Varanasi

Sarnath
Sarnath, located just 12 km from the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, is the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma after his enlightenment. Sarnath is one of four holy Buddhist sites sanctioned by the Buddha himself for pilgrimage.
Sarnath has previously been known as Mrigadava, "deer park," and Isipatana, meaning the place where holy men fell to earth. The latter name is based in the legend that when the Buddha was born, devas came down to announce it to 500 holy men. The holy men all rose into the air and disappeared and their relics fell to the ground.
The current name Sarnath, from Saranganath, means "Lord of the Deer" and relates to another old Buddhist story in which the Bodhisattva is a deer and offers his life to a king instead of the doe he is planning to kill. The king is so moved that he creates the park as a sanctuary for deer.

History of Sarnath
After his enlightenment in Bodhgaya, the Buddha went to Sarnath seeking his five former companions. He found them, taught them what he had learned, and they also became enlightened. This event is referred to as "the turning of the wheel of the Dharma" and also marks the founding of the Sangha, or the community of monks.
Buddha's first discourse, delivered here at Sarnath, is known in Pali as the Dhammacakkhapavathana Sutta. Other Suttas include the Anattalakhana Sutta and the Saccavibhanga Sutta. The Buddha's central teaching after his enlightenment centered around the Four Noble Truths (concerning the meaning of life) and the Noble Eightfold Path (concerning the right way to live).
The Buddha spent the next rainy season in Sarnath at the Mulagandhakuti vihara. The Sangha having grown to 60 in number, the Buddha sent them out to teach the Dharma to others.
Buddhism flourished in Sarnath in part because of the support of kings and wealthy merchants based in nearby Varanasi. By the 3rd century Sarnath had become an important center for the arts, which reached its zenith during the Gupta period (4th-6th century AD). When Hsuan Tsang visited from China in the 7th century, he found 30 monasteries and 3000 monks living at Sarnath.
Sarnath became a major center of the Sammatiya school of Buddhism, one of the Nikaya or Hinayana schools. The presence of images of Heruka and Tara indicate that Vajrayana Buddhism was also practiced here.
At the end of the 12th century, Sarnath was sacked by Turkish Muslims. The site was subsequently plundered for building materials and has remained in ruins until the present day. The site was entirely deserted until 1836, when the British began excavations and restoration.

What to See at Sarnath
All of the ancient buildings and structures at Sarnath were damaged or destroyed by the Turks. However, amongst the ruins the Dharmekh Stupa is impressive at 128 feet high, and 93 in diameter. This dates from around 200 BC and is the spot where the Buddha is said to have preached his first sermon.
Only the foundations remain of the Dharmarajika Stupa, but it is notable as a rare pre-Ashokan stupa.
The decaying ruins of the Mulagandhakuti Vihara mark the place where the Buddha spent his first rainy season in meditation. In the 7th century, a writer described it as 200 feet high and containing 100 niches containing a Buddha carving along each wall. A life-sized statue shows the Buddha turning the wheel of the law.
To the east is the modern Mulagandhakuti Vihara with its beautiful wall paintings; behind it is the Deer Park, which is maintained as an open animal park and still attracts deer.
The Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath survived the Turkish invasion but was broken during excavations. The base still stands in its original spot and has some interesting carvings.
The splendid lion capital that topped the pillar, which thankfully survived its 45 foot drop to the ground is on display at the Sarnath Archeological Museum. The museum also houses some of the greatest treasures of Indian Buddhist art, including almost 300 images.
There is also a Bodhi tree planted by Anagarika Dharmapala which was grown from a cutting of the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya. It is located next to a Sri Lankan monastery.
Six national temples have been built by various Asian communities at Sarnath since the site's restoration, including a Tibetan temple and Sri Lankan temple.

Ramnagar Fort
Ram Nagar Fort, Varanasi is the erstwhile as well as the current abode of the Maharaja of Kashi, often called by the name of Raja of Benaras too. It is positioned on the opposite bank of the holy river Ganges along which Varanasi thrives. Varanasi Ram Nagar Fort is ranked highly amongst the Monuments in Varanasi.

History of Ram Nagar Fort, Varanasi
Ram Nagar Fort, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India was constructed by Maharaja Balwant Singh in the eighteenth century. This fort is magnificently built in red sandstone.

