Varanasi beyond the ghats: Uncovering the lesser-known attractions of the city
Varanasi, also known as Banaras or Kashi, is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Situated on the banks of the sacred Ganges River in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is known for its ghats, or steps leading down to the river, where pilgrims come to bathe and perform rituals. While the ghats are undoubtedly the main draw for visitors, there is so much more to explore and discover in this ancient city. Let’s take a journey beyond the ghats and uncover the lesser-known attractions of Varanasi.
One such hidden gem is Sarnath, located just a short drive away from Varanasi. This small town holds immense significance for Buddhists as it is where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. The Dhamek Stupa, dating back to the 5th century, stands tall and serves as a reminder of the rich Buddhist history of the region. The Archaeological Museum in Sarnath is also worth a visit, housing a collection of ancient artifacts and sculptures from the Mauryan and Gupta periods.
Another fascinating place to explore in Varanasi is the Ramnagar Fort, situated on the eastern banks of the Ganges River. Built in the 18th century, the fort is a fine example of Indian architecture and is home to a museum that showcases a unique collection of vintage cars, antique weapons, and royal artifacts. The fort also hosts the Ramnagar Ramlila, a magnificent theatrical performance that brings the Hindu epic, Ramayana, to life during the festival of Dussehra.
For those interested in art and craftsmanship, a visit to the Handloom and Handicraft Industry of Varanasi is a must. Witness the intricate weaving of Banarasi silk sarees, a craft that dates back several centuries. The handloom industry is a hub of creativity, with weavers showcasing their skills and producing beautiful silk fabrics. This is also an opportunity to support local artisans by purchasing traditional handicrafts, such as wooden toys, brassware, and pottery.
Varanasi is home to various beautiful and serene temples that are worth exploring. One such temple is the Bharat Mata Mandir, dedicated to Mother India. This unique temple features a relief map of India carved out of marble, showcasing the diversity of landscapes and landmarks across the country. The Tulsi Manas Mandir, made out of white marble, is another notable temple. It is dedicated to Lord Rama and is believed to be built on the spot where poet-saint Tulsidas composed the Ramcharitmanas, an important Hindu scripture.
For a spiritual and peaceful experience, a visit to the Tulsi Ghat is highly recommended. Situated near the Asi Ghat, this ghat is named after the famous poet-saint Tulsidas. It is said to be the place where Tulsidas had a vision of Lord Rama and Hanuman. The ghat offers stunning views of the Ganges, and you can also witness the evening aarti (prayer ceremony) that takes place here.
Lastly, to experience the vibrant and chaotic Varanasi markets, a stroll through the bustling lanes of Godowlia Market is a must. This market offers a sensory overload of colors, sounds, and scents. From street food stalls serving delicious local delicacies like kachori and jalebi, to shops selling traditional handicrafts, jewelry, and fabrics, this market is a shopaholic’s paradise.
Varanasi, beyond its famous ghats, is a city steeped in history, spirituality, and culture. Exploring the lesser-known attractions and hidden gems of this ancient city offers a unique and enriching experience. From the tranquil Sarnath to the vibrant markets and serene temples, uncovering the secrets of Varanasi is a journey you won’t forget. So, step off the beaten path and discover the true essence of this magnificent city.