On the riverside of the Ganges, the colourful sacred city of Varanasi (Banares), has been a significant historic, cultural, and spiritual epicentre for more than 6,000 years. Varanasi is one of the most significant Hindu holy sites in the world. Illustrated by Mark Twain as ‘ancient than history, ancient than any tradition, ancient even than mythology, and looks twice as ancient as all of them combined together!’, this city presents sensation tourists never forget.
The stone steps (ghats) along the riverside are the primary focus of spiritual activity. Here the adherents have a ritual dip in the river and serve puja to the ascending sun, in harmony with centuries of practice. It is accepted that bathing in the holy waters results in the absolution of sins.
This is why many aged and ill Hindu adherents come to the holy city to die, outlasting their final days on charity given to them by the almighty. Their end ritual (funeral) takes place on the riverside, their bodies are charred on funeral fuels and the ash (remains) are hurled into the water.
One of the most extensive, the Dasashvamedh Ghat displays good vistas of the river and all the side human activities along its river banks. This is considered to be when Brahma gave away ten horses to help Shiva return to Varanasi after a term of exile. Other special attractions are the Asi, Panchganga, Barnasangam, and Manikarnika.
Another attraction is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, on the riverside of the Ganges. It was built in 1782 by Maharani of Indore. Abode to the idol of Lord Kashi Vishwanath, it is one of the twelve venerated Jyotirlingas of Shiva, the sanctums where he is honoured in the shape of a phallus.
This well-known temple is the site of the trip for tens of millions of Hindu adherents, and it is the most hallowed shrine. Its initial structure built was annihilated by Aurangzeb – the Mughal Emperor. The dome made of gold was accomplished by Maharaj Ranjit Singh of Punjab during the nineteenth century.
Lying 11 km ( 6.3 mi) from the holy city – of Varanasi, Sarnath is where Buddha evangelised his first speech and disclosed the eight-fold path that guides someone toward inner peace and the ultimate nirvana. Consequently, Ashoka, the well-known Mauryan emperor, erected majestic stupas here, mainly the Dharmarajika Stupa at 32.5 m (106 ft), to glorify Buddha’s existence. The Archeological Museum of Sarnath Exhibits many antique relics, among them numerous images of Bodhisatva and Buddha.