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Nikita Rudra Mar 27 2014

Can you suggest a 1 day trip to Varanasi ?

Mercy Jacob Mar 27 2014
0 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

Adorned with epithets like 'the religious capital of India' and 'the city of temples', Varanasiis the holiest of holy cities for Hindus. Here’s a perfect one-day trip to Varanasi so that you don’t miss out on anything.

Wake up as early as you can; pre-sunrise is good because you can then catch the painting-like shadows of early bathers and boatmen readying for their early day. There is nothing but vast stretches of fine sand on the eastern bank of the Ganga, opposite the ghats, so you can see the day breaking over the horizon and into the river. Sit on a boat with the lilt of a boatman’s accent and his splashing oars for company and watch the ghats glow.

Photo of Sunrise at Varanasi (by orvalrochefort)

There’s always a breeze, always a bowl of leaves with marigolds, often some pigeons on floating logs, later a boat with children selling toys, and at election times, boats that canvas. After a glorious hour or two, ask to be put down at the Dashashvamedha Ghat, make your way to Vishvanath Gali, and have a piping hot breakfast of alu-kachori and jalebi. At this point, die. You would then have died and gone to heaven twice over, in accordance with both the English metaphor and Hindu belief!

The ghats of Varanasi

The ghats, literally flights of steps but more like theatres of life, stretch continually for some 3 km along the riverfront. They are the beating heart of Varanasi; you can stroll down the entire stretch over a day and never be bored. Depending on the time of the day, the season, or the Hindu calendar, they change character seemingly of their own accord.

Photo of Varanasi (by Ken Wieland)

Towards the northernmost lies Raj Ghat, the site of ancient Varanasi. If you get off from your vehicle, just before the Malviya Bridge before Rajghat, you stand at a very interesting point. Ahead of you will be the huge 20th-century bridge. On your left, the extraordinarily pretty Lal Khan ka Rauza, tomb of a Mughal noble, made in 1773. On the other side of the tomb archaeological excavations for remains from some century-BCE would be going on. And on the path to your left would lead to the Adi Keshava, the primordial Vishnu temple, physically 200 years old but with a tradition stretching back to the Puranas. Temporal layers of Banaras at a glance.

Photo of a Ghat (by Jeff Hart)

Going south from Rajghat, you can take a boat till the Panchganga Ghat. The crowning monument here is the simple Dharahara Mosque made by Aurangzeb, on a 17th-century Bindu Madhav Temple. The Maharaja of Satara built the current Bindu Madhav Temple in the mid-18th century. Further south, you come across the Balaji Ghat. Scindia Ghat, built by Baijabai Scindia and foregrounded by a sunk temple, is immediately recognisable. Built in 1835, it had sunk soon after, but was rebuilt in 1937.

Photo of Kedar Ghat (by Ekabhishek)

Adjacent lies the Manikarnika Ghat, a very old and hallowed site: mani (‘gem’) karnika (of the ‘ear’), for Parvati’s earring had fallen in the pool here. The tradition of Hindu cremations here is relatively recent, dating perhaps to the 18th century; the ghat was made pucca in 1730. Definitely climb up the Nepal raja’s Lalita Ghat to see a unique sight in Banaras - a quaint, pagoda-like wooden Temple of Pashupatinath, with brackets and erotic carvings dating from 1843 preserved in it. And do climb the Manmandir Ghat, a personal favourite for its beautiful Rajasthani-style, jharokha-laden palace and observatory. The palace was begun by Raja Man Singh, then ruling from Amer, in 1600, while his descendant Jai Singh built the stone observatory in the 18th century.

Photo of a Ghat in Varanasi (by Ekabhishek)

A little ahead, the Dasashvamedha Ghat is the most ‘happening’ ghat in Banaras. Here, you can find yourself a corner and gaze all day at, among others - the man washing his Pomeranian with 555 soap; the panda doing his professional make-up — anointing his paunch with saffron marks and admiring them in a mirror borrowed from the barber; the man who chews on his datun with an air of someone doing his duty by the holiest river in the country. In the evening, an aarti to the Ganga is organised here, a much grander and spectacular.

Photo of Grand Aarti at Dasashvamedha Ghat (by Yusuke Kawasaki)

The much-visited Vishvanath Temple near this ghat was built by Ahilyabai Holkar 250 years ago. The Darbhanga Ghat has a turreted palace with a lift through which servants used to manually haul this Bihar estate’s king to the terrace when he wanted to enjoy a river view! The delightful palace-cum-fort at Chet Singh Ghat nearby is interesting for having been made by Balwant Singh, the first important Varanasi ruler. The fort gained its name after a battle in 1781 between Warren Hastings and the then ruler Chet Singh, who was becoming too independent for British liking. Chet Singh had to escape under cover of darkness to Ramnagar on the other side of the Ganga. The fort stayed with the British for 150 years when it reverted to the Banaras Maharajas.

Photo of Ramnagar Fort (by Ekabhishek)

Tulsi Ghat is renowned for being the place where Tulsidas wrote his Ramcharitamanas and where he died in 1623. It’s a peaceful, clean ghat, on climbing atop which you can visit the site of Tulsi’s home and temple, where his padukas (wooden slippers) are still kept. A 2-minute walk away lies the beautifully named Lolark Kund, a step- well dedicated to the sun, much celebrated in the Puranas. Lolark means the ‘trembling sun’ for the sun trembled on seeing the luminosity of Kashi! Finally there is Assi, the southernmost ghat of Banaras, though the stream that gave it its name mutated from stream to nala, and finally was closed for sanitation reasons.

Photo of Ahilya Ghat (by Ken Wieland)

For navigating these galis, it’s best to rely on your feet. If you get tired, take a cycle rickshaw. So make you one day's trip to Varanasi an experience of a lifetime.

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