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Varanasi Travel Guide: Top 10 Things to Do in Varanasi

Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in India. It is situated in Uttar Pradesh on the Ganges river. People flock their way to Varanasi as it is a place of great spiritual significance. Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the 12 jyotirlingas and an ancient pilgrimage of Lord Shiva.

It is believed that one who dies in Varanasi attains salvation. Funerals and cremation here are ways to attain moksha. Its street food, sightseeings, boat rides and other beautiful things make it a favorite place of travelers.

History of Varanasi

Varanasi history is that of first Aryan settlement in the Ganges valley. By late 2nd millennium BCE, it was seat of Aryan religion and industrial centre of great ivory works, muslin, silk fabrics and sculpture.

Varanasi saw a declination in Muslim rule in India from 1194. The temples here were destroyed in this area and scholars fled because of injustice. There was some relief in Akbar era but finally in 1949 Varanasi was made a new state.

Top 10 things to do in Varanasi

1. Boat Ride in the Ganges River

Boat rides is one of the things to do in Varanasi. There are hundred plus Ghats in Varanasi and to see them unfold is a cathartic experience. Ganges river is in itself a place that is worshipped by Hindus. Daily bath here are a path to liberation as per holy scriptures.

The backdrop of 18th century palaces and temples form the backdrop of the boat ride and the also you will pass across hundred plus beautiful Ghats. The visual of oil lit lamps, sound of sacred mantras, beautiful players, flowers, and burning corpses are sights to be seen.

Boats are available on Ghats at around 150 per hour per person. Bargaining is a must here.

2. Visit to the Weaver’s Village

Banaras is a home to the silk and brocade industry. The weaving tradition has been mentioned from Vedic and Buddhists literature. There has been a transition from to silk to persian motifs, jhaallar and namavali. Banaras lush saries are still luxuries in weddings.

One of the things to do in Varanasi is a visit to Sarai Mohana well known as most of its villagers here are into silk weaving. The banarasi saris here are among the best in India and known for silver and gold brocade, zari and exquisite embroidery. The tour in the weaver’s village will a peak through the life of the weavers and process of weaving silk and banarasi sarees. You will get an opportunity to interact with them and learn art with them.

3. Recall the Indian History

Banaras has a long and turbulent and one of the oldest cities of the world. Mark Twain, the English author and literature, who was mesmerised the legend of Benaras, had once written “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.

It is here that various religions like buddhism, Jainism, Vaishnavism and Shaivism have co-existed here. It has also been a place of trade and commerce. Ayurveda has said to be originated here. It also honoured for authors like Prem Chand and Tulsi Das. Also, the famous Sitar maestro and Ustad Bismillah Khan, (the famous Shehnai player) are all sons of the blessed city or have lived here for major part of their lives. Hence it is rightly called the cultural capital of India

4. Temples in Varanasi

Varanasi is a powerhouse of spiritualism. The various temples are a place of solace for weary souls. It comprises more than 2000 temples and is a hub for pilgrims for various part of the country. Some of the, most famous temples of the city is Kashi Vishwanath temple, Sankat Mochan  Temple,Durga Temple, Kal Bhairav temple and Tulsi Manas temple to name a few.

The central god and goddesses in India has made is associated with Ganga and hence Ganga is the holiest river in India. Taking a dip in Ganga is said to remove all the sins. The vibe of Varanasi is very pious.

5. Shopping in Varanasi

One of the things to do in Varanasi is to view the banarasi saris, sweets, gangajals, souvenirs and get riddled with shops of a shopping destination. Thatheri bazar is popular for artefacts made of brass and copper. You can also shop for banarasi silk here. Harmony book shop here presents all books related to yoga, Varanasi and other exclusive books.

Vishwanath Galli is among the best places in Varanasi. It is known for wooden toys sarees, dupattas and fabrics. Shoppers should bargain here for best price with roadside vendors. Bengali Tola is famous for sitar, tabla and shenai as it has been seat to music of Pandit Ravi Shankar and Bismillah Khan.

6. Visit the various Ghats

Pilgrims come to Varanasi to perform sacred rituals, cremate, enjoy the beautiful Ganges. The ghats is a central point between nature, culture and people. Dashahwamedha ghat is one of the main Ghats believed to be created by Lord Brahma himself to worship Shiva.  Asi Sangameshwar of Assi ghat is the temple of mention in ancient puranas.

Manikarana ghats is one of the main cremations ghats. Harishchandra Ghats is to be named after King Harishchandra who is known for his truth. Tulsi ghat is a place where Tulsi Das penned Ramcharitmanas. Tulsi Ghat has many rituals like Lolark Sasthi at Lolark kunda.

7. Food in Varanasi

Indulging in foods is one of the things to do in Varanasi. While Kashi is City of Gods one should not miss the awesome street foods and also the cafes in Varanasi. Pappu Chai near Marwari sewa sangh in Assi Ghat which makes awesome lemon tea. There is a famous kachori seller near Gas Chula shop. Pahalwan Lassi Bhandar is a famous lassi shop. Varanasi is famous for lassi.

