Varanasi | India
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Varanasi, once known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi, is a city at the banks of the Ganges river in northern India. Being the most sacred city in Hinduism and Jainism, and important in the history of Buddhism, Varanasi is India's most important pilgrimage destination.


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Planning a Trip

1 Get in 1.1 By plane 1.2 By train 1.3 By bus 1.3.1 Arriving from Nepal 1.3.2 Arriving from other cities in India 25°19′48″N 82°59′56″EMap of Varanasi Varanasi is well connected by plane, train, and bus. By plane 25.45222282.8594441 Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport (VNS IATA Varanasi Airport) (in Babatpur 25 km northwest of the city center. A taxi to/from the airport takes an hour and costs ₹750, while a tuk-tuk/auto-rickshaw can take twice as long and costs ₹500. Allow extra time due to traffic.). Air India, JetKonnect, SpiceJet, and IndiGo all operate regular flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Khajuraho and Visakhapatnam. There are flights to Sharjah on Air India Express, to Kathmandu on Buddha Air and to Bangkok on Thai Airways.    By train There are multiple daily services to cities including Delhi (13 hours), Agra (13 hours), Lucknow (7 hours), Mumbai (25-27 hours), Kolkata (12-14 hours) and Siliguri (14-16 hours). Varanasi is served by three major railway stations: 25.32648682.9858112 Varanasi Junction (IR station code : BSB). The trip between the train station and the Ganges-area costs ₹100 in a tuk-tuk.    25.28472282.9722223 Manduadih Railway Station. The trip between the train station and the Ganges-area costs ₹100 in a tuk-tuk.    25.276783.11734 Mughal Sarai Junction. Mughal Sarai Junction (IR station code : MGS) is about 20km east of the city - the trip between the train station and the Ganges-area costs ₹500 in a taxi.    Here is a list of useful trains to reach Varanasi: Also see Rail travel in India By bus The bus station in Varanasi is located just east of the Varanasi Junction train station. A tuk-tuk from the bus station to the Ganges area costs ₹100. New Vishwanath Temple Morning prayer Potatos and Puri, the Indian fried bread Arriving from Nepal Buses are available from major cities in Nepal to the border city of Sunauli. From the Sunauli bus station, take a rickshaw (Rs200) to the border crossing, get your passport stamped on the Nepali side then walk through the border. After 100 m of walking through no-man's land, you will find the Indian immigration office hidden away on the left hand side of the road. After going through Indian immigration, walk 300 m and find the bus stop on the right hand side. From there, take the government bus to Gorakhpur, not the private lines which are far less comfortable and stop everywhere. The bus trip between the border and Gorakhpur takes 4 hours and costs ₹60. To reach Varanasi from Gorakhpur, you can either take a train from the Gorakhpur Junction train station (5-7 trains per day, 5.5-7 hour journey, ₹200-800 cost) or a bus (hourly, 8+ hour journey, ₹130 cost). Budhha Air has also some packages for devotees visiting Vanarasi. The cheapest option is perhaps to take the bus in Kathmandu from the monkey temple to Birganj/Raxaul for about 700NRP, and take a train from Raxaul to Varanasi- but you risk not making the border by 10PM because of breakdowns and the Raxaul-Varanasi train doesn't run often. Arriving from other cities in India There are buses run by state government from Lucknow (8 hours, ₹160), Gorakhpur (8+ hours, ₹130), Khajuraho (12 hours, ₹250), Kanpur (9 hours - ₹195), Faizabad (7 hours, ₹105), Bodhgaya (7 hours, ₹250) and Allahabad (3 hours - ₹107 for AC, ₹60 w/o AC).


Getting Around

1 Get around 1.1 By foot 1.2 By cycle-rickshaw and auto-rickshaw 1.3 By car or taxi 1.4 By bicycle Traffic in Varanasi. Note that many streets are too narrow to be reached by cycle-rickshaw, auto-rickshaw, and car and therefore, you may have to walk a bit to reach your destination. By foot By foot is the only way to see the waterfront and the ghats - but be ready to be hot, sweaty, and lost - locals are usually happy to point you in the right direction. The names of ghats and signs pointing to restaurants and hotels are often painted on the walls in Roman letters. For better orientation, walk into any book store and pick up a small guide/map book that will have the list of all the ghats and their historical background. The main problem with walking in Varanasi is that like most Indian towns (Shimla, Gangtok and a few other places being notable exceptions), the authorities refuse to ban vehicles in areas used by pedestrians - no matter how narrow the streets. In this respect, a relaxing walk is disturbed by the constant need to step aside in order to avoid being hit by a motorbike. By cycle-rickshaw and auto-rickshaw The chaotic streets of Varanasi are sometimes too much to handle by foot. Therefore, it will often be convenient to travel by cycle rickshaw or auto-rickshaw. A short journey of a few kilometers should cost under ₹50, while a longer journey within the city, such as between the ghats and the train station, will cost ₹100. Further journeys, such as to Sarnath (10 km), cost ₹300 each way by auto-rickshaw. There is a pre-paid auto-rickshaw stand at the Varanasi Junction (Cantt) train station. By car or taxi While taxis and cars-for-hire do exist, traffic makes them impractical. By bicycle Bicycle rental is available from many vendors. Inquire at your hotel.


