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|Kashi Vishwanath Temple||Located in Vishwanath Galli on the western banks of the river Ganga|
|Gyanvapi Mosque||Located at the original site of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple|
|Durga Temple||Located near the Durga Ghat along the river Ganga|
|Vishalakshi Temple||Located at the Meer Ghat along the river Ganga just behind the Kashi Vishwanath Temple|
|Bharat Mata Temple||Located at Kashi Vidyapeeth Campus|
|Tulsi Manas Temple||Positioned adjacent the famous Durga Temple of Varanasi|
|New Vishwanath Temple (Golden Temple)||Situated in the campus of Banaras Hindu University|
|Nepali Temple||Located at Lalita Ghat|
|Kaal Bhairav Temple||Located close to the Banaras Hindu University|
|St. Mary's Church||Situated in the cantonment area of Varanasi|
|Alamgir Mosque||Situated on the Panchganga Ghat|
|Gyan Kup||Situated at the entrance of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple|
|Sarnath||Located to the north east of Varanasi approximately 13 kilometers away|
|Ram Nagar Fort||Located on the opposite banks of the river Ganga about 14 kilometers from Varanasi at Ramnagar|
|Jantar Mantar||Located on the banks of the River Ganges|
|Banaras Hindu University||Located near Vishwanath Temple|
|Vindhyachal||Located about 60 kilometers from Varanasi|
|Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary||Located about 55 km to the Southeast of Varanasi|
|Varanasi Ganga Ghats||Located about 60 kilometers from Varanasi|
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, located in Vishwanath Galli on the western banks of the river Ganga in the heart of the city is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. The center of the faith and the most sacred and holiest Hindu pilgrim destination on the earth, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the auspicious abode of Lord Shiva where He eternally resides. Regarded as the supreme headquarters of the deity in the whole universe, it is believed that even a glimpse of the Shiva Lingam placed in the sanctum of Kashi Vishwanath Temple is soul-cleansing and life transforming. It will wash all your sins up, put you on the path of devotion and wisdom and finally lead you to salvation. The sole darshan of Kashi Vishwanath is merited a lot more than the multiple darshanas of other shrines. It is credited to be excessively fortunate to be able to pay homage at the feet of Lord Kashi Vishwanath, the shrine of tremendous spiritual and sublime value. Hindu devotees both from India and other parts of the world throng Varanasi just to get a glance of the deity.
Lord Shiva is worshipped by the name ‘Vishwanath’ or ‘Vishweshwara’ here which means the ‘Lord of the Universe’. The temple of Lord Vishwanath was built and destroyed several times. In 11th century AD, Hari Chandra set up a Vishwanath Temple which was demolished by Muhammad Ghori in the year 1194. The temple was soon reconstructed but again destroyed by Qutb-ud-din Aibak. After his death, his successor Iltutmish permitted the yet another reconstruction of the temple which was again brought down by Firuz Shah Tughlaq in 1351. Todar Mal, the Revenue Minister of Akbar's Court again rebuilt the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the year 1585. Aurangzeb executed the demolition of the temple in 1669 AD and set up Gyanvapi Mosque there. This mosque still shares a common wall with the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the relics of the old temple can be found behind the masjid.
The present Kashi Vishwanath Temple was constructed by the Hindu Maratha queen of Malwa kingdom; Ahilya Bai Holkar in the year 1780. The magnificent dome and the spire of the temple are gilded with 1000 kilograms of gold which was donated by the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab in the year 1835. The management of Kashi Vishwanath Temple is administered by the Government of Uttar Pradesh since 1983. The Shiva Lingam worshipped in the Vishwanath Temple is 60 cm tall and 90 cm in its circumference. The Lingam is surrounded by an ornately carved silver altar. The temple complex also houses other sub shrines and a holy well named ‘Gyana Vapi’ i.e. the ‘well of knowledge’. It is said that the Shiva Lingam was hidden inside this well so as to protect it at the times of enemy assaults.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple was visited by a number of great personalities of India such as Adi Shankaracharya, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Goswami Tulsidas, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati, Ramkrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda. The temple is open from 2:30 am to 11 pm for the darshana.
