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Best reasons to visit Varanasi


          Varanasi: The Oldest Living City in the World

Travel to a sacred site is always a pilgrimage. And traditionally, pilgrimages always include some elements of hardships and trials. Journey to Varanasi, the holy city of light, takes you back in the embrace of Soul of Mother India, with all her spiritual blessing, joy, challenges and transformations too. City of Varanasi is popular destination for many reasons:

1. Marriage Destination:

Kashi is the place where Lord Shiva and Mother Annapurna (Mother Parvati’s benevolent form distributing food to Lord Shiva and mankind) got united. Mother Annapurna is the queen of Kashi and Lord Shiva is the King of Kashi. Kashi is the place where Lord Shiva, the eternal ascetic came her and took the role of an active householder. Kashi was built on the Trident of Lord SHiva and was built o Mother Parvati’s request. It is the place where the divine couple resides and take care the of the world in the benevolent householder roles of Annapurna & Vishveshvar. The temples of of Mother Annapurna & Kashi Vishwanath are adjacent.They are eternally together. The auspicious place of Kashi has the blessing of all Gods and Tirthas. May the marriages consummated here be eternally blessed. After unmarried people keep the 16 Somvar Vratas of Lord Shiva & Mother Gauri who are the King and queen of this city and are in their most benevolent form here.


2. Yatras of Varanasi :

(Yatra = Travel). Kashi, also known as Varanasi has tradition of Many yatras . Primarily these are circumlocutions or series of visists to different holy temple and places In Varanasi. Most of these places are from Vedic  times. Still some of them may be very small temples , mixed with other temple an you might not notice them unless you know about them.  Almost all of these Yatras have references in Puranas  and old scriptures. Some of the Yatras are mentioned below:

  1. Nitya Yatra
  2. Antargrihi yatra
  3. Ekayatan Yatra
  4. Dwirayatan Yatra
  5. Trirayatan Yatra
  6. Chaturayatan Yatra
  7. Panchayatan yatra
  8. Kshadang yatra
  9. Ashtayatan Yatra
  10. Ekadash Ayatan yatra
  11. Chaturdash Ayatan Yatra
  12. Uttar Dik Yatra
  13. Dakshin Dik Yatra
  14. Jalathirth yatra
  15. Nav Gauri Yatra
  16. Nav Durga Yatra
  17. Vighneshwar or Vinayak Yatra
  18. Vishnu Yatra
  19. Aditya Yatra
  20. Bhairav Yatra
  21. Saptarshi Yatra
  22. Dwadash Jyotirling Yatra
  23. Saptapuri Yatra
  24. Panchkoshi Yatra
  25. Devotees also carry out Kanvad Yatra in the holy month of Shravana.

3. Ghats in Varanasi:

Varanasi Ghats are a world in itself. The real Varanasi lives on its Ghats only. Ghats are so intimately linked with Varanasi spirituality and the cultural heritage of Varanasi it is impossible to imagine Varanasi without Ghats.

These Ghats have witnessed so much Historty  and still witnessing miracle unknown to our worldly eyes.

These ghats have witnessed Tulasidas reciting Ramcharitmanas(15th century), Shri Ramanand stepping accidentally on Kabir’s chest,Lord Shiva appearing as Chandala in front of Shakaracharya(Pre 1000AD),  Mahavatara Babaji’s sister emerging out of Dashashavamegh Ghat stone and asking him to stay alive forever (Late 1800), the Ganges water coming up 52 steps to take Jagannath Pandit into his final samadhi (During Late 1700’s) ,Lahiri Mahashaya taking early morning ablution in the holy Ganges(In Late 1800) and it can just go on….These Ghats are so old and have so much of History to it that it mesmerizes me every time I sit there.