Top Attractions

1 See 1.1 Ghats and the River Ganges 1.2 Religious buildings 1.3 Other sights Varanasi is not a city with distinct tourist destinations; the experience is in watching the spectacle of life and death on the river and meandering through the alleys of the old city. Ghats and the River Ganges Dasaswamedh Ghat (main ghat) The River Ganga is a sacred river for the Hindus and you will see traditional rituals and bathing occurring at all times of the day. On the Eastern banks, the River Ganga is flanked by a 300-m-wide sand belt, beyond which lies a green belt, a protected area reserved for turtle breeding. The western crescent-shaped bank of the River Ganga is flanked by a continuous stretch of 84 ghats, or series of steps leading down to the river, stretching for 6.8km. These ghats were built by Hindu kings who wanted to die along the Ganges, and they built lofty palaces along the river, most of which are now hotels, to spend their final days. You can walk along the river and see all of the ghats, but the best option for viewing the ghats is to charter a boat and see them from the river. Hindus consider it auspicious to die in Varanasi, so some ghats are known as burning ghats, where over 200 corpses per day are cremated in full view before their ashes are eased into the Ganga. Some of the most popular ghats, from north to south: 25.3150283.017891 Panchganga Ghat. the meeting of the five rivers.  25.3108783.014092 Manikarnika Ghat. the main cremation ghat; a must-see, but remain quiet and never take photographs (note: scams are plentiful here; see the "Staying Safe" section).  25.3081883.009933 Dasaswamedh Ghat. known as the 'main' ghat, this is the site of the large evening aarti ceremony. The ceremony starts right after the sunset.  25.3050783.009244 Rana Ghat. The ghat is on the banks of Ganga which helps people to do religious ceremony without any difficulty.  25.2994383.00765 Kedar Ghat. brightly painted in stripes and busy with bathers, very photogenic.  25.3021983.007816 Narad Ghat. the ghat on which bathing with spouse is not advised because the myth of contention.  25.298183.007317 Harishchandra Ghat. the cremation place where Raja Harishchandra did the last rituals of his son.  Hanuman Ghat. It was previously known as Ramesvaram Ghat and located at holy spot known as Juna Akhara in Varanasi. People believe that the Ghat was constructed by Lord Rama and hence it is dedicated to his favorite disciple, Lord Hanuman.  Shivala Ghat. The ghat is constructed by King Balwant Singh and it played important role during Middle Ages. It comes under western part of Varanasi and as name suggests disciples connect it with Lord Shiva.  25.2903983.006458 Tulsi Ghat. site of the large water purification plant.  25.2886583.006769 Assi Ghat. a popular place to stay, with many hotels, restaurants, and internet cafes.    Religious buildings New Vishvanath Temple at BHU 25.3152683.0179610 Alamagir Mosque. Overlooking Panchganga Ghat, it's a great place for a bird's eye view of the area.  25.3172582.989311 Bharat Mata Temple. The Bharat Mata temple at Varanasi is the only temple dedicated to Mother India. It is located in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus. The Bharat Mata temple was built by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. The statute of Bharat Mata is built in marble and is a model of undivided India, depicting the mountains, plains and oceans. The most peculiar thing about the Bharat Mata Temple is that instead of the customary gods and goddesses, it houses a relief map of India, carved out of marble.  25.2821983.0401512 Durga Temple. Built in 18th century, Durga temple is made as a tribute to Goddess Durga. It is also one of the well known temples in Varanasi.  25.3176582.9739113 Gauri Matha Temple. The devi at this temple is supposed to be the sister of the lord Kashi Vishwanath. Its a tradition to visit her just before you leave Kashi. You buy sea shells at this place and offer them to the God saying that the virtues of donating the shells goes to her while you keep the virtues of having visited the holy shrines in Kashi and bathing in the ganges. The trip to Kashi is expected to yield results only after completing this custom.  25.3176582.9739114 Kaal Bhairav Temple. is the temple for Kaal Bhairav - a dreadful form of Lord Shiva symbolizing death. Its a tradition to buy black threads (costs about ₹15 per 50 threads as of Sep 2009), keep it in the shrine and then wear it on the arm, wrist or around the neck as a protection against evil forces.  25.3176582.9739115 Nepali Hindu Temple. A small golden temple, built in Nepali architecture, near Lalita Ghat.  Dhamek stupa at sarnath 25.3761783.0227116 Sarnath. It is believed that in Sarnath Buddha gave his first sermon to his disciples after getting enlightenment. There is also a Museum in Sarnath. The exact location is also known as Deer Park. Sarnath is 13 km from Varanasi and is very peaceful. Several Asian countries have built Buddhist temples there following their own ancient architectural traditions.  25.3108583.0106817 Shri Kashi Vishwanth Temple (The Golden Temple). Security is tight making entrance difficult and sometimes completely off limits to foreigners. No bags, cellphones or pens are allowed. They can be deposited in the shops by the temple entrance. The temple was destroyed multiple times by Mughal invaders and was re-constructed by Hindu kings who followed them.  25.2857782.9965218 Tulsi Manas Temple. Located near very popular Durga temple, this marvelous temple is dedicated to lord Rama. Tulsi Manas temple was established during 1964 in the form of white marble structure.  25.288682.999319 Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple (Sankatmochan Mandir), 27, Durgakund Rd, Jawahar Nagar Colony, Bhelupur, ☎ +91 99354 67417. Sankat Mochan Temple is dedicated to the Lord Hanuman. This temple is also called as the Monkey temple because of the presence of lot of monkeys inside the premises. It is one of the holy temples of the Lord Hanuman and the main location for Hindus for their many religious as well as cultural festivals. It is located in the southern part of the Varanasi, on the way to the Durga Mandir and New Vishwanath temple BHU, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The meaning of the Sankat Mochan is relief from all the problems (Sankat means problem and Mochan means relief giver). Sankat Mochan Temple was constructed by the educationist and freedom fighter Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya (the founder of the BHU) in the early 1900s. The Hanuman Jayanti (birthday of the Lord Hanuman) is celebrated every year by organizing a special Shobha Yatra (a parade) from Durga temple (Durga Kund) to the Sankat Mochan Temple.   (updated Apr 2018) Other sights 25.2677282.9912620 Banaras Hindu University. a very green and peaceful campus. Few actually know that this University was built during Indian freedom struggle and is known as Oxford of the East. This is the largest residential university of Asia, having approx. 124 independent departments. You can also visit Bharat Kala Bhavan, a museum of Art and Archeology inside the university. There is also a huge white marbled temple called Vishwanath Temple which was built by Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya, the founder of the university.  25.125582.874721 Chunar Fort (15km southwest of Varanasi). A 2,000+ year old fort.    Kriti Gallery, Raman Niwas, Mahmoor Ganj (opposite All India Radio Station), ☎ +91 9839058007. 11AM-6PM. A place to interact with contemporary art in the city of Varanasi.  25.3077783.0108322 Man Mandir Observatory. This observatory has instruments such as sun dial to measure the eclipse, time and other similar kind of elements.  25.2697783.0243923 Ramnagar Fort (Located on the eastern bank of the river, opposite Tulsi Ghat). The fort of the King of Kashi. Built in 1750 in the Mughal style. 


