One of the most holy places in India, Varanasi radiates a mystical aura that is hard to miss. If you want to delve deep into your soul and find some answers, the spiritual city of Varanasi is the right destination for you. Visitors desiring to see the religious side of India teeming with divine ardour should definitely visit Varanasi and experience the calm amid the chaos and bustle of this intriguing city.This blog takes you through some of the must do things in Varanasi, one of the oldest living cities of the world.
Must Do Things In Varanasi
Varanasi is one of the ancient cities in India, swarming with Hindu pilgrims who desire to have a dip in the Holy Ganges and cremate their dead near the ghats of the riverbanks. One of the main attractions of this spiritual city is the amazing stretch of embankment along the river Ganges, which includes more than 85 ghats.
Tourists revel in the colourful atmosphere of the city; soaking in the religious customs, the serenity of the temples, the shopping craze in the busy galis (roadside stores), the activities near the majestic ghats and the lull of the gently flowing river Ganges.
Let us explore and discover must do things in Varanasi
- Early morning boat ride to view sunrise & life along the Varanasi Ghats
Varanasi is known for its riverfront steps or ghats. One can see both locals and visitors offering morning prayers to the Sun God standing on the Ganga ghats. While most of the ghat spaces are used for performing pooja (religious prayers), some specific ghat areas are used to cremate the dead bodies. Many others are used for bathing and cleansing activities. Some of the primary ghats include the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the Manikarnika Ghat, Kabir Ghat, Assi Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat amongst several others.
Manikarnika Ghat is also popular as Burning Ghat. This is the spot where the dead bodies are taken care of by learned Hindu pundits offering religious prayers for the dead, washing the bodies or sacred ashes in the holy Ganges.As per the Hindu mythology,it is believed that anyone who dies as Varanasi and is cremated there goes to heaven.Due to this belief people from far flung areas bring their dead relatives to cremate at Varanasi.Due to this the funeral pyre at Manikarnika Ghat is always burning.
- Subah-e-Banaras or Morning at Varanasi
A cultural programme by the name of Subah-e-Banaras is a new initiative by the locals at Assi Ghat which starts early morning about 06:00 am.The programme starts with Ganga Aarti, followed by cultural programmes and also Vedic Havan .Travellers can thereafter take boat form there to view the sunrise.
3. Visiting the Temples
There are large number of temples and holy shrines in and around the river Ganges. The Vishwanath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the must see places in Varanasi. Built during the 17th century; this beautiful temple is adorned by a huge dome and 800 kg. of solid gold plating all over the walls of the tower.
There is an ancient well near the north side of the shrine, the water in the well is supposed to have tremendous spiritual potency. People of Hindu religion are allowed to enter the screened section of the Kupor well. Some of the popular temples in the city are Durga Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple, Nepali Temple, Kaal Bhairav Temple, Mahadev Temple, etc.
4. Finding the Real Essence in Alleys and Lanes of Varanasi
Taking a walking tour of the city through its tight alleys and by-lanes is altogether different experience; surely one of the must do activities at Varanasi. Even the smallest of streets offer a glimpse at the culture and daily lifestyle of the local people.
Hundreds of alleys and by-lanes offer delicious culinary respite; tourists get to taste the mouth watering delicacies from the quaint little eatery stalls littered along the alleys. Savour the tasty masala chai, spicy bondas, uttapam, chaat corners, thandai, thick lassis, rich rabri, benarasi paan and many more. The best places to eat at Varanasi are often found in these small bumpy alleys.One of the places which offers the best street food of Varanasi is Kashi Chat Bhandar ,D-37/49, Godaulia, Varanasi. Cost shall be about Rs 150/- for 2 persons and only vegetarian street foods are offered.Other famous place to eat is Deena Chat Bhandar.You may enjoy Palak ji Chaat or Tamatar ki Chaat over there.Also try out endless variety of butter milk or lassi at the famous shop Blue Lassi in Vishwanath Gali.
Your trip to Varanasi would remain incomplete unless you try out the famous Banarasi Paan (Paan is the local name of betel leaf with cardamom ,clove, lime and other condiments – note that there are many varieties of Paan, some with tobacco also and thus you have to be sure which variety you are consuming before you try it). Although there are Paan shops at every nook and corner, one of the most famous Banarasi Paan shop is Deepak Tambul Bhandar near Dashashwamedh Ghat.
