Posted 23 December 2022

Everything to explore on your trip to the mystical city of Varanasi

The city of Varanasi, also known as Banaras, is one of India's oldest and holiest cities. It is quirky yet unique and redefines what India means. Varanasi is one of the most charmingly chaotic cities in the world. You are sure to be swept away by Varanasi's weird world, from the crowded lanes to the ancient ghats.

7 reasons to visit Varanasi

1. Ganga Aarti

The fascinating Ganga Aarti at Varanasi is popular all over the world as it captivates the visitor's attention as hundreds of lighted diyas illuminate the river Ganga. The Ganga Aarti attracts thousands of international tourists and locals to witness this beautiful event.

At dusk, with so many diyas and lamps lining up on the water, it makes for a memorable visual experience for people watching. There is undeniable magic in the air, filled with incense and glowing aartis. You can book a boat and watch the mesmerising ceremony on the boat in a river, an experience worth witnessing.

Popular places in Varanasi where Ganga Aarti is performed include the Assi Ghat and Dashashwarmedh Ghat.

2. The Ghats

Named after two main Ghats, Varun Ghat and Assi Ghat, Varanasi possesses a rich cultural heritage. One of Varanasi's main attractions is its attractive ghats, most of which date back to the time of the Maratha Empire. Over 80 ghats are located around the city, each one telling a different story. It is believed that the city is one of the best places in India to perform religious rituals and offer pujas because it is located at the junction of three holy rivers — the Ganga, Yamuna and Brahmaputra. Even cremations are sometimes performed on these ghats.

 Famous ghats of Varanasi to visit:

  • Dashashwamedh Ghat
  • Darbhanga Ghat
  • Assi Ghat
  • Manikarnika Ghat
  • Digpatia Ghat
  • Chet Singh Ghat
  • Man Mandir Ghat
  • Scindia Ghat

3. Fairs and festivals

In addition to its many pilgrimage sites, Varanasi is also famous for its religious festivals and fairs. The festival of Maha Shivratri is one of the most beloved festivals in the city. Holi, the festival of colours, takes on a new dimension in this city, where the colourful festivals transform the city. Another famous festival is Diwali when the ghats are lined with numerous lighted diyas.

Other festivals celebrated in the city include Diwali, Rangbhari Ekadashi, Ram Leela, Ganga Dussehra, Annakut, Shravan Maah and Makar Sankranti. A few major religious fairs include the Dhrupad Mela, Kumbh Mela, Sarnath Fair and Vaisakhi Mela.

4. A visit to Sarnath

At the holy place of Sarnath, 10km from Varanasi, Gautama Buddha preached for the first time to his followers after achieving enlightenment. The grounds are beautifully maintained, with the Dhamek Stupa at its centre. The Mulagandhakuti Vihara marks the site where Gautama Buddha spent his first monsoon deep in meditation. There is some interesting carving on the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath. Additionally, there are six national temples from various Asian communities, which include a Tibetan temple and a temple for the Sri Lankan community. The archaeological museum of Sarnath contains treasures that are worth exploring. As well as being a centre for spirituality, it is also a beautiful picnic spot near Varanasi.

5. Weavers’ village

Known internationally for their beautiful textiles, the weavers of Varanasi create magic by weaving exquisite works of art. The Sarai Mohana village is popular for its silk weaving. Banarasi sarees woven by these weavers are considered among the finest in India. These ethnic textiles are characterised by gold and silver brocade, also known as zari, fine silk and intricate embroidery. These saris are worn mainly by Indian brides. Visitors are welcome to visit the village to learn about the craftsmanship of the weavers and get some insight into the secret of the sarees made here, which take between 15 days to 6 months to complete.

6. The Street food

Varanasi is known for its gastronomic offerings. When it comes to food, Varanasi offers a diverse selection of flavours and dishes. There are a variety of local street foods that you can get your hands on in Varanasi. Get your fill of tasty local meals served with love, including crunchy kachoris and spicy aloo puri. Banaras is also famous for paan. It is a must-try Varanasi speciality that is made of betel leaf and you should not miss it. The best part is the low cost which ensures no one goes hungry.

7. Musical events

After religion, it is music that courses through the streets of Varanasi. With the sounds of tablas, flutes, sitars and sarods, you are sure to be enthralled.

This place hosts many musical events, including classical music concerts and festivals, like Ganga Mahotsav and Mahindra Kabira Music Festival. This place has produced some of the world's most famous musical geniuses. Two prominent names in the world of music are Ustad Bismillah Khan, an expert in playing the woodwind instrument shehnai, Girija Devi, a classical singer and Pandit Ravi Shankar, a Sitar maestro. Furthermore, the city has a lot of music schools where you can learn an instrument and there are lots of music stores to buy them.