Description of Ram Nagar Fort, Varanasi
The most important structure inside Varanasi Ram Nagar Fort is the famous Hall of public audience, popularly called as the 'Durbar Hall'. The architecture of this fort is a subtle combination of Islamic and Indian styles. The utilization of marbles for the decorative pattern gives this fort a splendid outlook.
Ram Nagar Fort, Varanasi is very well maintained. The reason could be that the Kashi royal scion still resides in this palace. However, the residential part of the royal scion is not open for the casual tourists. What is open for the tourists are the famous Ram Nagar Fort Museum and the temple. The temple is dedicated to Ved Vyasa, who is considered the author of the great Indian epic, Mahabharata. According to legends, Ved Vyasa stayed at this place for a brief period.
Ram Nagar Fort Museum is a good place to see some of the best and most impressive articles that once belonged to the royals. The royal collection on display at this museum includes vintage cars, palanquins, armory of old guns and swords, furniture, costumes, antique clocks and ivory work.
Inside the huge walls of the Ram Nagar Fort, you will find a big clock. Apart from displaying year, month, week as well as day, this clock also shows astronomical facts about the moon, the sun and the constellation of stars.

Varanasi Ram Nagar Fort is popular all over India for its grand and extravagant festivity of annual Dussehra. The festival of Dussehra is marked by Ramlila that is celebrated in a way that’s quite very different from the celebrations of Delhi and Moradabad. During this festival, the whole city transforms into a stage where the epic Ramayana’s different acts are staged. This festival also boasts of a 'Jhanki Yatra' that includes a variety of antique displays of the erstwhile royals like vintage cars, ivory items and royal palanquins.
So, book yourself for a tour to Ram Nagar Fort, Varanasi as soon as possible to get enthralled by the beauty of this magnificent structure and the antique items of royalty on display

Manikarnika Ghat
Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh is second only to the Dasaswamedh Ghat as far as importance and popularity is concerned. Manikarnika means Jeweled Earring. Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh lies at the center of Panchya Tirtha and is regarded as one of the most sacred pilgrim spots of Hindus.
The philosophies of life and death are integrally associated with this Ghat; this is because, the entire Manikarnika Ghat is Maha Smashan or a Great Cremation Ground. Since, the seed of creation lies embedded within the ashes of destruction, Manikarnika Ghat symbolizes both. It is perennially crowded with cremation gatherings.

History of Manikarnika Ghat, Uttar Pradesh, India:
It is said that the Manikarnika Kund, which epitomizes life, has been constructed by Lord Vishnu himself. He is said to be the preserver of life on this earth, while the Manikarnika Ghat, which embodies death, has been constructed by Lord Shiva who symbolizes death. He is said to reside in the ashes of the Manikarnika Ghat. They reside side by side indicating life and death going hand in hand.
Manikarnika Kund is said to be older that the River Ganges. At the behest of Lord Shiva, Vishnu touched the Kund with his discus and filled the same with his perspiration that was produced by the labor of creating this Universe. At this, Shiva quivered with delight and his earning feel into the Kund. Therefore, it came to be known as Manikarnika Kund.
There is another interesting legend behind the existence of the Manikarnika Ghat, which says that it existed from the time of the epic the Ramayana. It is said that Raja Harishchandra was the pyre man over here. For thousands of years, the light of the Manikarnika Ghat is said to be burning eternally, without dimming down.

Description of Manikarnika Ghat, Uttar Pradesh, India:
Since Manikarnika Ghat is chiefly meant for the cremation parties, woods, logs, ghee, sweets and clothes are found here in abundance. Foreigners can also be seen with their cameras seen here and there in the streets if Manikarnika Ghat. As life is symbolized by the Manikarnika Kund, death is symbolized by the Manikarnika Ghat. Therefore, life and death is said to walk side by side over here.
Here, Manikarnika Temple is a special attraction for the pilgrims. There is also a small shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu over here. It is marked by his footprint which is also called Paduka. Tarakeshwara Lingam, that stands over here remains flooded with people all round the year.

Hanuman Ghat
Like many of the other Ghats in Varanasi, Hanuman Ghat also has a mythological association. The Hanuman Ghat is connected to the Indian epic The Ramayana. The Hanuman Ghat, Varanasi Uttar Pradesh is located at Juna Akhara.

History of Hanuman Ghat, Varanasi
The Hanuman Ghat was previously called Rameshwaram Ghat because it is popularly believed that Lord Sri Ram created this Ghat with his own hands. There is another well known belief that the Vaishnavaite pilgrim called Vallabhacharya meditated over here for many years. He used to preach the glories of Lord Krishna to his followers by sitting at the Hanuman Ghat.

