Varanasi, also known as Benaras and Kashi is situated in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh . It is considered a holy city in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It lies on the banks of river Ganges and is located 300 km south east of capital Lucknow. It is known as the most ancient city of India and is also referred to as the city of temples. The city is regarded as the cultural and religious capital of India for thousands of years. Varanasi is also known for its Lord Buddha connection, as he gave his first sermon at Sarnath, which is located near Varanasi.
Varanasi also known as "the city of lights" and "the city of learning" is one of the oldest cities in the world. Ancient Hindu scriptures also mention the city and that is the reason it's considered a sacred city and an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus. Jericho in Palestine also shares the title of being the oldest existing city in the world. Varanasi was a trade centre two thousand years ago and various commodities were produced and sold here such as muslin and silk fabrics, ivory works, sculptures and perfumes. According to Chinese traveller Xuanzang, the city was spread over around five km along the bank of the river Ganges.
Spiritual Dimension of Varanasi
Western travelers mostly visit the city in search of Niravana and spiritual peace. Varanasi has a lot of attractions and experiences to offer the visitors, including the boat ride at sunrise, the high banks of the ancient "Ghats", the unending chain of shrines, temple and hermitages. Religious fervor is present all around, which is unique for the foreigners. Overseas travelers revel in the bliss of spiritual experiences like deliverance from sins, meditation and mystical music. According to Hindu religious beliefs, dying in Benaras ensures freedom from the cycle of birth and death, so many devotees throng the city when they think their final hour has come.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple with a gold plate spire of 16meters is a famous ancient temple. The eighth century Durga Temple is abode of thousands of monkeys, whereas the Sankatmochan temple is a symbol of monkey God Hanuman. Bharat Mata Temple has a map of India carved in marble, whereas Tulsi Manas Temple has the scenes and verses inscribed on its walls depicting the story of Hindu avatar Lord Rama. The Sakshi Vinayaka Temple, Bindu Madhav Temple, Kaal Bhairav Temple, and Nepali Temple are other famous temples.
Other major attractions of Varanasi are Alamagir Mosque, Man Mandir Observatory, Banaras Hindu University, Sarnath, Ram Nagar Fort and Gauri Matha Temple. Panchganga Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Dasaswamedh Ghat, Rana Ghat, and Kedar Ghat are famous ghats along the bank of River Ganges. Varanasi is well connected by rail and road networks with the rest of India. Jet Airways, Kingfisher, Spicejet and Indian Airlines are available for Varanasi from Delhi and Mumbai.