Some travel tips to ensure a safe and better experience

  • Visit during festivals: The elaborate ceremonies and colourful traditions are celebrated at an even higher level with the city being illuminated by golden lights, making it seem royal. Visiting Varanasi during festivals will make your trip more memorable.
  • Refrain from clicking pictures of the cremation ghats: It is considered disrespecting the emotions of the deceased family to take pictures of the cremation ghat or the rituals being performed. Taking out the phone or camera to click pictures might instigate the locals to hurl at you.
  • Wake up early: Getting out early in the morning when the madding crowd is still sleeping is the best time to witness the city. There is a sense of silence and peace. In Varanasi, the world looks drastically different when it awakens. And the sunrise is also something you don't want to miss..
  • Don’t take pictures of the Sadhus: The Saffron-clad sadhus might be an interesting sight in Varanasi. However, taking pictures of them without consent is strictly prohibited. You must take their permission before clicking pictures, which they usually agree to. 

How to reach Varanasi?

Varanasi, also known as the spiritual capital of India, is a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is very popular among pilgrims due to its numerous temples, so reaching the city is quite easy. Trains, roads and planes are all readily accessible to Varanasi. Varanasi Junction and Mughal Sarai Junction are two of its main railway stations. Varanasi Airport has daily flights to both Mumbai and Delhi. Buses are also readily available.

  • By air: Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport is the main airport of Varanasi. The airport is located 23.8 km away from the city centre and serves both domestic and international connections. Major domestic, as well as international airlines, run frequently from this airport. You can easily avail of IndiGo airlines for a quick and cosy journey, additionally, it has direct flights to Varanasi from all the major cities in India. Once you reach the airport, you can easily take a cab, bus or an auto rickshaw to go to your destination.
  • By rail: Travelling to a destination by train is one of the most exciting things, especially if you’re travelling with family and friends. Despite its remote location, Varanasi has good rail access as its main railway station is located only 1.9km from the city centre. It is the most convenient way to travel to Varanasi since the station is so close to the city.
  • By road: Varanasi is a well-known tourist spot, so a lot of people choose to drive to the city. In addition to being connected to major nearby cities such as Lucknow, Prayagraj, Mathura, the city is also accessible via many expressways and highways.

Interstate and intrastate buses are also available for passengers' convenience.

Best time to visit Varanasi

The ideal time to visit Varanasi is when the winter sets in (October). You can plan a visit anytime during winter (between October and March). Summer in Varanasi can be very sweltering and humid. While monsoon is a nice change from the hot dry summer, the heavy showers are often accompanied by storms. For tourists, the monsoon season might not be the best as the roads and lanes are mostly wet and slippery and are prone to accidents. Thus, winter remains the most ideal time to visit Varanasi with most of the fairs and festivals being held during this time.

Weather and climatic conditions

The three seasons, summer, monsoon and winter are quite prominent in Varanasi. Nevertheless, whether it’s a hot summer day or a rain-soaked monsoon, Varanasi's weather has never stopped pilgrims from coming seeking the blessings of different gods and goddesses at the various shrines here. Varanasi is pretty hot and muggy in the summer and cold and foggy in the winter.

  • Summer(March-end to June): Generally, Varanasi's summer starts towards the end of March and lasts through April. During the summer, the temperature fluctuates between 32°C and 45°C. It is quite common to experience hot dry winds during the summer, known as 'loo'. Varanasi is at its busiest during this time, as most pilgrims find summer to be the most suitable season to visit the temples and take a dip in the sacred Ganga.
  • Monsoon (July-October): Though torrential rainfall hinders tourism, Varanasi still receives large numbers of tourists during the monsoon. The rainy season continues from July to the second week of October. More or less, the temperatures stay between 25°C and 30°C, providing a welcome respite from the heat. When it comes to exploring Varanasi, it can be quite challenging, as the rain would hinder your travel. During the height of the monsoon, the Ganga is a fascinating sight.
  • Winter (November- February): The best time to visit Varanasi is during the winter, between November and February when the temperatures average between 5°C and 15°C. Tourists flock to Varanasi during this season. The weather is mild during the day and cools at night. It is an ideal time for strolling, sightseeing and exploring the city. The season is marked by vibrant foliage and blooming flowers. In addition, quite a few religious festivals as well as celebrations are observed during the winter. The sight of Varanasi in a festive mood will be quite an experience.

Conclusion

The heart of Hinduism lies in Varanasi. Varanasi is unparalleled in its beauty and cannot be explained in mere words. There are many mysteries in this sacred place that you must discover once in your lifetime.

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