Located at the original site of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and adjacent the present structure of the same shrine, Gyanvapi Mosque is constructed by the well known Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing the temple of Lord Vishwanath in the year 1669. Positioned to the north of Dashaswamedh Ghat and close to the Lalita Ghat along the Ganges, this mosque today shares a common wall with the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The term ‘Gyana Vapi’ can be explained as ‘the well of knowledge’ or ‘the well of wisdom’. As this masjid was erected using the material retrieved from the demolished temple, the mosque still reveals the evidences of the original temple in its foundation, rear, walls and columns. It is said that the remnants of the temple were intentionally retained to symbolize the threats of Aurangzeb. The entrance of the Gyanvapi Mosque is fashioned after the grand entrance of the Taj Mahal. Today, the Gyanvapi Mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath Temple are separated by an iron barricade and the Gyanvapi Well is situated between the two of them.
Durga Temple; dedicated to Goddess Durga, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati is one of the most significant places of worship in the temple city of Varanasi. Estimated to be constructed in 18th century by a Bengali Maharani, this holy shrine is designed in the Nagara Style of architecture; the typical North Indian order of temple engineering. This imposing structure of Goddess Durga Temple is embellished with a towering multi-tiered shikhara and painted in bright red. Set up on a rectangular tank known as the Durga Kund, this Brahmacharini Durga Temple is perched near the Durga Ghat along the river Ganga. As stated in the mythical Hindu scriptures called Puranas, Goddess Durga has been residing here for many ages and she protects the southern boundary of the city Varanasi. As the legend goes, the idol of the Goddess placed in the sanctum of the Durga Temple is not manmade but it is Swayambhu i.e. self originated. The idol is believed to have appeared here on its own. The statue of Goddess Durga riding a fierce tiger and fully armed with the Trishoola of Lord Shiva, Chakra of Lord Vishnu and a sword represents the female power or ‘Shakti’. This temple of Goddess Durga is also known by a nickname ‘Monkey Temple’ due to the presence of a large number of monkeys in the premises. Non Hindus are not admitted to the sanctum of this temple but they can enjoy the architectural grandeur of the temple from outside. The Durga Temple is flocked by thousands of devotees at the time of Navaratri Celebration and other such auspicious occasions.
The term ‘Vishalakshi’ means the Goddess with ‘Vishal’ i.e. large eyes. The Vishalakshi Temple, located at the Meer Ghat along the river Ganga just behind the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas acknowledged in Puranas. The Goddess Vishalakshi is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati or Goddess Sati, the consort of Lord Shiva. At the time of the Daksha Yagna after the insult of Lord Shiva, Sati jumped into the fire of the Yagna for self immolation. Lord Shiva recovered the Half Burnt Sati and carried her from the Home of Daksha to Kailasa. On the way, the burnt body parts of Sati fell at several places in India which are today worshipped as the Shakti Peethas. The Vishalakshi Temple is the place where the ear of the Goddess had fallen. Some also speculate that it was not the ear but just the earring and so they advocate regarding this temple as an Ardha Peetha.
Bharat Mata Temple
Finding a temple devoted to the Mother Land anywhere on the back of the earth is quite a rare and uniquely Indian phenomenon. The Bharat Mata Temple of Varanasi dedicated to Mother India is one and only temple of its kind. Established in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus, this temple was constructed by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt and was inaugurated by the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi in the year 1936. Bharat Mata Temple built in the pre independence era presents the matchless patriotism and chauvinism of the Indian freedom fighters struggling hard to liberate the Mother India from the shackles of captivity. The deity worshipped in this temple is a three dimensional marble statue of undivided India finely portraying the mountains, landscapes and the oceans of the country. Positioned right on the banks of the holy river Ganga, this temple of Bharat Mata is decorated with a pentagonal dome supported by five exquisitely carved pillars.
Tulsi Manas Temple
Tulsi Manas Temple positioned adjacent the famous Durga Temple of Varanasi is one of the most noteworthy religious destinations of this holy abode of Lord Shiva. Constructed in pure white marble and designed in Shikhara Style of architecture, this post independence shrine was set up in the year 1964. Dedicated to Lord Ram, this temple is christened in the honor of ‘Ram Charit Manas’, the much celebrated epic poem composed by Goswami Tulsidas in 16th century AD. This epic poem based on the life and deeds of Lord Ram is composed in Awadhi language. It is believed that most of the Ram Charit Manas; the Hindi version of the Ramayana was completed by Tulsidas at Varanasi and the Tulsi Manas Temple is erected at the very place where Tulsidas sat to write this outstanding Indian Epic. The walls of the Tulsi Manas Temple are adorned with the engravings of verses from Ram Charit Manas, as well as the episodes from the epic depicting the life story of Lord Ram. The temple is particularly reputed for its splendidly laid landscapes. The temple is open for the darshana from 5:30 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon.
