Varanasi, or Benaras, is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi's prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrivalled. Mark Twain, the English author and literature, who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Banaras, once wrote: "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together".
One of the earliest descriptions of Varanasi is found in the Buddhist scriptures as also in the epic, 'Mahabharat'. The 'Pali' version of Varanasi was 'Baranasi' which ultimately gave birth to the name 'Banaras'. According to the 'Vamana Purana', the Varuna and Assi rivers originate from the body of the primordial person at the beginning of time itself. The tract of land lying between them is believed to be the holiest of all pilgrimages. The holy land between these two rivers is 'Varanasi'. Varanasi, also famous as Kashi (Derived from the root 'Kas' - to shine) is called the city of spiritual light.
Steeped in tradition and mythological legacy, Kashi is the 'original ground' created by Shiva and Parwati, upon which they stood at the beginning of time.
Varanasi is the microcosm of Hinduism, a city of traditional classical culture. Glorified by myth and legend and sanctified by religion, it has always attracted a large number of pilgrims and worshippers from times immemorial.
To be in Varanasi is an experience in itself… and experience in Self discovery … an ethereal oneness of the body and soul. To every visitor, Varanasi offers a breathtaking experience. The rays of the dawn shimmering across the Ganges… the high -banks, the temples and shrines, the ashrams and pavilions along the banks bathed in a golden hue… soul -stirring hymns and mantras along with the fragrance of incense filling the air… and, the refreshing dip in the holy waters gently splashing at the Ghats…. .
Varanasi, the land where experience and discovery reach the ultimate bliss. Varanasi is also renowned for its rich tapestry of music, arts, crafts and education. Some of the world- renowned exponents India has produced in these fields were schooled in the Varanasi tradition and origins.
Luminaries parts, Varanasi abounds in the art of silk weaving, an exotic work of art which manifests itself in precious Banarasi silk saris and silk brocades which are cherished as collector's items across the world, even today.
Places to See
Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir : Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is dedicated to Lord shiva, the presiding deity of the city. Varanasi is Said to be the point at which the first jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which shiva manifested has supremacy over others gods, broke through the Earth's crust and flared towards the heavens. More than the Gaths and even the Ganga, the Shivalinga installed in the temple remains the devotional focus of Varanasi.
Maharaja Banaras Vidya Mandir Museum, Ramnager : The Banaras Vidya Mandir Museum is housed in the Ramnager fort itself. Ramnagar Fort was originally built by Maharaja Balwant Singh (1740-70 AD.). The museum collection mainly Comprises of textiles, pieces of decorative arts, arms & armours, utilitarian objects, means of transport-old bagghis, palkis & haudasivories, furniture & manuscripts.
Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies : The only institute of its kind in the world, imparting education in the Tibetan language, it was Est. by the Dalai Lama in 1971. Presently located at Sarnath, the institute has a rare collection of Buddhist texts, Tibetan manuscripts and other journals.
Barat Kala Bhawan : Bharat Kala Bhawan started in 1950 as a university museum is famous for its unique collection of miniature paintings. It has a rich collection of Rajasthani paintings, Pichhawai's, pahari painting, Nepalese & Tibetan Thankas, Company paintings as well as paintings of contemporary artists, illustrated Mrigavati, Kalpa Sutra, Chora-Panchasika, Laura-Chanda, Shah-nama and some pages of Humza-nama Are the proud possessions of this museum.
Banaras Hindu University : The Banaras Hindu University was established in 1916 by special efforts of Nationalist Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. Today it has grown into one of the biggest universities of India.
Kashi Vidya Peeth : The Kashi Vidyapeeth was set up in 1920 by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta to provide alternate education arrangement discarding that of the British. It soon became a centre of natoinal education with Hindi as the medium of instruction. Acharya Narendradev, Babu Sampurnanand, Babu Sriprakash & many more Luminaries of the time have been associated with this institute.
River Front (Ghats) : The spectacular 4 km sweep of the Ghats is unique sight, best viewed at dawn, in that "soft first light" when the river and Ghats have a timeless appeal. Life is almost panoramic detail unfolds here from dawn to dusk as a steady stream of devotees-swelling to thousands on auspicious days –perform rituals by the Ganga. The Ghats are best approached by Dashashwamedha ghat, where boats are available on hire.
How to Reach
By Air : Indian Airlines flies to Babatpur airport which is 22 km. from Varanasi and 30 km. from Sarnath There is a. direct, daily flight connection between Varanasi and New Delhi. It also connects Varanasi to Delhi, Agra,. Khajuraho, Calcutta, Mumbai, Lucknow and Bhuvaneshwar. For travel reservations contact Indian Airlines.
By Rail : Varanasi is an important and major rail junction. The city is served by trains from all metros and major cities across the country.
Important Trains to Varanasi are
Kashi Vishwanath Express (Varanasi-Delhi)
Shramjivi Express (Patna- Varanasi-Delhi)
Farakka Express (MaldaTown-Varanasi-Bhiwani)
Saryu-Yamuna Express (Muzzafarpur-Varanasi-Delhi)
Mahanagri Express (Varanasi-Mumbai)
Pawan Express (Varanasi-Mumbai)
Sabermati Express (Varanasi-Ahamedabad)
Ganga-Kaveri Express (Varanasi-Chennai)
Purva Express (Howrah-Varanasi-Delhi)
Himgiri Express (Jammu-Varanasi-Howrah)
Siyaldah Express (Varanasi-Jammu Tawi)
Marudhar Express (Varanasi-Agra-Jaipur)
Rajdhani Express (Howrah-Mughal Sarai-Delhi)
Toofan Express (Howrah-Mughal Sarai-Delhi)
North East Super Fast Express (Delhi-Mughal Sarai-Guwahati)
Magadh Express (Delhi-Mughal Sarai-Patna)
By Road : Varanasi, on (National Highway) NH2 from Calcutta to Delhi, NH7 to Kanya Kumari and NH29 to GoraKhpur is connected literally to the rest of the country by good motorable, all – weather roads. Some important road distances are: Agra 565 km., Allahabad 128 km., Bhopal 791 km., Bodhgaya 240 km., Kanpur 330 km., Khajuraho 405 km., Lucknow 286 km., patna 246 km., Sarnath 10 km., Lumbini (Napal) 386 km., Kushi Nagar 250 km. (via Gorkhpur), UPSRTC Bus Stand, Sher Shah Suri Marg, Golgadda Bus Stand.