Situated on the banks of river Ganges, Varanasi is also known as Banaras and Kashi. The city is the undisputed cultural and religious capital of India and often referred to be the melting pot of life and death. The city is universally acknowledged to be one of "the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world" and held to be as old as Indian civilization itself. Sarnath, where Gautam Buddha gave his first sermons upon attaining enlightenment, is barely10 km from Varanasi.
The town is also home to renowned Benares Hindu University (BHU), which happens to be the largest residential university in the entire Asia! So, let's meet this city of temples, city of Ghats, city of learning and city of lights -- let's explore more about this perpetually breathing city of the world!
According to Hindus, Varanasi was found by Lord Shiva. It is said that once Kartikeya, the eldest son of Lord Shiva, asked the cosmic sage Saptarishi Agastya about the origin of Kashi. The sage then explained that Kashi originally was not a part of Earth and was only visible to the blessed souls. Subsequently, Kashi city was brought on the Earth for the common good of mankind.
References such as above indicate the kind of pedestal Hindu places Varanasi on of all the cities and towns on this entire Earth. These parables indeed shape the faith and consciousness of Hindus about the oldness and venerability of this city. A Hindu perceives Varanasi as an immortal city that would never cease to exist. A devout Hindu also believes that dying at this blessed city would entitle them to salvation.
The religious and cultural life at Varanasi is closely associated with river Ganges. There are around 100 Ghats dotting the tapestry of river Ganges in Varanasi. Many of the Ghats were built during the reign of the Marathas in the 18th century. Marathas, Scindias, Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwas stand out as patrons of today's Varanasi.
Undated history of this epic city gave rise to countless and ageless temples of worship. What we see today is a fading grandeur of an extraordinary civilisation it was once in ancient times. Unaccounted temples have been ruined with dust of time or have been knocked down due to post Islamic expansion. Nevertheless, the city still holds that enigma wrapped mystically in quaint streets, lanes and by lanes amidst cacophony of modern habitation.
possibly the holiest existing place for Hindus in the world and one of the most famous temples known today dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple attracts around 3,000 devotees on a single day though this figure crosses a lac on special occasions like Maha Shivratri.
Other important temples are Kedareshwar Temple, Sakshi Vinayaka Temple, Mrityunjay Mahadev Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple and Bharat Mata Temple.
Varanasi is well-connected with the rest of India by all means – road, rail and air. The nearest airport at Babatpur is only 25 km from the main city, where frequent flights land from Mumbai and Delhi. The railway station called Varanasi Junction or Varanasi Cantonment is well connected with direct trains from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Jaipur and Jodhpur, among others. The Varanasi bus terminal is right adjacent to the Varanasi junction.
The holy city experiences horrid summer and wet monsoon during respective seasons. Winter seasons begins in November and ends till March. During the season, though the city is very cold and the temperature falls up to five degree Celsius – the environment is more favourable. As such, the best time to visit Varansi is during winter season between November and March.