Some of these Ghats have been built and some are re-stored in late medieval times ad some are new. The series of Ghats starts from Assi Ghat and goes till Shri Panch Agni Ghat. You can actually walk from the one Ghat to another and reached the last.I used to do this with my friends, when I studied in Varanasi. Plus point is that we can see the different kind of activities on Ghats. At some places some people were doing folk dancing. At other foreigners were playing music and still on other secluded part some Yogi was sitting nearby Ganges while at another cremation taking place and on another Ganga Aarati in evening. You will find different aspects of life.The Varanasi Ghats are a world in itself.  The names of Ghats are as follows,

  1. Assi Ghat
  2. Ganga Mahal Ghat (I)
  3. Rewan (Reewa) Ghat
  4. Tulsi Ghat
  5. Bhadaini Ghat
  6. Janaki Ghat
  7. Mata Anandamai
  8. Vaccharaja Ghat
  9. Jain Ghat
  10. Nishad Ghat
  11. Prabhu Ghat
  12. Panchkota Ghat
  13. Chet Singh Ghat
  14. Niranjani Ghat
  15. Mahanirvani Ghat
  16. Shivala Ghat
  17. Gularia Ghat
  18. Dandi Ghat
  19. Hanuman Ghat
  20. Prachina (Old) Hanumanana Ghat
  21. Karnataka Ghat
  22. Harish Chandra Ghat
  23. Lali Ghat
  24. Vijayanagaram Ghat
  25. Kedar Ghat
  26. Caowki (Chauki) Ghat
  27. Ksemesvara / Somesvara Ghat
  28. Mansarovar Ghat
  29. Narad Ghat
  30. Raja Ghat rebuilt by Amrut Rao Peshwa
  31. Khori Ghat
  32. Pandey Ghat
  33. Sarvesvara Ghat
  34. Digpatia Ghat
  35. Causatthi Ghat
  36. Rana Mahal Ghat
  37. Darbhanga Ghat
  38. Munshi Ghat
  39. Ahilyabai Ghat
  40. Sitala Ghat
  41. Dashashwamedh Ghat
  42. Prayag Ghat
  43. Rajendra Prasad Ghat
  44. Man Mandir Ghat
  45. Tripura Bhairavi Ghat
  46. Mir (Meer) Ghat
  47. Phuta/ Naya Ghat
  48. Nepali Ghat
  49. Lalita Ghat
  50. Bauli/ Umaraogiri/ Amroha Ghat
  51. Jalasen (Jalasayi) Ghat
  52. Khirki Ghat
  53. Manikarnika Ghat
  54. Bajirio Ghat
  55. Scindhia Ghat
  56. Sankatha Ghat
  57. Ganga Mahal Ghat (II)
  58. Bhonsale Ghat
  59. Naya Ghat
  60. Genesa Ghat
  61. Mehta Ghat
  62. Rama Ghat
  63. Jatara Ghat
  64. Raja Gwalior Ghat
  65. Mangala Gauri Ghat (also known as Bala Ghat)
  66. Venimadhava Ghat
  67. Panchaganga Ghat
  68. Durga Ghat
  69. Brahma Ghat
  70. Bundi Parakota Ghat
  71. (Adi)Sitala Ghat
  72. Lal Ghat
  73. Hanumanagardhi Ghat
  74. Gaya/Gai Ghat
  75. Badri Nayarana Ghat
  76. Trilochan Ghat
  77. Gola Ghat
  78. Nandesvara /Nandu Ghat
  79. Sakka Ghat
  80. Telianala Ghat
  81. Naya/Phuta Ghat
  82. Prahalada Ghat
  83. Raja Ghat (Bhaisasur Rajghat) / Lord Duffrin bridge / Malaviya Bridge
  84. Adi Keshava Ghat
  85. Sant Ravidas Ghat
  86. Nishad Ghat (divided from Prahalada)
  87. Rani Ghat
  88. Shri Panch Agni Akhara Ghat

4. To collect Ganges water:

The importance of Ganga water cannot be understated  any way. Ganga water is considered the most holy and is used in ritual like purifying the pooja place, pooja articles, use to offer ablution to Gods during worship, and keeping bad spirits way. Besides everyone who is near his final days , always wishes to have Ganges water near him as he wants to sip a few drop of Ganges water before his final journey. It is largely believed that putting a few drops of Ganges water in the mouth of a dying person will ensure the peaceful journey and better movement for soul and even has the power to liberate the soul from the cycle of birth and death.

