Vishwanath Mandir

One of the most popular attractions in Varanasi, the Vishwanath Mandir, also known as Kashi Vishwanath Temple, is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding god of the city. Also referred to as the golden temple, due to its gold-plating, this temple holds a very special place among Hindu devotees. Given its present shape in 1780 by queen Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore, the temple's iconic 15.5-metre-high gold spire and gold dome were donated by Ranjeet Singh, the ruler of Punjab in 1839. The temple is ensconced within a maze of other shrines and narrow galis or walkways lined by shops selling sweetmeats, paan (betel leaf), handicrafts and other knick-knacks. The time for darshan (general visit) is from 4 am to 11 pm. Adjacent to the temple are Annapurna Temple dedicated to the goddess of food and Dundiraj Vinayak dedicated to Lord Ganesha, which are equally revered. The temple is located on the banks of River Ganges and the jyotirlinga (devotional shrine of Lord Shiva) present here is believed to be the 12th jyotirlinga. The temple campus also has a well called Jnana Vapi or wisdom well. Many believe that the jyotirlinga was kept in the well to protect it and the main saint of the temple jumped into the well to keep it from intruders. The temple finds immense significance in Hindu mythology as many great saints from the religion are believed to have visited this site to get the darshan of the jyotirlinga and to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganga.

Vishwanath Mandir

Ganga Ghats

A visit to Varanasi cannot be complete without a visit to the ghats running along River Ganges. The ghats have been a source of inspiration for artists, film-makers, photographers, writers and musicians for centuries. There are about 88 ghats in the city and most of them are used as bathing sites while a few, like Manikarnika Ghat, are exclusively designated for cremation purposes. As a dip in Ganga is considered holy in the Hindu religion, most of the ghats are dedicated to religious rituals, the most popular being Dashashwamedh. At one end of the line of ghats, is Assi, which is famous for morning yoga sessions. The evening arti (a religious ritual with lamps) at the ghats, primarily at Dashashwamedh, is a sight to behold. One of the more visually spectacular ghats is the Lalita Ghat. 

It is widely believed that people are cleansed mentally, physically and spiritually at Ganga ghats and thus, they have been flocking to this place for thousands of years to offer prayers to the rising sun. While visiting the city, visitors can take a boat ride on the river and enjoy the spiritual fervour of the bustling ghats, some of which are privately owned. 

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Ganga Ghats

Ganga Aarti

Ganga aarti is a magnificent evening ritual in Varanasi that one must not miss. The aarti, or worshipping River Ganga, takes place every day, at dusk. The ceremony is performed by a group of priests on the ghats. Amid blowing of conch shells, the ringing of several bells, the clanging of brass cymbals and the chanting chorus of mantras, the priests venerate Ganga, the lifeline of Varanasi, with brass lamps that rise several tiers. The priests performing the arti are all draped in similar clothing-- a kurta and dhoti. The preparations for the arti include collecting five elevated planks, an idol of Goddess Ganga, flowers and incense sticks. Rituals of the arti are performed by those learned in Vedas and Upanishads and are lead by the head priest of the Gangotri Seva Samiti. The arti lasts about 45 minutes. Devotees float smaller diyas on leaf platters in the river as obeisance to the holy Ganga. As the sunlight recedes, the innumerable lamps flowing in the water make for an unforgettable sight. The hour-long ritual can be watched from the ghats or boats moored at the river bank.

Ganga Aarti

Lassi

Lassi, the popular yogurt based drink is a most pleasing way to end a typical Varanasi breakfast. It is traditionally served in a kullhad (earthen glass) with a thick topping of cream often flavoured with rose water and generously garnished with condiments like cardamom et cetera.

Lassi

Banarasi Sarees

Varanasi is a major handicraft and textile centre renowned for its fine craftsmanship. Banarasi sarees, which are traditionally woven in Varanasi, are among the finest, most well-crafted sarees in India. They are known for their fine quality of silk and opulent zari (gold and silver brocade) woven patterns depicting floral motifs.

 

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Banarasi Sarees