Description of Hanuman Ghat, Uttar Pradesh, India
This clean Ghat demands respect from Indians and foreign tourists alike. There is a marked difference between the Hanuman Ghat and the other Ghats of Varanasi, by being cleaner and more concrete. There are two temples located beside the Hanuman Ghat. Believed to be erected by the great preacher Tulsidas, it is a great attraction for the tourists. You shall be amazed to see the outstanding image of the Ruru Bhairava over here. It is one among the eight popular Bhairavas.

Durga Temple
Varanasi, this old city on the banks of the River Ganges is home to a large number of temples. Acclaimed as one of the most holy cities in the world, its temples are frequented by pilgrims and devotees in quest of spiritual bliss. The Durga Temple is no lone exception. Religious followers gravitate to the temple and so do common tourists who are drawn to it because of its design pattern and busts.

History of the Durga Temple, Varanasi
Varanasi is a place highly revered by the Shaivite Hindus. The general trend noticed is that Durga Temples are a rare find in regions which has many followers of Lord Shiva. This is why it is indeed quite surprising to find a Durga Temple in a place like Varanasi reputed for being a Shaivite stronghold. Anyways the temple was constructed by a Bengali Maharani. It was built in the 18th century. Even though she is credited with the construction of the temple, the deity that is enshrined within the temple was not established by her. According to popular legend, Durga herself appeared in this temple at Benaras (the other name by which Varanasi is known), India.

Description of the Durga Temple, Varanasi
The Durga Temple in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh is a fine example of the Shikhara or North Indian style of Temple architecture. Positioned on top of a rectangular tank referred to as the Durga Kund, this ochre red colored temple boasts of a multi tiered Shikhara that never fails to catch anyone's attention. Separate Spires are built one on top of the other to form the Shikhara and the diameter of these spires keep decreasing with increasing height.
According to popular belief Goddess Durga worshipped in this temple is the savior and protector of this sacred place. She came here of her own and has been staying ever since as a guardian. She is a form of Parvati, Lord Shiva's consort and an embodiment of power and harmony. Her strength is a source of inspiration for women and her protection of the land a reason of relief to the people of this land. No wonder people pour in by the lakhs to offer their prayers and seek her blessings. The number increases conspicuously when Navratri and other auspicious occasions are celebrated.
Open from seven in the morning to eight in the evening, it is of interest not only to ardent admirers of Goddess Durga but also to the lovers of art and architecture. Ensure that you pay a visit to the Durga Temple when on Varanasi Tour. It is not simply one of the prime Holy Places in Varanasi; it is also one of the important Tourist Attractions in Varanasi

Bharat Mata Temple
There are many Holy Places in Varanasi but the Bharat Mata Temple is one with a difference. Unlike the other temples it does not enshrine any particular God or Goddess revered by religious followers. It is a temple dedicated to Bharat Mata or Mother India. She is the human manifestation of the Indian nation and is venerated by all Indians irrespective of their caste, creed or color.

History of the Bharat Mata Temple, Varanasi
Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta and Shri Durga Prasad Khatri are credited with the construction of the Bharat Mata Temple, the former was a nationalist leader and the latter a reputed numismatist and antiquarian. It struck them that Benaras or Kashi (the other two names by which Varanasi is known) is home to many temples and mosques. But there is no such edifice in this cultural capital of the country which would stand as a fine symbol of the spirit of nationalism and secularism. So they hit upon this novel idea of a temple where the country would be worshipped, where there would be no customary Gods and Goddesses and which would have no religious association.
The Bharat Mata Temple was therefore constructed and in the year 1936. It was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation.

Description of the Bharat Mata Temple, Varanasi
Very interestingly the Bharat Mata Temple does not have a statue of Bharat Mata. Out here there is a relief map of the country carved in white marble brought from Makrana. The temple was constructed prior to independence and consequently even before the sad partition of the country, so the map that is kept here depicts undivided India. The plains, mountains and oceans are all marked with a lot of precision. Both with regards to the latitude as well as the longitude, the map is absolutely perfect in scale. Anyone is sure to be impressed on seeing it.
The uniqueness of the Bharat Mata Temple does not just end here. The thoughts that governed its construction design are also unique. It stands on five distinct pillars and each of these pillars symbolizes earth, wind, fire, water and sky, the five basic elements of creation respectively. All the pillars finally converge at the top yet again signifying that every element finally merges with the supreme.
Located within the campus of the Kashi Vidyapeeth Campus, the Bharat Mata Temple in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh is open from 9.30 A.M. in the morning to 8.00 P.M. in the evening. Make sure you drop in for a visit.