Ganges water is said to have many purification properties and its is observed that it stays pure even years after keeping in bottle., while the water from other rivers doesn’t stay good for this long.

5. To have an experience of lifetime:

Kashi (Varanasi) is a place of perpetual happiness.You will find most people in spite of their earning levels or place in socio-economic strata. I have met people who are poor but still seems more carefree and happy than most of the people residing i big metros like Mumbai or Delhi.

Varanasi is a place where the difference are celebrated and not frowned upon. People are accepted the way they are. Criticism is accepted with open heart here. They even hold up and yearly event called as Mahamurkh sammelan where people openly criticize and sometimes abuse the hypocrisy and and double standards  of bureaucrats, politicians and famous personalities in front of them and even the guests accept it all in a open minded attitude.

Kashi is  place where you will find the normally secluded Aghoris living very nearby to benevolent householders who still pay alms to ascetics. Aghoris are dreaded and householders are the pillar to keep the balance of materialism and  spiritual seekers.

Kashi is place of extreme contrasts existing together in a continuous harmony. Where else you would you find Cremation pyre burning and other people performing some other auspicious ritual like mundan nearby on the same ghat. The event of Death is not feared but is looked upon as a transition process  of soul from this mundane cycle of birth and death to permanent liberation and attaining Moksha/Salvation.

You will find foreigners almost every 5 minutes in streets of Varanasi. Some of them will speak in chaste Hindi and might surprise you.

Varanasi is A place where you will still see cows are still worshiped and bulls are respected as sen Lord Shiva’s vehicle.

6. Cultural Capital of India:

Kashivasis , as the Varanasi city dwellers  love to call themselves, take pride in  claiming the city to be cultural capital of India. The reason behind this belief is not only from the trail from history but also the constant cultural impacts the city has been able to impart on people across the country and at times impacts in traces across the globe on India lovers.   Varanasi has not only been the forte of  Vedic literature and place of learned Pandits of Karma-kandas but the city is also  known for its contribution to classical music. Famous Kathak dancer Shri Biraju Maharaj, Sitar maestro & Grammy award winner Shri Ravishankar, Shehanai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan are few of the famous names most of us have heard in recent times. Betiya Dhrupad Gharana , Tansen Parampara are still alive and  being practiced in Varanasi.

Varanasi is a great place to learn & see the living example of  Philosophy of Unity in Diversity. You twill find the priest from South India performing pooja in most coveted temple in the city while the Marathis like Joshi and other origins are living for centuries in the city. Bengalis have love this place so much that they even have a big section of city named as Bengali tola.Bathing  Ghats are made by  different people here. Gujaratis,Marathis, Marwaris, Tamils all have contributed to this place over the centuries.

7. For Education :

Varanasi has 5 Universities and it has the only Sanskrit University in country , Sampoornanand university. Our Ex-Prime minster Shri Lal Nahadur Shashtri,  got his  got his Shashtri Degree, an  equivalent of M.A. form here. He kept his title as Shastri after this. There are other universities too, including the Internationally recognized Banaras Hindu University(B.H.U.). BHU has an IIT and  Medical science courses as well. It produces best quality of Engineers and Doctors every year aprt from other highly qualified scholars. University has separate Faculty of International students.

8. To Learn Philosophy:

Large groups of foreigners keep on coming to Varanasi in search of peace and to learn about authentic Indian Philosophy.

A low cost of living and an open attitude towards foreigners also prompts them to stay longer tan they plan. Some even earn six month in their native countries and spend six month in Varanasi as living costs are low.

9. Food of Varanasi:

The famous Kachori, Jalebis and Daulat ki chhachh,w hich popularly known as Os ki Malai in Varanasi. There are some of the most famous breakfast in Varanasi. I don’t know about others but being a foodie myself, I often plan a halt at Varanasi just to relish this breakfast.

