and Ghats have a timeless appeal. Life, in almost panoramic detail unfolds here from dawn to dusk as a steady stream of devotees - swelling
for thousands on auspicious days perform rituals by the Ganga. The Ghats are best approached by Dashashwamedha ghat, where boats are available for hire.
Goddess Durga is considered as the goddess of Strength and Power. This temple was built in the 18th century with red stone work- a fine example of Nagara art. This temple falls on the main road from Railway Station to BHU, just before Tulsi Manas temple
and Sankatmochan temple.
Tulsi Manas Temple-Durgakund
This modern temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is situated at the place Where Tulisdas, the great medieval seer, lived and wrote the epic "Shri Ramcharitmanas", which narrates the life of Lord Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. Verses from Tulidas’s epic
are inscribed on the walls. SANKATMOCHAN TEMPLE of Lord Hanuman, who is known to be the 'Sankatmochak' is just 300 meters from Tulsi Manas Temple. It is an ancient temple considered to be built by Goswami Tulsidas himself.
New Vishwanath Temple
Situated in the premises of Banaras Hindu University, a modern place of worship planned by Pandit Malviya and built by the Birlas is - Open to all, irrespective of caste or creed.
Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth
Kashi Vidyapeeth was set up in 1920 by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta to provide alternate arrangement for education discarding that of the British. It soon became a centre of national education with Hindi as the medium of instruction. Acharya Narendradev, Babu
Sampurnanand, Babu Sriprakash & many more luminaries of the time have been associated with this institute.
Bharat Mata Temple
This temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936 and houses one perfect map of India carved out of marble. The temple was gifted by the nationalists Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta (Barat Ratana) and Shri Durga Prasad Khatri, leading numismatist and antiquarian.
It is inside the premises of Kashi Vidyapeeth.
It is at Saranath, 10km north of Varanasi. Sarnath, the place where Buddha gave his first sermon is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage centre. The Ashoka pillar stands in front of the main stupa where Ashoka sat and meditated. The Sarnath Archaeological Museum
at Ashoka Marg, houses a copy of Ashoka's lion pillar and some sculptures.
Ram Nagar Fort
The residential place of Kashi Naresh (Former Maharaja of Varanasi) across the Ganges at Ramnagar houses a museum with the exhibits of palanquins, costumes, swords, sabres, etc. Dussehra celebration of Ramnagar is an interesting event to witness.The fort
at Ramnagar, 14 km away frm Varanasi, houses a museum displaying the royal collection which includes vintage cars, Royal palkies, an armoury of swords and old guns, ivory work and antique clock.
The Durga Temple and Chhinnamastika Temple are also located at Ramnagar. Ramnagar Fort which was built in 1750 AD by the Maharaja of Banaras, is on the right bank of river Ganga. Built of red stones, it provides strength and stability to the city.It is the
residential palace of the former Maharaja of Varanasi.
The palace is an astronomical and astrological wonder. Inside the giant walls of the palace, there is a big clock. Besides showing year, month, week and day, it baffles the onlooker with astronomy of the sun, moon and constellation of stars. This wonder
clock or Dharam Ghari was made by the court astronomer of Banaras in 1852 AD. The palace has a temple dedicated to Ved Vyas and a museum set up by the last Maharaja of Banaras, Vibhuti Narain Singh. The museum has a collection of brocade costumes, palanquins,
weapons and has expensive coaches made of ivory. The palace is decorated majestically and it vibrates with colour and life, during Dussehra festival. The celebrations comes to an end on Vijayadashmi, when the huge effigies of demon king Ravana and his kinsmen
are sent up in flames, signifying the victory of good over evil.
An amalgamation of Hindu-Muslim religious sentiments, this mosque is also known as " Beni Madhav ka Darera". Curiously, the entire lower portion of the mosque is retained as a Hindu temple.
Central Institute Of Higher Tibetan Studies
The only institute of its kind in the world, imparting education in the Tibetan language,was established by the Dalai Lama in 1971. Presently located at Sarnath.The institute has a rare collection of Buddhist texts, Tibetan manuscripts and other journals.
Jantar Mantar is an observatory, built by Jai Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur in the year 1737. Jai Singh was a great admirer of science and technology and he was particularly passionate about astronomy. Before the commencement of construction he sent scholars
abroad to study the foreign observatories. The emissaries returned with many manuals on astronomy. The Jantar Mantar at Varanasi was built in line with Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain and Jaipur observatories.
The Jantar Mantar was built to measure the local time, the Sun's declination, altitude, the declination of stars, planets and to determine eclipses The Jantar Mantar at Varanasi has several masonry instruments to record the motion, speed and properties starts
and planets and study astronomy that are accurate and can still be used efficiently today. The Jantar Mantar incorporates multiple structures of unique form, each with a specialized function for astronomical measurement.
These structures with their striking combinations of geometric forms have captivated the attention of architects, artists, and art historians. Originally, there were many yantras (instruments). Some of the important ones are the Krantivritta Yantra, Digansha
Yantra, Samrat Yantra, Prakash Yantra, Ram Yantra, Disha Yantra and Dhruva Yantra
The famous Jain saint Shvetambar temple is there just on the way from Railway Station to BHU, before Bhelupur Street.
How to Reach
The nearest airport is Babatpur, 22 km from Varanasi and 30 Km from Sarnath. Direct flights for Varanasi are available from Delhi, Agra, Khajurao, Calcutta, Mumbai, Lucknow and Bhuvaneshwar and Kathmandu ( Nepal).
Varanasi and Mughal Sarai are the important rail junctions, with train connections to all major cities of India.
Varanasi, on NH 2 from Calcutta to Delhi, NH 7 to Kanya Kumari and NH 29 to Gorakhpur is well connected to the rest of the country by good motorable roads. some of the major road distances are : Agra - 565 km, Allahabad - 128 km, Bhopal - 791 km, Bodhgaya
- 240 km, Kanpur - 330 km, Khajuraho - 405 km, Lucknow - 286, Patna - 246 km, Sarnath - 10 Km.