Spiritual pocket of India
Best time to visit (High & peak months) :
October - March
Temples, Stupas, Ganges, museums
City calling code :
Recommended no. of days for a tourist :
Best buys :
Banarasi saris, cushion covers, bed sheets, wall hangings
Essentials to be carried along :
Sun Block, Sun Glasses, Comfortable Cotton wear, woolens for winters (November-February).
All about the city :
Learning and spirituality are as inextricable from each other as they are from Varanasi, the city that is hailed as the oldest continuously inhabited city of the world. Unsurprisingly many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians once resided or reside in Varanasi. Kabir, Tulsidas, Munshi Premchandra, Jai Shankar Prasad, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar to name a few are all masters of their fields and need no introduction.
The magnetic charm of the city continues to attract the tourists, with the same intensity as these eminent personalities, who throng the city fascinated by its religious and spiritual lifestyle. It is one of the most sacred places for the Hindus who believe that the city was founded by Lord Shiva himself some 5,000 years ago; and for the Buddhists as Lord Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath that is very near to Varanasi.
The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for it lies between the confluence of Varuna and the Ganges to its north and that of Assi and the Ganges to its south. It is the only place where the river Ganges is uttarvahini i.e. flows from south to north. Ganges is revered as a goddess and is devoutly called ‘Ganga Maiyya’. It seems that life at Varanasi revolves around the river. It is said that death in Kashi ensures liberation of the soul. Here, the day breaks with people marching to the ghats of Ganges to take a holy dip and then pray at any of the various temples nearest to them. The day closes and evening falls in to see a huge gathering at the ghats to participate in the Ganga aarti. Offerings of flowers and oil lit lamps floating on the water make a wonderful sight.
While still preserving its antiquity, the city has developed some really nice hotels to keep its guests comfortable, upholding the eternal Indian custom of Atithi devo bhav (Guest is God). When in Varanasi, do try the very famous Banarasi paan (beetle leaf); sweet piping hot jalebis; salty kachauris washing them down with a glass of milk that is boiled in big utensils and offered in an earthen glass. Boat ride in Ganges is must to complete your experience of the city.