When you utter the word ‘Banaras’, it feels as if all the spirituality of the city concentrated in the form of a pious nectar ran down your throat giving a fire and ice sensation which leaves you stunned. In Varanasi, everything from the light breeze on Ganga Ghats to the stone carvings in Vishwanath Temple is so supernaturally beautiful that you have no choice but to get completely smitten by this magical city. But as the story unfolds, you discover a new semblance which offers all the other quirks you thought were missing from Banaras.
Stating the obvious, the forte of Varanasi has always been and is still its spirituality and a plethora of mythological tales and history of uncountable treasured temples it beholds. Being the oldest city in India, Varanasi attracts people from all over the world who come to see various ashrams, temples and Ghats. Varanasi is associated not only with Hinduism but also with Buddhism and Jainism. Besides numerous temples, Varanasi also boasts of Buddhist Stupas and Jain temples. It also in a way is a gateway to out glorious and rich past of Vedic and pre-Vedic era.
When it’s come to exploring the saintly side of the city, there is an entire lineup of spectacular temples which cross the bar of perfection in architecture as well as beauty. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is most famous among them. Also known as the Golden Temple, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the city. Varanasi is said to be the point at which the first jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which Shiva manifested his supremacy over other gods, broke through the earth’s crust and flared towards the heavens. Apart from Vishwanath Temple, the stark amalgamation of Mughal and Hindu style of architecture displays brilliantly in the Alamgir Mosque. The Durga Temple and Bharat Mata Temple worship the supreme goddesses whereas Tulsi Manas Temple showcases elegant moving idols. Also, the manicured lawns and sparkling fountains of Banaras Hindu University are worth a visit.
Next is the string of various Ghats which are the most celebrated places in Varanasi. Nothing can be more tranquil than sitting there with feet dipped inside water and inhaling the ambience as you feel the sea breeze on your face and it messes you hair up and nothing can be more festive than eating chat near water with thousands of diyas lit around you. All the conjuring is studded in those Ghats which have the magnetic ability to pull you towards them and never let you go. Asi Ghat, Kedara Ghat, Man Mandir Ghat, Lalita Ghat, Scindia Ghat are some of the famous ones but the most popular among them is Dashashwamedha Ghat. It flaunts its fame because of the breathtaking and stunning sights it creates during the evening Aarti sessions. The coordinated actions of all the five lamp bearers will drop your jaws.
But Banaras has a hidden aspect which will complete your impeccable trip. Street shopping near Ghats and on the clumsy streets will make your day. Varanasi is famous for its silk weaving, and Banarasi silks are a part of every girl’s wedding trousseau. Banaras Brocades are prized the world over. Also, it is very famous for brass, copper ware, wooden toys and gold jewelry. Banaras is also famous for its ‘Langda Aam’, a variety of mangoes available in the summer. Betel leafis also a specialty. The main shopping areas are Chowk, Vishwanath Gali, Thatheri bazaar, Lahurabir, Godoulia , Dashswamedh Gali and Golghar.
Festivals in Varanasi look more happy and gleeful for some reason. The experience of celebrating Diwali here is awesome with theatrical presentation of Ram Leela and splendid fireworks also called aatishbazi. Holi is also celebrated with great pomp and show with huge functions organizing Holika Dehen and the next day the city looks more colorful than it already is.
Varanasi is at its best when these two faces are blend together to produce a third one which is more fascinating and imprinting. Imagine yourself sitting in a Japanese cafe near a Ghat and eating sushi with some sobacha tea reading your favorite book and enjoying the hustle bustle outside. To you, it’s not disturbing..it’s mesmerizing, it’s enchanting, it’s alluring and irresistible. You cannot help but close your eyes and listen to people go Har Har Mahadev!