Varanasi, the city of Shiva on the banks of the Ganges, is one of Hinduism’s seven holiest cities. With its temples, over a hundred ghats and labyrinth of streets, the city cannot be described, only experienced. Also called Benares or Kashi, Varanasi is the oldest living city in India, and one of the world’s most ancient. Hindu devotional movements flourished here, and it is still the chief centre of Sanskrit learning in North India. It is also famous for silk weaving and ornamental brass-work.
Enjoy early morning boat ride on the river Ganges to see the bathing ghats and cremation sites. You can see pilgrims bathing and performing rituals on the Ghats, one of the most extraordinary experiences of a visit to India. Sunrise on the riverfront, as seen from a boat, can be a spiritually uplifting sight.
Take a city tour of Varanasi visiting the Bharat Mata temple with its big marble relief map of India, the Durga temple and the modern marble Tulsi Manas temple whose walls are engraved with scenes and verses from the Ramcharitmanas, the Hindi version of the Ramayana. Also see the New Vishwanath temple, one of the tallest in India (Non – Hindus are not allowed inside the temple). Go around the Benares Hindu University and its museum, and see the mosque of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
In the evening witness Ganga Aarti on the River Ganga ghats. River Ganges Aarti is performed daily in the evening by a group of priests at the Dashashwamedh ghat. Through the Aarti, Agni (Fire) Puja is performed in which a commitment is made to the Lord Shiva, Mata Ganges (River Ganges), Surya (Sun God), Agni (Fire) as well as the whole universe. On some special occasions, religious festivals and second day of the week i.e. Tuesdays, a particular type of Aarti is held at this ghat. Ganges Aarti is the magnificent event during evening in Varanasi that one must not miss to see. It is a very spiritual, enlightening and uplifting experience. The arti is performed with brass lamps accompanied with mantra chants in the presence of a huge crowd that gathers every evening. Witness this and you would know why Moksha and Nirvana are associated with this city of Varanasi.
Varanasi is the hub of the world famous GI tagged Banarasi sarees which showcase intricate brocade work using silver or gold thread. These are primarily silk sarees and are very dressy and ornamental and are usually worn for special occasions like weddings or religious rituals. You can find men’s wear, turbans, shawls and dress material also in the same weave.
Savour the local flavours of jalebi, rabdi, pakodas, kachoris and kulhad wali chai while in Benaras (masala tea served in earthen cups).