Apart from the above,  the regular Aloo Chat , Gol-Gappe (Pani Puri) etc have a very different taste than the other parts of India. I have been to various parts of India  including  metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai , Kolkata & other food rich states like  Gujarat, Rajasthan etc but have never found the same taste like the Chaat and Gol-Gappe (Pani puri) as in Varanasi. Even my other Friends who have visited Varanasi, have confirmed the same thing to that the taste of Varanasi Chats , Gol-Gappes is totally on a different level than anywhere else.

Also the regular food is also very tasty  and you will find good food in comparatively very low cost as compared to other metros. The usual Thali will have Chapatis, Rice, Dals, 3-4 kinds of  Vegetable( Potato is main feature in most of the vegetable barring a few.

Baati Chokha (Or Bharta) is a poplar dish in Varanasi and people savor it greatly. It is one specialty which makes the picnic more memorable. Most of the people going on picnic often carry the privation to cook Baati chokha at the picnic site. It is easy to prepare as Baati is made on Upalas which is very abundantly available in nearby areas of picnic spots . They cook in earthen pots know as Handiya. It is used to cook Dal, Rice or for preparing Bharhta. The food is often served on Pattals which are made from the leaves of  Mahua tree.

 10. A hub for handicrafts, Jaris & Saris:

A place fro famous the Jari work, handicraft and Banarasi Saris.- Varanasi is the commercial hub of eastern UP, Bihar, Jharkahd and Northern Madhya Pradesh.

Being relatively closer or rather easier connectivity to  Nepal , pooja items like Rudrakash , Ayurvedic preparations are easier to obtain at great  prices in Varanasi.

11. A place for enlightened souls:

Shri Ramamand, Kabir, Rahim- Great devotee  of Lord  Shri Ram, Shri Lahiri Mahashaya-The Param Guru of Shri Yogananada and the first promoter of Kriya Yoga for normal householders , Trailang Swami  and many more enlightened people have been associated with Varanasi.

Lahiri Mahashay

12. A place of Sadhana and Siddhas:

It is said that there is another Kashi below the Kashi which is unseen from naked to our normal eyes. This other Kashi is called Siddha Kashi and is accessible only to the Sinddhas and enlightened souls.

This is place which has got Siddhapeetha and has Kashi Vishavnath Jyotirlingas together. Kashi Vishvanath is one of the the 12 Jyotirlingas across India  and Perhaps the most widely known.

Being a Shaktipeetha a lot of Sadhaks, Sanyasi &  Tantriks are constantly engaged in Sadhanas here.

13. A resting  place for our Ancestors (for  Asthi Visrjan) & Pindadaan:

It is said that as long as the bones of  ancestors remain in Ganges, that many thousand years they remain in heaven.

Pidaadaan done in Tirthas carry great merits for our departed ancestors and if it is done in Varanasi it gives immense punya. Remember Even Indira Gandhis asthis were dispsoed at three places, One at Sangam Allahabad, Varanasi and Himalayas.

14. People come here to Die or attain Moksha?:

Or Rather it would come to get free from the cycle of birth and death known as Bhavasagar. However weird this sounds but this is true that people come to Varanasi in search of liberation from cycle of Birth and death. It is said that if the person is dead in Varanasi he attains Moksha. Lord Bhairava who is an avatar of Lord Shiva is called ‘The Kotwal of Kashi’ ( Means the law and order in charge  of  Kashi or The Police head of Varanasi). It is believed the Karma of dead at Varanasi are assessed at the time of death and the punishment is executed by Kotawal of Kashi in expedited ( if any bad Karmas) manner and finally soul is liberated and given Moksha.

It is is said that the Lord Shiva himself gives the initiation of ‘Tarak Mantra’ in the ear of the deceased to liberate them from Bhavasagar. A famous incident is quoted as following-” When the Highly enlightened spiritual master Sri RamKrishna Paramhans was on a boat and passing by Ghats of Varanasi , he saw on Manikarnika Ghat That Lord Shiva was himself giving Tarak Mantra in the ear of the deceased. He saws this incident and immediately fell into Samadhi.

Jai Baba Kashi Vishvanath!

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