Varanasi is a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the city draws Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the Ganges River’s sacred waters and perform funeral rites. Along the city's winding streets are some 2,000 temples, including Kashi Vishwanath, the “Golden Temple,” dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
One of the seven holy cities for Hindus, Varanasi is a sight to behold. It is an exhausting, liberating, and uninhibited experience; all at the same time. The colossal temples & ghats and the other popular places to visit in Varanasi attract millions of tourists year after year. Not only is it a popular destination among the Indian travelers, foreigners love it too.
TLocated far south, Assi Ghat is where pilgrims pay homage to Lord Shiva by worshipping a huge lingam situated under a peepal tree. This ghat is a lively space, rippling in chaos and commotion and one that vividly captures the ancientness of Kashi. Among the most famous religious places in Varanasi, Assi Ghat is a must visit. The alluring sight of the arti here makes Varanasi one of the most beautiful cities in India.
The main ghat in Varanasi on the Ganges river, Dashashwamedh Ghat is a flamboyant place known for its spiritual transcendence. It is common knowledge that Lord Brahma sacrificed 10 horses in a yajna here, and thus the name. Dashashwamedh Ghat tops the list of tourist places in Varanasi as it is a compelling space to dawdle in this small town. Be here for the Agni Pooja or Ganga aarti, as it is popularly called.
Considered to be an auspicious place to be cremated, Manikarnika Ghat is among the pivotal places of interest in Varanasi. This ghat is an exasperating and startling experience in itself as absolutely nothing is considered sacrilegious here. The setting sun and the glowing pyres along with candle-lit flower bowls floating down the holy river Ganga make Manikarnika Ghat a sight to behold.
The list of places to visit in Varanasi would be incomplete without including the famed Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and has also been referred to in the holy scriptures. The temple structure as it stands today consists of a series of smaller shrines located in the Vishwanath Galli.
Among the many sightseeing places in Varanasi is the Tulsi Manas Temple, the place where Tulsidas wrote the Hindu epic Ramayana in an Awadhi dialect of the Hindi language. The temple was funded by the Birla family and constructed in white marble in 1964. Verses and scenes from Ramcharitmanas are engraved on the mandir walls.
Also called the monkey temple, this mandir is among the mythical places to see in Varanasi. Built in the 18th century by a Bengali Maharani, the temple is painted red with ochre. It is believed that the idol of Goddess Durga in the temple was not constructed, it appeared on its own.
The Gyan Vapi well is located within the Gyanvapi Mosque, which was constructed by the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, on the site of the demolished Kashi Vishwanath Temple. During the British regime, the well was considered to be holier than the Ganges and was among the important places to visit in Varanasi as it contains the Shiva lingam.
Located opposite to the Tulsi Ghat, the Ramnagar Fort is an 18th-century crumbling ruin in dire need of restoration. However, the crimson sunset as viewed from inside this enclosure is reason enough to give Ramnagar Fort a spot on the list of places to visit in Varanasi. This old rampart is also home to a vintage museum that is famous for its rare collection of old American cars, ivory works, medieval costumes, and a huge astronomical clock.
Situated in the Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh, the Chunar Fort is located approximately 23 km southwest of Varanasi. The earliest recorded history in Chunar is from the 16th century, traced to a garrison of the Mughal emperor, Babar. The tombs of some of his soldiers are still venerated here. The fort is believed to be divinely blessed and is among the popular places to visit in and around Varanasi in one day.
TLocated 13 km northeast of Varanasi, Sarnath is among the famous Buddhist pilgrimages in India. It is a popular place to visit around Varanasi for those seeking peace and solitude after jostling their way through the frazzled ghats and gullies of Kashi. After achieving enlightenment at Bodhgaya, the Buddha came to Sarnath seeking his former companions and thus gave his first sermon here.
Popular sightseeing places in Sarnath include the Dhamekh Stupa & Monastery Ruins, the Archaeological Museum, the Chaukhandi Stupa, the Ashoka Pillar, the Mulagandha Kuti Vihar, and the Chinese & Thai Temple and Monastery
A distinctly classical sound, characteristic of an endless stream of madness rings through Varanasi. And the Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum located within the prestigious Banaras Hindu University bears testament to this rippling clangor. The museum was set up in 1920 with Rabindranath Tagore as its honorary chairman and is among the foremost tourist places in Varanasi today. The museum showcases miniature paintings, sculptures, and local history displays. It also has an art gallery dedicated to the Russian artist, Nicholas Roerich.
Located on the Man Mandir Ghat, this masonry observatory is established atop the Man Singh Palace. It was built in 1737 by Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur city. The observatory consists of 4 main astronomical instruments and is among the heritage places to see in Varanasi. The Man Mandir Observatory is now under the Archaeological Survey of India and needs to be refurbished.
Built on the site of a desecrated Vishnu temple in the 17th century, the Alamgir Mosque is among the famous religious places in Varanasi. The mosque as it stands today, dominating Panchganga Ghat is proof of the ludicrous methods adopted by the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. Non-muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque.