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In search of the solace within: Varanasi Voyage

“Twenty years from now you, will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Located on the banks of the holy Ganges, as the river Ganga is also called, Varanasi is often referred to as the spiritual capital of the country and also a preferable vacation destination for seniors. It is regarded as the holiest city of the seven sacred cities, in Hinduism and Jainism. The city has played a crucial role in the journey of Buddhism and Sikhism. It gets its name from the two tributaries of the Ganges river,  Varuna and Assi, which flow through the city.

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Did you know?

·      The city has its roots in the Rig Veda, where it has been referred to as Kashi which means  the “luminous city” as an eminent seat of learning.

·      There are 23,000 temples and 365 ghats in Varanasi

·  As per Hindu belief, those cremated in Varanasi, shall go directly to heaven after death. 

·      Varanasi was formerly called Kashi and Benares, with the latter name still very commonly used by many.

·      Varanasi is famous for its silk sarees and betel leaf. Amitabh Bachchan’s song “Khaike Paan Banaras Wala” etched forever in our hearts the connection between Paan (betel leaf) and Varanasi!

·      It is a popular place for movie shoots. Movies like Masaan, Ranjhana, Water and Aparijto have been shot here and bring out the beauty of this place on celluloid.

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Must visit points

Varanasi is a culturally and spiritually rich city. It has always attracted the salvation seekers, the tourists, the photographers and scholars from world over.  While the Ganga and the several ghats represent the city, for those who love delving into history, the Ramnagar Fort is an interesting journey back in time. For those seeking spiritual connection, the city has innumerable temples and mosques. Here are some popular places of interest in and around the city. 

1. Dashashwamedh Ghat:

Located near the Vishwanath temple, it is the main ghat in the city. There are two legends surrounding this ghat. According to one, it is believed that this ghat was created by Lord Brahma to welcome Lord Shiva. The other belief is that Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses during a yajna (Hindu ritual).  

Every evening, the ghat is illuminated with the glow of hundreds of oil lamps in the Ganga aarti which is a truly splendid sight. With hundreds of people silently establishing a spiritual connection with the Ganges and chants by the Pandits (Hindu priests), the aarti is an immensely soul stirring experience for many.

A special aarti is conducted on Tuesdays and during religious festivals. Boat rides which offer a spectacular view of the Ganges and serenity of the city are conducted from some ghats like Assi Ghat to Dashashwamedh Ghat. 

2. Kashi Vishwanath Temple

One of the most popular temple in India, Kashi Vishwanath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and it gets its name “Vishwanath” from him. It is believed that if one bathes in the Ganges and visits this temple, it will lead him to Moksh (liberation from the cycle of birth and death). There is a popular belief that Lord Shiva blows the mantra of salvation into the ears of people who die a natural death at the temple. Five aartis are conducted at this temple, starting from 3 am to 7 pm and can be viewed by purchasing a ticket.

3. Dhamek Stupa

Located 13 kms away from Varanasi in Sarnath, Dhamek Stupa is one of the prominent Buddhist sites in India. Here, the Buddha gave the first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Both its garden and construction are exquisite. The Stupa is a super solid cylinder of bricks and stone.  The wall of the Stupa is a wondrous storybook in chiselled stone, that narrated the life of the Buddha with its inscriptions in Brahmi script and carved figures of humans and birds. The place also offers an aesthetic view.

4.Archaeological Museum, Sarnath

Established in 1910, this museum is the home to findings and excavations which belong to Sarnath, thus making it the oldest site museum of Archaeological Survey of India.

There are five galleries & two verandahs in the museum  which display the antiquities mostly from Buddhist monasteries, belonging to the period from third century B.C. to twelfth century A.D.

5. Flourishing under the guidance of PM Narendra Modi

The divine, ancient city of Varanasi has taken great strides in development during the first term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its MP. From beautification and development to world class rail services, preserving culture and heritage to expansion of new roads and infrastructure, Modi Ji has left no stone unturned to make Varanasi a smart city. 

Varanasi is one of the best religious travel destination and spiritual places in India which should be on your travel bucket list if you are seeking solace in commotion, beauty in the mysteries of birth and death and rich spirituality and history in the ever changing present.

Another super cool destination for your travel bucket list. The Europe of India- Pondicherry

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