Population: About 1,100,748
Climate: Varanasi ensures that its pilgrims have a hard time at least by way of the weather. Hot and humid summers make you swelter at 45°C. the monsoons offer some respite but not much at 37°C. Winters are the best, with temperatures at 30°C.
Main Language(s): Hindi and English
Time Zone: GMT + 05:30
Phone Area Code: 0542
Best Time To Visit: Other then the peak of summer from May to June and the monsoons from July to August, plan a trip anytime.
Airport Distance from City Center: 25 kms
Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Private taxi service available at Rs. 300 to city centre
Many a story has been told of the Ghats of Varanasi. Quite an amazing experience as you either walk along or brave the waters. This is the real Varanasi, with its godmen in saffron, the echoes of the shlokas, bathing pilgrims with prayers on their chilled and stuttering lips, the shoreline with flames lapping up towards the sky where the dead are sent to heaven - a thousand sights and smells assault and overwhelm you. The more famous of the Ghats are the Dasashwamedha, Manikarnika, Assi, Panch Ganga and Harishchandra Ghats.
With the only constraint being that only Hindus are allowed inside the temple, the Vishwanath Temple was built in 1777, by Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore. Aurangzeb's destruction of the temple and the rebuilding of it on the same site gives its history value and the temple has been the principal Shiva Temple in Varanasi for more than a thousand years. Known as the 'Golden Temple', because of the 800 kgs of gold, which adorns its shikharas, the roof was gold-plated by the blessing of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1835. In the inner sanctum, the shivling is enshrined atop a golden altar.
Bharat Mata Temple
Dedicated to India, this temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. Inside, there is a marble relief map of India and other related memorabilia. The symmetry of design and scale of the map catches your attention.
Said to date back to well before the birth of the Ganges, Gyan Kup literally translates into the 'Well of Knowledge and Wisdom'. The kup is conveniently situated next to the main temple and the water from the well is believed to "indicate the highest spiritual illumination".
In an act that was typical of its eccentric and destructive builder Aurangzeb, this great mosque was built with materials salvaged from plundered Hindu temples. The monument is an architectural wonder, with minarets, which are 71 m in height. It is only the rear portions of the mosque that give away its Hindu origins.
Benares Hindu University
The BHU, as it is popularly known, was founded in 1917 by well-known nationalist Pt Malviya. The largest residential university in India, it houses an excellent Sanskrit School as also a museum within its campus, the Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum. The Museum has an amazing collection of old manuscripts, ancient sculptures and paintings.
Ramnagar Fort and Museum
The ancestral home of the former Maharaja of Varanasi, this 17th century fort-palace was built by Maharaj Balwant Singh and is situated across the river to the south of the city. The fort has a temple and a museum within the grounds, the temple being dedicated to Veda Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, who stayed briefly at the Ramnagar Fort. An interesting array of ornate palanquins, gold-plated howdahs and weapons are some of the artefacts on display.
One would be justified in visiting Varanasi for the paan (betel leaf) alone. Made in several ways, all of them a treat, the Benaras paan is famous and sought after all over India. The local must try food items of the place include its sweet dishes rabri, malpua and khaja. Also try the sweet drink thandai, which will not only quench your thirst but will have you leave a fresh and lingering taste. The tangy paapri-chat layered with cool yoghurt and ginger-tamarind chutney is another treat that you will not want to miss. Apart from that, Varanasi has many restaurants offering Indian, Continental and East Asian cuisine.
Havelli Restaurant Hotel Ideal Tops
The Mall, Cantt.
Bread of Life Bakery
Ayyar's Cafè South Indian
Old city, Godaulia
Palm Springs Indian cuisine
Railway station area & Lahurabir area
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