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Varanasi (The City of Sacred Lights)

Varanasi, also known as Kashi and Benares, is situated at the bank of the river Ganges that is considered as one of the holiest cities and pilgrimage destinations of India. Varanasi abounds with Ghats and temples and is also known for the Benares Gharana form of Indian classical music. Several renowned poets and philosophers of India such as Kabir, Premchand, and Bismillah Khan have been closely associated with this city. Sarnath, the place where Gautama Buddha first gave his religious sermons is located in close vicinity of Varanasi. Even Ramacharitamanas was written in Varanasi by Tulsidas. Significant Ghats to visit here include Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Scindia Ghat, and Lalita Ghat among others. Major temples in town include the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Durga Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple and the Tulsi Manas Temple where Tulsidas wrote legendary Ramacharitamanas.

Sarnath Temple

Buddhist pilgrims from every corner of the world, visit India to explore the spirituality and divinity of the enlightened one. Sarnath Temple is located at a distance of 10 km from the sacred city, Varanasi (Banaras). This place is considered holy as Lord Buddha delivered his very first sermon, ‘Dhammachakkapavattana’ or ‘setting in motions the Wheel of Law in Buddhism’, at this place. The popular Mantra “Buddham Sharanam Gachhami”, gets is origin from Sarnath. A day before his death, Lord Buddha included Sarnath in the list of sacred places for his devotees and followers, along with places like Bodh Gaya, Kushinagar and Lumbini. Sarnath is not only linked with Buddhism, it has its connectivity also with the Jainism. Thus, Sarnath Temple is considered as the sacred Buddhist place.

Dashashwamedha Ghat

The popular spot in the sacred city of Varanasi, along the banks of the river Ganga, is the Dashashwamedha Ghat. It is considered as one of the oldest and the holiest Ghats in the country, with two main mythologies associated with it. The legends believe that Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses at this site in order to enable Lord Shiva to return from his period of Banishment.

Dashashwamedha Ghat is most visited because of its fair proximity to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and for the elaborate and colorful activities that takes place through the day. However, evening is the most exciting time to visit; you get to witness a line of Pandas offering service (Aarti) with elaborate rituals and vigor. The riverbank remains lit with thousands of lamps and torches, the spirit of the place brings enthusiasm and a feeling of devotion among the onlookers.

Manikarnika Ghat

Unlike other auspitious Ghats, Manikarnika is a cremation Ghat where the maximum numbers of dead bodies in the city are set on pyre. According to the Hindu Mythology, instant liberation is attained from the cycle of life and death if the body is burned here. This site is historically and religiously significant, with two mythologies linked to it, Lord Vishnu is believed to have dug a well where Lord Shiva's earring fell, hence the name Manikarnika (earring). It is also believed that Mata Sati's ear was dropped here, making it a Shakti Peeth site.

Manikarnika Ghat is located in the central region of Varanasi and symbolizes both creation and destruction. The famous temples of Lord Shiva and Mata Durga are found in this Ghat, it is an important place for the pilgrims to visit.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple

Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most popular temples in the city, and is known as the golden temple of Lord Shiva. It is located on the west side bank of the holy river Ganga and is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and the most important one. Lord Shiva is also known here by the name of Vishwashwara or Vishwanatha; and as we all know that Varanasi was originally known as Kashi. Combination of the two formed the Kashi Vishwanath, and the shrine inside the temple is considered very holy that even a glimpse of it can put you forward in attainment of liberation. The temple holds great spiritual and cultural values of the Hindus; they perform many rituals and offerings with great enthusiasm.

Ramnagar Fort

Ramnagar Fort is situated about 14 km from Varanasi, on the eastern Bank of the Ganga River, opposite to the Tulsi Ghat. The Fort- Palace is an ancestral home of the Benaras Maharaja, built by Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 18th century. The architectural style is typically Mughal, built in res sand stone, detailed balconies, airy courtyards and more.

Now, there is a museum inside the Fort that displays the ancient arms and artilleries, costumes, cars, ornaments, furniture and lots more. This imposing structure stands tall attracting all the visitors in the city. The Fort comes to life during the Dussehra time; preparations are done with great zeal and celebrated elaborately.

Chaukhandi Stupa

Besides Hinduism, Varanasi and the neighboring areas are also an important Buddhist pilgrimage center and Chaukhandi Stupa is one of the finest examples. It is a ruined stupa built in the 5th century Ad, and it marks Lord Buddha's first sermon to his disciples, outside Bodh Gaya. This structure has evolved from being a mound to a stupa of great religious significance.

It was originally build as a terrace temple, but the tower was added in the medieval period under Mughal emperor Akbar's orders. It is now maintained by the Archeological Survey of India, it stands upright in the lush green surroundings, reflecting its historical charm. Chaukhandi stupa is the gateway to the Buddhist city of Sarnath.

Now, there is a museum inside the Fort that displays the ancient arms and artilleries, costumes, cars, ornaments, furniture and lots more. This imposing structure stands tall attracting all the visitors in the city. The Fort comes to life during the Dussehra time; preparations are done with great zeal and celebrated elaborately.

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