For Benares – If there is Heaven on this earth, it is here. Not because it is beautiful but it is the city of Gods.
Benares, also known as Varanasi, is a small town in Uttar Pradesh state of India. I had been thinking of visiting there from quite some time, and finally I made it last weekend. I decided to go to there on the festival of Holi. It can be reached easily by flight, train or car. Benares as I like to call it is the holy city of Hindus. It is said if a Hindu dies or cremated here goes straight to heaven. Well, my intentions were not fully spiritual. It is a unique city in a lot many ways. Let me answer some questions about this city.
Why is the city so famous?
The city homes a very famous and important temple of Hindus – Kashi Vishwanath. It is the temple of Shiva who is deemed as the hippie God by foreigners. If you want to read about why is he considered as a hippie, you can refer to http://www.vepachedu.org/linga.htm.
What are the essential things to do in Benares?
Benares is small but has a lot to do. But 3 main things you mustn’t miss are – to roam around the Ghats; to eat Benaras Ka Paan (Betel leaves prepared and used as a stimulant) and to take home Benaresi Sarees (Indian ethnic wear).
What are the things you need to beware of?
The traffic in the city is crazy. Leave your vehicle and travel by cycle or auto rickshaws. Watch out for those pot holes in the road. Second, since the city is full of temples, the so-called priests sometimes squeeze out money in the name of donating to God. So try to be firm.
Where to visit in Benares?
The city can be covered in 2-3 days comfortably. 1. Kashi Vishwanath is one temple you would really want to visit. 2. I highly recommend visiting Ghats which are at walking distance from the temple. You should visit the Ghats both during sunrise and sunset. It is a beautiful site. Also see the evening aarti that happens every evening at 6 pm, it’s a spectacular site.
You can visit other temples out of curiosity.
On second day, you can hire a taxi to visit Sarnath which is about 15-20kms from Benares. Sarnath is the place where Gautam Buddha taught his first sermon. The place now has the ruins of monasteries, Buddhist temples, and a Museum. It’s small town full of monks.
One thing I am really sure you’ll love about this city is its Spirit.
Night view at Ghats
View of Ghats from Ganga
Benares is famous for its small lanes. If you are not aware of the ways, you can easily get lost.
Ruins of Monastaries in Sarnath
Prayer flags in Sarnath