New Vishwanath Temple (Golden Temple)
The New Vishwanath Temple, also known by another title; ‘Birla Temple’ is the replica of the original Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Dedicated to the Lord Kashi Vishweshwara, i.e. Lord Shiva, this temple situated in the campus of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is established by the famous industrialist family of India, the Birlas. Planned by reverend Madan Mohan Malviya, the great Indian freedom fighter, educationist and the founder of the largest residential university in Asia; Banaras Hindu University, this temple is built in white marble. The interior walls of the temple are embellished with the inscriptions of the verses from various Hindu Scriptures and beautiful sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The most remarkable feature of the New Vishwanath Temple is that, unlike the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the doors of this shrine of Lord Shiva are open for the devotees of all casts, creeds and religions.
Nepali Temple, popularly known as ‘Kathwala Temple’ is located at Lalita Ghat in Varanasi. Constructed by a Nepali King in Nepali style of architecture, this temple is reputed for its delicate and exquisitely detailed woodwork. The wood used in building this shrine is similar to that found in Nepal and it is said that the artists who constructed this impeccable specimen of master art were brought to Varanasi from Nepal. The distinct feature of this temple is that the wood employed in the constitution of this temple edifice boasts of a special quality that it is never eaten by termites.
Kaal Bhairav Temple
Kaal Bhairav, the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva and the God of Death is worshipped at the Kaal Bhairav Temple stationed in Varanasi. As per the myth found in Shiv Puran, Kaal Bhairav was accused of Brahma Hatya. He went to all the holy places on the earth, bathed in all the Teerthas and worshipped all the deities, but he could not get rid of his sin. Finally, Kaal Bhairav arrived at the ‘Moksha Dayika Nagari’ Kashi and as he reached the ‘Kapal Mochan Teertha’, his sin of Brahma Hatya was washed away. Then onwards, Kaal Bhairav made Kashi his permanent domicile and protected the city from evil forces. Lord Kaal Bhairav, the protector or the ‘Kotwal’ of Varanasi whom even the death is afraid of is seated on his dog vehicle in the Kaal Bhairav Temple. The area where the Kaal Bhairav Temple is located is known as Kotwalpuri.
The deity is depicted wearing a garland of skulls and holding a club of peacock feathers. Only the silver plated face of the deity wearing flower garlands is visible to the devotees in the temple. The doors of the Kaal Bhairav Temple are guarded by the dog of the Lord. This temple of Lord Kaal Bhairav has been the center of the most severe of Shiva Extremist Yogis, the ‘Kapalis’ (Skull-Bearers) and their descendants; the Gorakhnathis. Today, this temple of Kaal Bhairav is one of the most sought after pilgrim places of Varanasi. It is believed by the natives of Kotwalpuri that one must obtain permission from Kaal Bhairav before leaving for a journey and after returning back home. There is a custom followed at the Kaal Bhairav Temple of Varanasi to offer black thread at the feet of the Lord and then wear it on your body so as to keep away evil forces.
Sankat Mochan Temple
Sankat Mochan Temple perched in the southern Varanasi close to the Banaras Hindu University is a shrine dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The patron deity of the temple is known as ‘Sankat Mochan’ as He is believed to be the Lord who delivers you from your sufferings. This sacred temple of Lord Hanuman was set up by the great Indian poet saint Goswami Tulsidas. As per the Hindu beliefs, those who worship Lord Hanuman are automatically saved from the rage of Lord Shani (Saturn). Sankat Mochan Temple is thronged by myriads of devotees on every Tuesdays and Saturdays who offer oil, sindoor and laddu prasad to the Sankat Mochan Lord Hanuman.
St. Mary's Church
St. Mary’s Church, established in the cantonment area of Varanasi is a Christian place of worship especially exalted for its distinguished architectural order. The peculiar features of this church include a low tower, low spire and the projecting portico. The church doesn’t have windows but the doors are louvered to the sides and hooded ventilation slots are put up underneath the cornice. The flank elevations are divided by pilasters into seven bays and above each doorway there is a rectangular fanlight protected from the glare of the sun by a plain timber canopy.
