The religious and cultural heartbeat of India can be found in Varanasi, the most sacred city for Hindus, and the oldest living city in the world, dating back to 2,000 BCE. Also known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi, Varanasi is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. Devout Hindus believe that if you die here, you will be forever liberated from the endless cycle of death and rebirth (reincarnation). However, if you did not have the luck to die in Varanasi, your ashes can be immersed in the Ganges for salvation.
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There are list of reason why one should travel to Varanasi among which the most prominent reason is the life of locals depicting various cultures of India. It means when you are in Varanasi, you just don’t see the monuments or places but you live that moment of time which you can just feel, by experiencing the places, meeting the people and interacting its culture & tradition, so nothing can be a better place than Varanasi to learn the lessons of life.
Varanasi is completely a different experience to be enthralled with. It is an important cultural and learning centre of north India which is closely associated with river Ganges. In Varanasi you can find one of the finest silk weavers, the land of several finest musicians gifted to the world, Maha-Samshan or “The great cremation grounds” the holy city humbles you by bringing face to face with the balance of life and death and the land of Buddha where it is believed that Buddha has founded Buddhism around 528 BC and gave his first sermon here are some more reasons to travel to Varanasi.
Here are some of the best things one can’t miss to see while in Varanasi-
THE RIVER GANGES
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It’s hard to put into words the all-encompassing significance of the Ganges, or Ganga, to Indians. The revered ‘mother river’ of India originates in the Himalayas, snakes through northeast India, and empties in neighbouring Bangladesh. Considered a living goddess and featuring in many Hindu creation stories, the Ganges is sacred all along its 2,525-kilometre (1,569-mile) route.
It’s said that bathing in its waters (especially on auspicious days) will destroy ten lifetimes of sins. Her eternal waters nourish, feed and give life to millions of Indians in this cradle of civilization. According to Vedas, if a person takes a bath at Kashi, he attains moksha. So Kashi and Ganga combined have the spiritual edge when compared to the other cities.
THE GHATS OF VARANASI
Ghats are the large, flat steps built on the land that lead directly down into the Ganges River. They are used by pilgrims to enter the water to wash away their sins and pray and worship upon.
DASHASHWAMEDH GHAT( Ganga Aarti)
The most colourful and impressive ghat of all, you’ll find nightly rituals performed by priests here at at 7 p.m., on every single day of the year. The agni puja is a fire offering and worship to Lord Shiva, the Ganges River, the sun, the nature of fire, and the universe itself. Its name derives from the Hindi legend that ten horses were sacrificed here by Lord Brahma, and that it was created to welcome Lord Shiva himself. It is also the closest ghat to Vishwanath Temple.
Huge crowds gather around the ghat, lit by brass lamps, while mantras and chants fill the air at the start of the ceremony. Incenses are burned, conch shells are blown, and loud music is played while the priests perform their rituals. This a truly unique way to experience this holy city.
It’s the main “burning ghat”, the most prosperous cremation site for a Hindu. On these steps, the body is dunked in the Ganges River prior to being burned by firewood on the steps. Tourists are allowed to witness the ceremony.
KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE
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Constructed in 1776 and dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple holds nothing back. Aesthetically speaking, the temple is jaw-dropping; the dome and tower are coated in 800 kilograms of gold. It’s also one of the holiest (if not the holiest) Hindu temples in the world. Many saints have visited here and pilgrims attribute a visit to this temple and a bath in the Ganges as the path to liberation.
The religious atmosphere pervading Varanasi can also be found in nearby Sarnath, about 13 kilometres (8 miles) to the northeast, where Gautama Buddha founded Buddhism in 528 BCE when he gave his first sermon here. You’ll find 80 foot tall statue of Lord Buddha. This popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists also features additional Buddhist temples supported by various nations: China, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and more, which are worth a look.
Varanasi silk is one of the most admired fabrics in India. On any important occasion like weddings Indian ladies prefer to wear Varanasi silk sarees (Indian traditional dress for ladies) which are made manually by weavers. This art is passed from generation to generation but unfortunately now this art is seriously at the risk of extinction.
While these are only just a few beauty of Varanasi there still more to explore. And this will only be possible once you travel to Varanasi: The cultural and spiritual capital of Incredible India.
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