Varanasi is famous for Banarasi Silk Saree , the favourite attire of Indian women and one of the most famous articles which you must have on your shopping list.
The busy Varanasi market road also houses numerous handicraft stores, creative silk craft outlets, traditional sari shops and artistic jewellery stores. The galis are noisy, smelling of food, grimy and full of people and wandering cows, and such an experience is real, exciting and enlivening for the millions of travellers visiting this magical place.Mehrotra silk and Ushnak Mal Mool chand Sarees are two places we recommend for buying Silk Sarees.
5. Experiencing the River Ganges.
Get to know the serene Ganga waters nestled amidst the temples and the ghats. A boat ride in the early hours of dawn to see the various ghat activities and the solemn funeral rites will be etched in memory as shared above. Visitors can also take a cool dip in the Ganges to feel a spiritual high. According to Hindus, the Ganga is a holy river and taking a dip helps mankind to wash away all our sins and find some divine solace. From washing grimy buffaloes to cremating human bodies, the river Ganga is an essential part of the city and its fascinating culture.
The ritual Ganga Aarti in Varanasi is an equally colourful event, which takes places every evening in the Dasaswamedh ghat. Brightly lit brass lamps, hundreds of earthen diyas floating in the river and the vibration of the mantra chants attracts thousands of human audience. For first time tourists, the Ganga Aarti ceremony is one not to miss event in Varanasi.We suggest that you take a boat by 5:30 pm from Dasaswamedh ghat.These boats take you in the front from the river side and make you watch the Aarti from the boat .
The wondrous atmosphere of puja (prayer ceremony) at the ghats, filling the air with spiritual music, fragrance of incense, sounds of bells, drums and cymbals is a very intense and intoxicating scene indeed.
6. Visit to the Holy Sarnath Pilgrimage
Sarnath is situated about 13 km. from the city of Varanasi. It is one of the major attraction spots near Varanasi. There is a deer park, which is a Buddhist pilgrim site. The deer park is also popular as the place where Lord Buddha preached on Dharma. Other attraction in Sarnath includes the Chaukhandi Stupa built during the reign of Emporer Ashoka. Tourists can also visit the Sarnath Museum to see the exclusive collection of artistic sculptures depicting the Bodhisattva culture and Buddhist art. This wondrous heritage museum is open from morning 10 AM to evening 5 PM.
7. Experiencing the Yoga Retreats
The world is taken up by spirituality and yoga. India spearheading the tradition of yoga to the West welcomes tourists to indulge in various yoga performances to revitalise the mind and body. And the great Varanasi city helps to realise this sublime dream of setting a favourable environment by offering free as well as paid yoga workshops for its millions of tourist pilgrims.
There are numerous yoga retreats in and around the city helping visitors to discover the pleasures of healthy yogic exercises and spiritual meditation. Malaviya Bhavan- a spiritual centre in Varanasi provides a full 4 week program on mind-body yoga and Hindu doctrines, for guests who arrive to seek peaceful solace from worldly turmoil.
8. Photography along the Ghats of Varanasi
Varanasi is surely one among the most interesting places for photography in India.There are subjects to capture everywhere – from Sadhus to Cows , from people deeply engrossed in meditation to colourful boats, from Sunrise to Aarti at the Ghats, the list is virtually endless.Waytoindia.com organises Varanasi Photography Tours .
Varanasi Mirrors the Revered Hindu Philosophy
Hindus strongly believe in rebirth and the eternal nature of the soul. Varanasi holds special significance for Hindus, as they travel often to their favourite spiritual haven in India. The city makes us realise that life and death are just two sides of the same coin. While death is the inevitable truth of life, it is just a passing journey for the eternal soul.
Tourists from all over the globe yearn to visit this holy Indian destination, which makes them retrospect deep within their minds on the very human existence and world beyond it!
For foreigners who plan to visit Varanasi, we strongly suggest that they plan their trip to Varanasi along with the Golden Triangle Tour. This tour is famously known as Golden Triangle Tour with Varanasi .The tour takes travellers through the heritage circuit of India – Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Varanasi. Waytoindia.com offers this tour at attractive rates.For bookings you may write at firstname.lastname@example.org .