Alamgir Mosque popularly known as ‘Beni Madhav Ka Darera’ is considered to be the largest edifice nestled on the banks of the river Ganga. This Muslim place of worship is reported to be constructed by the tyrant Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb during his invasions of Kashi. It is said that the venue where the Alamgir Mosque is today situated was once the site of a Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. Aurangazeb demolished the Hindu Temple and then erected the mosque there. The imposing structure of Alamgir Mosque adorned with carved pillars, towering domes and minarets reveals the fine blend of Hindu and Persian orders of architecture. The lower part of the mosque still retains the relics of the original Hindu temple that reflects the eloquent artwork of ancient Indian artisans. The Alamgir Mosque situated on the Panchganga Ghat is much frequented by numerous devotees as well as tourists everyday.
Gyan Kup, also called Gyan Vapi Well is one of the most prominent religious sights in the holy city of Varanasi. The literal meaning of the term Gyan Kup or Gyan Vapi is the ‘Well of Knowledge’. Situated at the entrance of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, this baroque pavilion was built by a Queen from Gwalior, Rani Baiza Bai in the year 1828. The water of the Gyan Kup is venerated as the source of knowledge and spiritual enlightenment. It is said that the Shiva Lingam placed in the sanctum of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple was hidden in the Gyan Kup at the time of Muslim invasions so as to protect it from being destroyed.
Sarnath a small village located to the north east of Varanasi approximately 13 kilometers away is a sacred pilgrim destination of Buddhism. Sarnath is the very locale where Gautama Buddha preached his first spiritual sermon after the enlightenment. The cardinal ‘Buddhist Sangha’ was first formed at Sarnath and the famous Buddhist mantra ‘Buddham Sharanam Gachhami’ was also originated here. It is also stated in the Buddhist scriptures that Bhagwan Buddha, on a day before his annihilation declared Sarnath a holy vicinity along with three other cities Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar. The noteworthy Buddhist monuments to be visited at Sarnath include The Dhamek Stupa, The Dharmarajika Stupa, The Chaukhandi Stupa, The ruins of the Mulagandhakuti Vihara, The Ashoka Pillar, The Sarnath Archeological Museum, a Bodhi tree planted by Anagarika Dharmapala and so on. Apart from its Buddhist significance, Sarnath is also an important pilgrim destination of Jains as it is the birth place of the eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism; Shreyansanath Ji. The National emblem of India – the Ashoka pillar is also based in Sarnath.
Ram Nagar Fort
Nestled on the opposite banks of the river Ganga about 14 kilometers from Varanasi at Ramnagar, the Ram Nagar Fort established by Maharaja Balwant Singh in 18th century is the ancestral home of the Kashi Naresh. Constructed in creamy chunar sandstone, this fort featured with carved balconies, rococo pavilions and open courtyards reveals the typical Mughal style of architecture. Since 18th century Ram Nagar Fort has been serving as the royal residence of the Maharajas of Kashi Kingdom. Presently, the fort is inhabited by the current Kashi Naresh Anant Narayan Singh. The Ram Nagar Fort complex today houses a temple and a museum. The temple is dedicated to Ved Vyasa; the author of the great India epic the Mahabharata. As per the legend, Ved Vyasa had spent certain span of his life here. The museum housed in the Ram Nagar Fort is famous for its rich collection of royal articles such as ornate Royal palanquins, gold-plated howdahs, vintage Cars, old swords, guns, antique clocks, ivory works etc. the Ram Nagar Fort is also noted for its giant clock that apart from time also displays date, week, month, year and astronomical facts related to the sun, moon and constellation of stars. The Saraswati Bhawan placed inside the Ram Nagar Fort is acclaimed for its rare religious manuscripts including those of Goswami Tulsidas. Present day Ram Nagar Fort also serves as the backdrop to a number of films including Chokher Bali.
Jantar Mantar, a well known observatory of Varanasi set up by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur in the year 1737 is a favorite destination both for knowledge seekers and enthusiastic tourists. This observatory was planted in the line with the Jantar Mantars of Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain and Jaipur. Maharaja Jai Singh, a great scholar of astronomy and a true admirer of science and technology sent a number of scientists abroad to study foreign observatories and established Jantar Mantar after their arrival with manuals on astronomy. Originally the Jantar Mantar of Varanasi was built with the objective of measuring the local time, the position of the sun and other stars, declinations of planets, altitude, to determine sun and moon eclipses and so on. Moreover, the masonry instruments harbored at the Jantar Mantar can record accurate properties, motion and speed of planets and stars. The instruments installed at the time of its foundation are still functional and efficient. Jantar Mantar is reckoned for housing some of the noteworthy Yantras namely Prakash Yantra, Krantivritta Yantra, Samrat Yantra, Ram Yantra, Digansha Yantra, Disha Yantra, Dhruva Yantra and many more.