Things to do

Men praying between boats in the Ganges Varanasi alleyways Varanasi street scene by the Ganges Bathe in the Ganges - Over 60,000 people come to the ghats every day to take a dip in the sacred waters of the Ganga, most notably at sunrise. This is a fantastic sight to see. However, due to the sewage pipes that discharge feces into the river, along with sunken corpses, there is a risk of infection from numerous diseases such as hepatitis and bacteria such as e-coli. Reports have shown that the Ganges water has a fecal coliform MPN of 88,000 per 100ml, compared to a desirable fecal coliform MPN of 500 per 100ml. Walking Tours are operated by many companies, walking tours are a great way to see some of the harder-to-find sights such as the Flower Market and Ayurvedic Herb Market Boat rides - Very popular, especially at sunrise and sunset. Boats can either be rowboats or motorboats. The most popular sunset ride is to start at Dasaswamedh Ghat or one of the many ghats along the river and head up to Manikarnika Ghat to see the cremations, then down to Dasaswamedh just after sunset to watch the evening aarti ceremony from the boat. Sunrise is another magical time for a ride, when the ghats are filled with Hindus bathing and starting their day - one of the most famous sights in India. You can bargain the price of the boat ride to around ₹50/person per hour. During the boat ride, other boats, usually manned by children, will float up to your boat to sell bowls with flowers and a candle to be offered to the river (₹10) or masala chai (₹10), or various trinkets that are overpriced. It is recommended to avoid polluting the river further by 'offering' non-biodegradable objects to the river. At Nishadraj Ghat, a few minutes walk from Assi Ghat, you can find a boat driver named Bhomi, a local singer renowned for his incredible voice and charming, beautiful songs; during the boat ride he sings anything from local folk songs to modern film songs and old devotional ones, and often improvises lyrics over his own songs to communicate with you and the various people gathered on the ghats. Explore the alleyways - The sounds, sight and smells are just unbelievable! Walk along the ghats and up to the sights. Festivals Chhath Pooja (October/November) - The four day festival for the sun god, Dala aka Surya. Rituals include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta), standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prashad (prayer offerings) and aragh (water) to the setting and rising sun. Deepavali, or Diwali (October) - The five day festival of lights. The special decorations, ceremonies at the temples, and aarti ceremony at the ghats are spectacular. Maha Shivaratri (February) - A Hindu festival celebrating Lord Shiva, who lived in Varanasi according to Hindu mythology. On this day, the streets of Varanasi are filled with pilgrims and parades dedicated to Shiva occur all day. Entrance to temples will require long queue and the temples will be extremely crowded. The day of Shivaratri is also the last day of the Dhrupad Mela, a festival of "Hindustani" (a form of Indian classical music) that goes on night and day for about 72 hours.