Kashi chat bhandar is famous for mind-blowing palak chaat, tamaatar ki chaat and finally kulfi-falooda. Paan at Keshav has also been quite good. Near Dashashwamedh Ghat DasKachori and Samosa lane stumble upon the hot kachori and samosa sellers. Baba thandai in Godowlia is famous for thandai and locals.

8. Take Bath in the Ganges

Ganga is a holi river and has a great religious influence. The dip in Ganga is believed to provide salvation or moksha from the karmic cycle of birth and death. Ever since   sun rise to sunset the ghats remain flocked with devotees. Varanasi tour is incomplete without the tour to Ganga.

Manikarnika, Dasaswamedh and Panch-Ganga are three most important ghats Assi Sangam and Varuna Sangam is also impostant. Bathing in these five places is called Pancha-Tirtha Yatra. Pilgrims go to Vishwanath, Annapurna, and Sakshi Vinayaka after bathing in these four ghats.

9. Subah e Banaras

Subah e Banaras starts before dawn started by Hon. Minister of State, U.P. Govt. It is one of the things to do in Varanasi as event is full of life, Vedic chant yoga and music. Golden Ganges and rising sun inspire men to chant, dance and meditate. The soulful Indian classical music is a beauty to hear.

Ganga aarti of Varanasi has been an inspiration to Rishikesh and Haridwar in Uttarakhand. Fire lamps are raise and vedic prayers are done by pujaris. It is almost heavenly to see the Ganges at this point of time. Witnessing this event is a solace and takes one to positivity.

10. Festivals & Events in Varanasi

India is a land of festivals and events. This spiritual city comes alive with various festivals. Even though Varanasi Mahashivratri in Varanasi celebrates the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. People come and offer milk, belpatra, water and fruits.

Varanasi is Shiva’s city so this festival is celebrated with a lot of aplomb. Banarasi holi is a real fun event. This shows the carefree attitude of Banarasis towars death, life and birth. People splash colours at strangers, family and friends and nobody minds. Thandai is drink nobody should forget here.

Unique things to do in Varanasi

Yoga and Meditation

Among other things to so in Varanasi yoga and meditation has been a part of Hindu culture. In Varanasi there are various studious and centers which provide yoga classes that comprises exercises, meditation and physical postures too.

Enjoy the music

UNESCO has mentioned Varanasi as city of music. The singers have great talent and can sing Hori, Chaiti and Dadra. It is beautiful to witness such performances.

Enjoy the cafes

The cafes in Varanasi provide a unique experience where ancient blends with modern. There cafes which are escape from bustling streets of Ghats and rivers.

Things to do in Varanasi at night

  1. Shop with your friends and family in Vishwanath Gali, Chowk and another street markets.
  2. With young tourists coming Varanasi has an active night life with clubs to dance, socialize and have excellent drinks.
  3. One of the things to do in Varanasi is view the Alamgir Mosque which so beautifully lit and is a spectacle to watch for tourists.

Things to do in Varanasi in 2 days

Day 1

  • Rise before the dawn and take a sunrise boat ride then go Varanasi Old Town for Hindu traditions, cultures and temples.
  • The most important temple in Varanasi Kashi Vishwanath temple.
  • Visit Dashashwamedh Ghat before dusk to watch the beautiful aarti ceremony

Day 2

  • Spend your day in villages of Chiraigaon and Sarai Mohana celebrated for Banarasi saris.
  • During the afternoon visit buddhist pilgrimage site like the Dhamek Stupa to learn about Buddhism
  • Varanasi is also a place of great India classical music and dance. Spend your time hearing a range of instruments.

Things to do In Varanasi in 3 days

Day 1

  • Start your morning with boat ride where you can see and hear the prayers of hindu pilgrims.
  • Then make your way to the most revered temple in Varanasi Kashi Vishwanath Temple where it is believed to attain moksha.
  • In the evening head down to the Dashashwamedh Ghat to watch the evening Aarti and engage yourself in the majestical religious atmosphere.

Day 2

  • On the second day make your way UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sarnath,a     famous buddhist pilgrimage in India. Visit the the Dhamek Stupa where Buddha is reputed to have given his first sermon.
  • Then head towards the Sarnath museum which has 7000 Buddhist antiques and artifacts and head for banarasi saris and shopping to Sarai Mohana village.
  • Visit the Banaras Hindu University which is one of the biggest universities in India and the head towards Assi Ghat for an evening stroll.

Day 3

  • Visit the famous Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir, Tulsi das mandir and durga temple.
  • Then head towards the markets for shopping of souvenirs, clothes and taste the kachoris, chats, lassi in the famous food lanes
  • Put a serene end to the trip by ending it by walking on foot in the city of Varanasi and last by the evening Aarti

Varanasi visit is a great spiritual journey and once in a lifetime. At one side while one can see the cremation in ghats, aarti, prayers yoga on the other side is the bustling markets, mouth-watering street food, shopping of banarasi sarees and souvenirs. Varanasi is a unique place for worship, art, culture and pilgrimage.

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