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Flanked along the bank of sacred river Ganga Varanasi also pronounced as Benaras or Banaras is a major pilgrimage hub in India. Varanasi is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism. Varanasi is associated not only with Hinduism but also with Buddhism and Jainism. There are many Buddhist Stupas and Jain Temples dotted this holy city in North India. With its colorful and fascinating charisma, Varanasi not only attracts devotees but a vast number of tourists. Often called the city of light, Varanasi is famous for its Ghats, where people from far and wide come to wash away their sins and perform the last ritual for the departed ones. According to Hindu Mythology Varanasi is said to be the place which was discovered by Lord Shiva after he accidently dropped the head of Brahma. Being one the oldest cities in the world, Varanasi has become a must visit destination in India for the historians and travelers who wants to learn about the indigenous tribe who lived 2000 year ago. There are many places to visit in Varanasi which till dates holds the remnant of those ancient eras.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple situated in the western banks of River Ganga is the most famous tourist attraction of Varanasi. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Varanasi is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. Although founded in 1490 the current structure of Kashi Vishwanath Temple was built in 1780 by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of the Indore. Due to it gold coated domes Kashi Vishwanath Temple is often referred as the Golden Temple of Varanasi. During Maha Shivaratri devotees can be seen carrying the idol of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati in a palaki from the house of former mahant of Kashi Vishwanath Temple to sanctum sanctorum of Kashi Vishwanath Temple and offered gulal and rose petals to the deities. Whether it may be an auspicious occasion or just a normal day this ancient temple is flooded with hordes of devotees. The tinkling of prayer bell and chanting of mantras are always echoing through the walls of Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Varanasi.
Dashashwamedh Ghat located close to Kashi Vishwanath Temple along the banks of sacred river Ganga is the oldest Ghat in Varanasi. Associated with two Hindu Legends, Dashashwamedh Ghat is one of the major attractions of Varanasi for the pilgrims traveling towards this holy city. Dashashwamedh Ghat is famous for its evening arati which light up the whole bank of Ganga. The view of thousand of lamps floating upon the clam tides of River Ganga is truly mesmerizing which make Dashashwamedh Ghat a must visit destination of Varanasi. One of the famous things to do in Varanasi is taking a dip in the holy water of river Ganga from Dashashwamedh Ghat. It is said that one dip in River Ganga can wash away all the sins which one have committed in his/her mortal life.
Built in 17th century this crumbling walls of Ramnagar Fort of Varanasi attracts many tourist with its regal charm. It is located adjacent to the Tulsi Ghat on the eastern bank of river Ganga. Ramnagar Fort of Varanasi is known for its eccentric museum called Saraswati Bhawan which houses a rare and unique collection of vintage American cars. Visitors can also find a huge collection of manuscript of religious writing and books illustrated in the Mughal miniature style. Sited amidst the well laid garden, Ramnagar Fort is a vantage point to witness a surreal sunset over the river Ganga. The view of River Ganga shimmering with an orange hue has left many travelers awe-stricken.
Chaukhandi Stupa, located at a distance of 13km from Varanasi is an important Buddhist Stupa. Built during Gupta Era Chaukhandi Stupa marks two historical events, first being the place where Lord Buddha met his first disciples during his journey towards Bodh Gaya. Later the structure of Chaukhandi Stupa was modified to commemorate the visit of Humayun in Sarnath. The octagonal brick tower of Chaukhandi Stupa is a major eye catcher. Maintained by the Archeological Survey of India, the moss covered walls of Chaukhandi Stupa still hold the idyllic aura and show the fine blend of Mughal architecting style molded into Buddhist beliefs.
Man Mahal Observatory, located adjacent to the oldest ghat Dashashwamedh is one of the must visit tourist destination of Varanasi. Man Mahal Observatory also known as Jantar Mantar of Varanasi is known for showcasing the beautiful Mughal-Rajput architecturing style. It was built in 16th century by Maharaja of Amber. Visitors can find numerous instruments which were built to calculate time, prepare lunar and solar calendar and study the movements, distances, angles of inclination of the stars, planets and other heavenly bodies. The exquisitely painted ceilings and palatial windows which double up as balconies are added attraction for the visitors visiting Man Mahal. The expansive views of the entire western and eastern banks of holy River Ganga that can be seen from the spacious terrace of this ancient building have captivated the minds of many travelers.
How to Reach Varanasi: Being a major pilgrimage hub of India, Varanasi is well connected to the major cities like Delhi and Mumbai by air, road and rail. Visitors can either take a bus towards Varanasi or board a train or flight for this holy city from any major city in India.
Best time to visit Varanasi: Situated on the northern belt of India, Varanasi experiences an extreme weather condition which is marked by very hot summers and chilly winters. The best time to visit Varanasi is during the onset of Winter November to March when the temperature is ideal to relish the cool breezes of River Ganga.