Sarnath – 10km from Varanasi, is one of the most revered Buddhist pilgrimage centers. After attaining the Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, it was here that Lord Buddha preached his first sermon, sanctified as Maha Dharm Chakra Pravartan. The great Dhamekh Stupa and several other structures stand testimony to the importance the place enjoyed at that time. The Chaukhandi Stupa is the place where, during his first visit to Sarnath, Lord Buddha met his first five disciples. The area is a treasure trove of archaeological findings such as Dharmrajika Stupa and Mulgandhkuti Vihar. The smooth glistening pillar established by Emperor Ashoka in 273-232 B.C. marks the foundation of the Buddhist Sangha, and the Lion Capital atop this pillar is now India’s National Emblem. Its reputation as a center of Buddhist learning spreads far and wide and is a revered location and a great attraction for tourists from across the world.
Ghats of Varanasi – The great well constructed river banks are called Ghats. On these ghats, are located high pavilions, palaces, temples and terraces, which add further charm to the beautiful river bank. The ghats are frequented by the people which include early morning bathers, priests, people practicing meditation and yoga, students and tourists as well. The eternal crematorium is located at Manikarnika Ghat. It is believed that the person, who is creamed at this place, attains salvation from the cycle of birth and death. For centuries, pilgrims have traced the perimeter of the city by a ritual parikrama (circumambulation) paying homage to shrines on the way. Among the most popular routes is the Panchatirthi Yatra, which takes in the Pancha (five) Trithi (crossing) of Assi, Dashashwamedha, Adi Keshva, Panchganga and finally Manikarnika. The devotee, accompanied by a priest, recites a sankalpa (statement of intent) and performs a ritual at each stage of the journey.
A very relaxed way to see the ghats and its life in the morning and evening is by a boat.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple – 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. To reach here, tourists have to pass through Kashi Vishwanath Gali, famous for its shops selling pooja items and sweets. There’s also a popular ladies corner in its alleyway that tourists explore for affordable shopping. Adjacent to Kashi Vishwanath Mandir are Annapoorna Temple, Dundiraj Vinayak and Gyanwapi which is regularly frequented by pilgrims.
Banaras Hindu University – Bharat Ratna Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, a renowned freedom fighter founded Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in the year 1916. Dr. Annie Besant also played an important role in the formation of this Central University. Over a period of time, it has developed into one of the greatest centers of learning in India. The BHU has produced many great freedom fighters and Nation builders. It has immensely contributed to the progress of the nation through a large number of renowned scholars, artists and scientists. Its campus is spread over 1300 acres. It has well maintained roads (crossing each other at right angle), extensive greenery, a temple, an airstrip and buildings, which are an architectural delight.
Popular Food in Varanasi –
Bati Chokha: A traditional dish from eatern UP and Bihar, these oven baked channa dal cakes (litti) eaten with chokha (traditionally made of smoked eggplant), is a fulfilling dish for your tummy.
Chaat: Finely cut tomatoes mashed with spices, or crispy batter fried spinach, served with curd, sev, sweetened tamarind chutney or spicy green chutney, Varanasi is famous for its own style of chaats.
Banarasi Paan: Journey to Banares will be incomplete if you forget to tantalize your taste buds with the exciting flavours of the worldwide famous Banaresi Paan.
Kachori: the lane just beyond Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the Kachori Gali, savour the flavour of freshly fried kachoris with spicy mint chatni.
Lassi: A pleasing way to end a typical Banaresi breakfast is to have a kullhad (earthen glass) of thick, cardamom, flavoured lassi, served with a generous topping of cream.
Prayagraj – is an important city of Uttar Pradesh which is also known as Prayag that comes from its position at the Sangam (confluence) of three holy rivers that are Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati which is a sacred place for Hindus.