Varanasi – A sacred, holy, special place!
Varanasi, Kashi, or Banaras is a famous pilgrimage and sacred place in the Uttar Pradesh, India, also famous for the holy river Ganga. As per the centuries old scriptures: a dip in the River Ganga can wash away all the sins. There is a popular Hindi saying : ‘Kashi ke kankar sab shiv shankar’, which means, even the pebbles of Kashi are all Lord Shiva!’.
Varanasi is a place which has many nomenclature: Kashi, Banaras, Holy City of Ganaga, City of Lord Shiva, Sacred City, Religious Hindu Place, City of Ghats and many more. It is primarily famous for ‘Kashi Vishwanath’ one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. The other important shrines include the temples of Sankata Mochana, Kedaranatha, Durga Kunda, Vireshwara Shiva, Kala-Bhairava, Bindu Madhava, Bharata Mata, Tila-bhandeshwara, and Vishwanatha (at Banaras Hindu University). The famous poet- Saint Tulsidas also belonged to this place.
Varanasi has separate temples dedicated to all the nine forms of Goddess Durga named as: Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri, and Siddhidatri.
Ghats of Varanasi
There are more than 80 ghats across the Varanasi. Each ghat is named & famous for certain reasons. However, among them, a few ghats are very ancient, popular and auspicious for the religious and mythological purposes. In the Hindu festive seasons, people flood from all over the places to these ghats.
Varanasi is famous for its Ghats. The Assighat is situated at the southern end of the city at the confluence of Ganga and Assi rivers which gives it the name of Assighat. It is far from the hustle and bustle of the city, and a perfect place for students, researcher, tourists and anybody who is looking for a quiet place in the buzzing city of Varanasi. Many movies have been shot in & around this ghat.
Famous poet Tulsidas passed away at this place. Old Hindu scriptures have prominent mention of Assighat as a place where one gets punya of all the Tirthas (religious places) by taking a dip. It is said that Goddess Durga threw her sword here after killing the demons Shumbha- Nishumbha. Sword created the stream known as Assi river.
The Dashashwamedha Ghat is the most popular and most visited main ghat of Varanasi at the banks of the river, it is very near to the Vishwanath Temple. Evening ‘Ganga Aarti’ or ‘Agni Pooja’ is the most spectacular event at the ghat, and thousands of people flock the ghat to be a part of this most amazing ceremony. In this Aarti a group of priests make dedication to the Lord Shiva, River Ganga, the Sun, and the Fire; after the Aarti Ganga is floated with thousands of diyas making it a divine moment.
The word Dashashwamedh means Ghat of ten sacrificed horses. It is believed that Lord Brahma sacrificed these horses during a ritual called ‘Yajna’. Also said that Lord Brahma created this ghat to welcome Lord Shiva on the Earth. A lot of Hindu rituals are performed by Hindu devotees during the festivals at the Dashashwamedha Ghat.
The Manikarnikaghat is a cremation ghat for the Hindus. According to the old Hindu scriptures, Mata Sati Devi set her body ablaze when Lord Shiva was insulted by her father Daksh Prajapati, when Lord Shiva was carrying the corpse of Sati Devi to the Himalaya, her earrings fell at this place giving it the name of Manikarnika which means earring. There is a well in this ghat which is known as the ManikarnikaKund. It is said that Lord Vishnu built this Kund for the bath of the Lord Shiva and Parvati.
As per Hindu mythology, burning the dead bodies here provides liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth and soul attains the ‘Moksha’.
Besides, Tulsi Ghat, Scindia Ghat, Raj Ghat, Munshi Ghat, and Mata Anandamai Ghat are also famous ghats.
Temples of Varanasi
Varanasi, being a city of temple, has many temples in and around the city, however, the prominent ones are:
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
It is world famous temple and one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India. It has been destroyed and re-constructed many times. The original structure was finally destroyed by Aurangazeb and built the Gyanvapi Masjid on the original site, so the original structure is not allowed to visit now. Current structure was built by the Maratha monarch, Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780.
This temple is situated in the Ramnagar area and famous for its fine stonework. It is square in the shape. There is another 18th century Durga temple, in the Varanasi city, with a pond or Kund known as Durga Kund.
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple
This is a very popular local temple of Lord Hanuman, also known as “Sankatmochan”, by the Assi river. This temple was founded by Goswami Tulsidas, however, the current temple structure was built by the freedom fighter Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. This temple is full of monkeys present everywhere, even inside the temple.
There is an ancient story related to the temple. Saint Tulsidas had a daily practice to pour some water at the foot of a certain tree. A ghost, lived in that tree, was highly pleased with this service of Tulsidas. He decided to grant him a boon, Tulsidas asked the ghost for a vision of Sri Rama. The ghost sent him to a place where Lord Hanuman was attending a discourse on the Ramayana in the guise of an old Brahmana. Tulsidas recognized Lord Hanuman who directed him to go to Ayodhya for a live vision (darshan) of Sri Rama. In turn, Tulsidas requested Lord Hanuman to remain in Kashi for the good of the world. Later on, Tulsidas discovered an image of Hanuman after digging deep at that very spot. This place is known as Sankata Mochana.
Tulsi Manas Temple
It is made of white marble along with amazing landscape. It is near to the Durga temple. This temple is situated where Goswami Tulisdas, the great medieval seer, lived and wrote the epic “Shri Ramcharitmanas”. The walls of the temple depict verses and scenes from the Ramcharitammanasa.
Bharat Mata Temple
The temple is located in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus in Varanasi. Mahatma Ghandhi inaugurated the temple in 1936. There is a marble statue of Mother India and a huge map of undivided India carved on the ground.
New Vishwanath Temple
The new Vishwanath temple is located in the Banaras Hindu University (BHU). A famous industrialist family of Birlas constructed this temple. It is a replica of the original Vishwanath temple made of white marbles. It has a Siva Lingam inside along with a huge campus area and there are verses from Hindu scriptures inscribed on the walls.
Varanasi is also famous for its looms and take pride in weaving world famous Banarasi Sarees spun from special silk yarn, with specialized designs. These sarees were once a regular feature of an ordinary Indian woman’s wardrobe. However, due to downfall in the silkworm farms and a very high cost of production, the Banarasi Saree has now become a status symbol of an elite possession as only well off people can buy it. Now it is worn on special occasions to show off.