Banaras Hindu University
Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi is an internationally reputed University. Also called by the name of BHU in short, this University has developed into one of the supreme centers of learning in India. Varanasi Banaras Hindu University has produced many Nation builders and great freedom fighters. It has enormously contributed to the development of the country through a large number of celebrated scholars, scientists and artists. The structure of Varanasi Banaras Hindu University has a high rank amongst the Monuments in Varanasi.

History of Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India was founded in the year 1916 by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, the great nationalist leader. In the formation of Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Dr Annie Besant also played a significant role.

Description of Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
The Banaras Hindu University boasts of a sprawling campus spread on 1300 acres of land. It has roads that are well maintained and cross each other at right angles. You will find extensive greenery within the premises of this University. A temple, an airstrip and buildings are some of the other architectural delights at this place. The BHU consists of 3 Institutes. These comprise of 14 Faculties spread across 124 Departments, 4 Interdisciplinary Centers as well as 3 Constituent Schools. An exhaustive range of subjects are offered at BHU that pertains to all branches of social sciences, science, humanities, technology, medicine, performing arts and fine arts.
Under Banaras Hindu University, there are 6 centers of advanced studies too besides 10 Departments that are under Special Assistance Program. Several specialized Research Centers are also a part of BHU. There are four Degree Colleges in this city which are affiliated to the University. The Bharat Kala Bhavan, a popular art and archaeological museum, houses rare collections and is a real treasure trove.
The Varanasi Banaras Hindu University also has an engineering institute (called the Institute of Technology) and a medical college (by the name of Institute of Medical Sciences). Sir Sundar Lal Hospital (having 927 beds) is set with all the contemporary amenities and caters to the medical requirements of a large population. The University also offers a well-developed sports infrastructure. Several facilities for different sports and hobbies are offered at BHU. This place has big playgrounds, a flying club, a big auditorium and several other services as well as utilities like Subsidized Canteens, Printing Press, Fruit Preservation Center, Employment and information Bureau, Security, Publication Cell etc.

The Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi is home to nearly 15000 students, coming from various streams of life, religions, castes and races. This University has around 2000 teachers besides 5000 non-teaching staff. Another significant characteristic of the BHU is the large number of foreign students. A majority of these students come from Europe, Asia, the U.S.A., Middle East and Africa. So, to see all these and more, book yourself for a tour to Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi at your earliest

Vishwanath Temple Varanasi
Varanasi, revered and venerated as one of the most holy cities in the world is home to a large number of temples. In the heart of this cultural capital of the country stands the Vishwanath Temple in all its splendor and magnificence. It is frequented by religious minded Hindu devotees and is at the same time one of the major Tourist Attractions in Varanasi

History of the Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi
It is said that the original Vishwanath Temple was located just opposite the road on which the present temple now stands. It was built more than 1000 years back. Unfortunately that temple was destroyed as a result of the invasions of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the year 1669. The present temple was built in 1778 by Maharani Ahalya Bai Holkar of Indore. Much later in the year 1839, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab donated 1000 kg of gold and that was used for gold plating the domes of the temple. It is for its golden spires that the temple is also referred to as the Golden Temple.

Description of the Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi
The Vishwanath Temple, foremost of all the Holy Places in Varanasi is dedicated to Lord Shiva, also referred to by the name of Vishwanatha or Visheshwara (a term meaning ruler of the world) by his devotees. One of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva is enshrined in this temple. The linga is 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference. It is housed in a silver altar.
Even though the linga is the presiding deity of this temple, there are several other smaller shrines within the precincts of the temple and some of the other Gods of the Hindu pantheon are worshipped in them. Mahakala, Vishnu, Dhandapani, Avimukteshwara, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha and Virupaksh Gauri are some of the other deities from whom you can seek blessings here.

The Gyan Vapi Tank or the Wisdom Well of the temple is believed to be the spot where the Jyotirlinga was kept for protection against foreign invasion. A large number of devotees pour in from different parts of the country to offer their prayers to the Lord and seek his blessings. So strong is the faith and belief in him that many of our saints including Adi Shankaracharya, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda, Goswami Tulsidas, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati and Gurunanak are believed to have visited this temple in Uttar Pradesh. The Aarati is performed five times a day and makes for a very beautiful sight.

A mere glimpse of the jyotirlinga is believed to be a soul purifying experience, one is sure to feel spiritually elevated after getting the blessings of the Lord. There are several other jyotirlingas scattered in different parts of the country but when it comes to gaining benediction none comes close to the one at Varanasi or Kashi. He is considered to be a repository of spiritual strength and the merits of paying him a visit are beyond compare