Varanasi is the Spiritual Capital of India
Just like the three main cities of India (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur), Varanasi is also one of the most sought-after cities. It is an ancient city and is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Also known by the name of Benares or Kashi, this is highly significant for Hindus. It can be described as “Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks as twice as old with all of them put together” in the words of Mark Twain. No other city can be better than this one if one wishes to experience the true culture of India as it is plentiful of temples, river ghats, forts and prehistoric influences.
Located on the banks of River Ganges, this ancient city receives a lot of tourists as well as pilgrims throughout the year. Since this city holds great significance in the lives of Hindus, it is often believed that the one who dies here, gets liberated from the eternal cycle of life and death. But that does not sum up all the fascination of this enchanting city, it also harbors numerous specimens of the finest architecture portrayed by the temples and forts of the city. Therefore, it is not only the best destination for pilgrims but is equally appealing for history buffs.
Reasons that justify its title
Varanasi is known as the Spiritual Capital of India due to the existence of around 2000 temples established in every nook and corner of the city. Most of these temples date back to the medieval era. As there are so many temples in the city, it is also known as “City of Temples”. This city is also renowned owing to the presence of sacred River Ganges in its vicinity. Many people visit this city to fulfill their religious wishes. Varanasi has a plethora of options for people coming from different walks of life. Have a look at the following so that you can make a perfect choice for yourself.
Since the origin of this holy city is often associated with Lord Shiva, the city has a notable no. of temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Besides, there are temples dedicated to other deities as well. These temples are frequented by people who wish to get blessings of the Gods by offering prayers. These temples are full of tranquility and calmness. Some of the most famous temples in Varanasi are Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple, Bharat Mata Temple, Durga Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple, Kal Bhairav Temple, Mrityunjaya Temple, etc. It is believed that paying homage to the Jyotirlinga housed in Vishwanath temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva) is a soul-cleansing experience that will wash off your sins. The engraved walls of the Tulsi Manas Temple are as fascinating as the Shikhara of Durga Temple. Sankat Mochan temple is popular due to the large band of monkeys in its proximity. All these temples together contribute to the marvelous architectural heritage of the city.
Ghats are what set Varanasi apart from all other holy cities of India. Ghat refers to the steps built on the banks of River Ganga. These ghats are known for the rituals that are performed by pilgrims throughout the day. While evening Aarti is organized on some of them, others are considered as cremation grounds. There are more than 80 ghats in Varanasi. It is said that a dip in the holy waters of ghats absolves a person from all sins. These ghats are situated quite close to each other. The most popular ones include Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat, Assi Ghat, etc. Dashashwamedh Ghat is the most spectacular one as it hosts the most crowded Ganga Aarti in the evening every day with puja and dance while Manikarnika Ghat is popular due to being the cremation site. Here, cremation never seems to stop irrespective of day and night. Assi Ghat is the confluence point of River Ganga and River Assi while on the other hand, Harishchandra Ghat is the oldest burning ghat. These ghats serve as the centers for other activities as well, like people having a bath, small stalls, people busy in yoga and prayer and boat rides while having the best view of the surroundings can also be enjoyed.
A spiritual visit to Varanasi can never be complete without attending the famous Ganga Aarti. Although Ganga Aarti is done on all ghats in Varanasi, the most captivating sight is that of the Dashashwamedh Ghat. The Aarti commences as soon as the Sun sets, every evening (around 7 pm in summers and around 6 pm in summers). People start assembling near the river 90 minutes prior to the ceremony. The spectacle can be viewed from the rooftops of nearby houses, ghat steps, shops as well as boats. Aarti forms the major component of Hindu worship. It is the act of waving lamps in a circular motion accompanied by hymns and chants facing the object of worship. The Ganga Aarti is performed by seven saints who chant mantras, hymns and prayers to praise of River Ganges. Millions of spectators (including locals and tourists) gather around the ghat to have a view of the grandiose ceremony. The ceremony culminates with the blowing of conch shells and lighting of camphor lamps. This whole ceremony takes around 45 minutes and afterward, the river is set back to its placid state. All the tourists and saints get dispersed. This is the one-of-its-kind experience as, during this ceremony, one gets to learn a lot about the beliefs and culture of Hinduism.
Although the city is the hotbed of Hinduism, one can also find influences of other religions in this ancient city. If you are a devout follower of Buddhism, you must head towards Sarnath, which is located at a short distance. Or if you are interested in witnessing the Mughal architecture, you can pay a visit to the antique mosques.
The city is also profuse with other things for tourists. The monuments of Varanasi are also among the major tourist attractions of the city. Some of the remarkable monuments include Ramnagar Fort, Wisdom Well, etc. In addition to this, there are several museums and gardens as well. All these structures exhibit the historical aspects of the town. Moreover, Varanasi has been subjected to the reign of dynasties like Guptas, Mauryas, Mughals and The British as well. Therefore, the monuments reflect its diverse past. In other words, it can be said a potpourri of cultures.
In a nutshell, it can be concluded that Varanasi is a divine paradise. A visit to this alluring place is sure to revitalize body, mind, and soul. Take a trip to Varanasi and experience how it justifies the title of being the “Spiritual Capital of India”.