The beautiful city of Varanasi, also known as Benaras and Kashi, is one of the holiest and biggest religious hubs in India, offering reasons too many to visit it. This weekend, plan a trip to the ‘City of Ghats’ and take a dip in the Ganges for a life-altering experience.
About the city
Situated on the banks of the holy River Ganga, Varanasi is around 3,000 years old — and considered one of the holiest of the seven sacred cities, per Hindu beliefs. Just off the National Highway 2, Varanasi is well connected with Kolkata, Kanpur, Agra and Delhi. In fact, the distance between Delhi and Varanasi (if you decide to have a road trip) is around 820 km, which can be covered in roughly 13 hours. The city is also served by the railway (Varanasi Junction) and airway (Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport) networks.
According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi was founded by Lord Shiva. Perhaps, this is the reason why the best bhaang (a narcotic drink made with the leaves of the male cannabis plant) is found here.
Best time to visit
The peak season is considered to be the winter months of November to February. Being a north-Indian city, the temperature is expected to plunge, but it is fairly easier to roam around and explore the city without getting tired.
The months of July-September could also be considered favourable. The summer months of April, May and June, however, be best avoided.
If you want to do touristy things, then you can start with the many ghats. In total there are some 88 ghats in the city! While most of them are ceremonial ghats, some are also used as cremation sites.
Some of the best ghats in the city are: Assi ghat, Dashashwamedh ghat, Ganga Mahal ghat, Tulsi ghat, Dandi ghat and Hanuman ghat, to name a few.
The city is also famous for its evening veneration (arti) that happens along the ghats. Take your camera along and capture the sheer magnificence and beauty of it all. Don’t forget to experience a boat ride, while you are at it.
Other notable landmarks worth checking out include the Ramnagar Fort. Built in the 18th century by Kashi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh — its architecture consists of cream-coloured sandstone.
You could also visit some of the main temples — of the several thousand the city boasts of. These include the Vishwanath temple, the Durga temple and the Tulsi Manas temple, to name a few.
What to eat
Street food is an inherent part of the city’s rich culture. Mostly vegetarian, here are some street delicacies that you must absolutely gorge on: kachori sabzi at the Kachori Gali, choora matar at the Gopal Mandir Gali, dahi chutney gol gappe at Gol Ganj, tamatar chaat at the Dashaswamedh Road, to name a few.
Films shot in Varanasi
Over the years, several mainstream Bollywood films have found stories in and around Varanasi. The vibrant culture, by-lanes, food and overall vibe have driven filmmakers to work on scripts keeping the city on the anvil.
From Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007) to Raanjhanaa (2013), and Masaan (2015), Varanasi has been featured in big and small-budget films alike.