Banaras Hindu University
Banaras Hindu University (BHU), one of the Central Universities of India and the largest residential university of Asia is a reputed public university located at Varanasi. Founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in the year 1916, BHU today accommodates over 24,000 domestic and foreign students in the extensive campus sprawling over the total area of about 1350 acres. Additionally, the Rajiv Gandhi South Campus covering the total area of nearly 2,760 acres located at Barkatcha is also associated with BHU. Banaras Hindu University has 140 teaching departments and over 55 hostels. A number of colleges affiliated to BHU such as IT-BHU, IMS-BHU, Faculty of Management Studies etc are acknowledged amongst the best colleges of the country. The BHU is exalted for its Department of French studies and ranked second in India after Delhi University in the field of research. India Today magazine has certified BHU as the best overall university in India.
Vindhyachal, located about 60 kilometers from Varanasi is one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas worshipped in India. This is the place where the wrist of Goddess Parvati had fallen. It is believed that this is the place where Goddess Parvati or Goddess Durga had settled after killing the demon king Mahishasura. Later, she also defeated two demon kings Shumbha and Nishumbha here. As the Goddess is seated at Vindhyachal, she is worshipped by the title Vindhyavasini at this place. Additionally, Vindhyachal is also associated with Lord Ram. It is believed that when Lord Ram was returning from exile along with Devi Sita and brother Lakshman, Sita was very thirsty. As there was no water around, Lakshman shot an arrow in the ground and created the well known Sita Kund of Vindhyachal. Vindhyachal is a holy abode of various deities including Goddess Vindhyavasini, Lord Ram, Goddess Ashtabhuja, Goddess Kali, and many more. Apart from the Sita Kund, other two holy water tanks at Vindhyachal include Brahmakund and Agastyakund.
Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary
Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary located about 55 km to the Southeast of Varanasi is a reservoir endowed with dense forests, scenic waterfalls like Devdari and Rajdari, rich flora and fauna and innumerable picnic spots. Established in May 1957, this Wildlife Sanctuary was specially aimed at the conservation of Asiatic lions. Lions were brought to the Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in the year 1958 and by 1969; the number of lions was increased by 11. Even though since 1993, no progress has been recorded in this matter. The fauna found at Chandraprabha include Indian gazelle, wild boar, blackbucks, sambhar, chital, nilgai, porcupine, gharial, python etc. Reaching Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary from Varanasi takes about 2 hours by taxi.
Varanasi Ganga Ghats
Ghat is the structure built along the banks of a river that comprises a series of steps leading to the river from an elevated platform. More than 100 ghats are constructed on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi. These ghats were built by several Maratha rulers including Shindes, Holkars, Bhonsles, Peshwes, etc. Most of the ghats at Varanasi are meant for bathing and washing but some of them are specially used as cremation sites as it is believed that if your mortal remains are immersed in the Ganga River at Varanasi, you attain complete salvation. Tourists particularly enjoy boat rides at the popular ghats of Varanasi. Some of the most famous ghats of Varanasi include Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Scindia Ghat, Mana – Mandir Ghat, Lalita Ghat, Pancha Ganga Ghat, Kedar Ghat, Narad Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat, Tulsi Ghat, Assi Ghat, Darbhanga Ghat, Hanuman Ghat, Shivala Ghat, etc.
Dashashwamedh Ghat, located near Kashi Vishwanath Temple is believed to be formed by Lord Brahma in the honor of Lord Shiva. As Lord Brahma sacrificed 10 horses in a Yagna that he performed here, the Ghat is named Dashashwamedh Ghat.
Manikarnika Ghat is believed to be the place where Goddess Parvati hid her earring and asked Lord Shiva to find them so as to make him stay there. The Ghat is named Manikarnika after the earrings. This is a major cremation ghat of Varanasi.
Mana – Mandir Ghat was built by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur in the year 1770. A temple dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshipped here as ‘Someshwara’ i.e. the Lord of Moon is situated here. The northern part of the Ghat is adorned with a beautiful stone Balcony.
Lalita Ghat was constructed by the King of Nepal. It is specially reckoned for the wooden temple built in distinct Kathmandu style dedicated to Lord Krishna.
Assi Ghat, the southern most Ghat of Varanasi is the favorite Ghat of photographers and painters. Cited in various Puranas, Assi Ghat is believed to be the venue where Tulsidas sat to compose Ram Charit Manas. This is one of the five Ghats on the rout of Panchtirthi Yatra.