Home > Blog > Varanasi: India’s spiritual heartbeat on the banks of the Ganges

Varanasi: India’s spiritual heartbeat on the banks of the Ganges

Table of contents

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Nestled along the revered banks of the Ganges River, Varanasi stands as a timeless beauty to India’s spiritual heritage. Known by various names such as Kashi or Benares, this ancient city showcases an aura of tranquillity and peace. Varanasi is more than just a collection of monuments and rituals; it’s a place where spirituality infuses every aspect of life. From the simple acts of washing away one’s sins in the holy waters to the moments and temples of the land, Varanasi offers a sanctuary for the soul-seeker and the curious traveller alike.

As you explore Varanasi, you’ll encounter a city that is both ancient and modern. So, whether you’re drawn to the city’s spiritual sites, rich cultural landscape, or the opportunity to witness life, Varanasi promises an experience that will linger in your heart forever.

If you plan a spiritual escape to Varanasi, here is everything you need to know about this spiritual haven.

History of Varanasi

Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, with a rich and extensive history spanning over three millennia. According to legend, the city was founded by Lord Shiva himself, and for this reason, it is considered a sacred place where people can attain spiritual enlightenment and liberation. Throughout its history, Varanasi has been a hub of knowledge, spirituality, and cultural exchange, attracting scholars, sages, and seekers from far and wide.

The city flourished under various dynasties, including the Mauryas, Guptas, and Mughals, who left behind a legacy of magnificent temples, palaces, and monuments. Despite facing the challenges of colonial rule and modernization, Varanasi has maintained its spiritual significance. Today, it stands as a timeless symbol of India’s rich cultural heritage and enduring traditions.

Best Time To Visit Varanasi

The ideal time to visit Varanasi is during the months from October to March. The weather during this period is pleasant and perfect for exploring the city’s attractions comfortably. The temperatures are milder, ranging from around 15°C to 25°C, making outdoor activities such as sightseeing, temple visits, and boat rides along the Ganges more enjoyable. Additionally, several festivals are celebrated with great fervour in Varanasi during this time, including Diwali and Holi.

Another highlight of visiting Varanasi during these months is Dev Deepawali, celebrated in November. During this time, the Ganga ghats in Varanasi come alive as thousands of illuminated oil lamps create a mesmerising spectacle along the riverbanks. However, it is essential to note that this period also tends to be more crowded. Therefore, it is advisable to book accommodations and transportation in advance for your Varanasi spiritual trip to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

How To Reach Varanasi

Varanasi offers multiple transportation options for travellers. Whether arriving by air, train, or road, convenient access ensures a seamless journey to this sacred destination.

By Air

Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport serves as the primary gateway to Varanasi. The airport is approximately 25 kilometres from the city centre and offers domestic and international flights. Upon arrival, taxis and pre-paid cab services are readily available for convenient transportation to your destination within Varanasi.

By Train

Varanasi Junction Railway Station is a major rail hub connecting the city to various destinations across India. With numerous trains operating daily, travelers have a wide range of options to choose from based on their preferences and budget. Varanasi Junction provides seamless connectivity and is conveniently located within the city, making it an ideal mode of transportation for domestic and international tourists.

By Road

Varanasi is well-connected by a network of national highways, facilitating easy access by car or bus. Travelers can embark on a road trip to Varanasi from nearby cities such as Allahabad, Lucknow, and Patna. State-run and private bus operators offer regular services to Varanasi, catering to budget-conscious travelers. Hiring a taxi or driving your own vehicle provides flexibility and convenience for exploring the city and its surrounding areas.

Things To Do In Varanasi

Here are the top things to do in Varanasi for an enjoyable and unforgettable trip.

  • Witness the Ganga Aarti: Experience the mesmerizing ritual of Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat. Here, priests offer prayers to the sacred river amidst chanting and the glow of oil lamps, creating an unforgettable spectacle.
  • Explore the Temples: Visit iconic temples such as Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, and Durga Temple. Each of these temples is steeped in history and spirituality. These temples offer a glimpse into Varanasi’s rich cultural heritage.
  • Take a Boat Ride on the Ganges: Embark on a serene boat ride along the Ganges River, where you can witness the city come to life from a unique perspective. Soak in the spiritual ambience and panoramic views of the ghats for the best experience.
  • Discover the Ghats: Wander along the ghats of Varanasi for the best experience. Each of these ghats offers its own distinct charm and significance. From the bustling Dashashwamedh Ghat to the tranquil Assi Ghat, you can observe daily rituals, interact with locals, and immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
  • Attend a Yoga and Meditation Session: Participate in a yoga or meditation session offered by various ashrams and wellness centres in Varanasi. Here, you can rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul amidst the serene surroundings of this spiritual haven.
  • Experience Varanasi’s Culinary Delights: Indulge in the diverse flavours of Varanasi’s culinary scene. From street food delights like chaat and kachori to traditional sweets like malaiyo and rabri, offering a gastronomic journey that tantalises the taste buds.
  • Shop for Souvenirs: Explore the bustling markets of Varanasi, such as the Vishwanath Gali and Thatheri Bazaar, where you can shop for silk sarees, handcrafted jewellery, spiritual artefacts, and other unique souvenirs.
  • Attend a Music or Dance Performance: Immerse yourself in the vibrant arts and culture of Varanasi by attending a classical music concert or traditional dance performance, where local artists showcase their talent and passion for the arts.
  • Engage in Spiritual Practices: Participate in spiritual practices such as meditation and yoga or attend a Satsang offered by various ashrams and spiritual centres.

Top Places To Visit In Varanasi

On your trip to Varanasi, here are some of the top attractions to visit for an enjoyable and immersive experience.

1. Kashi Vishwanath Temple

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most important Varanasi spiritual places. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a symbol of devotion and architectural splendour. It is considered one of the most sacred temples in Hinduism and is visited by millions of pilgrims seeking spiritual solace and blessings. The temple’s architecture is adorned with intricate carvings and designs, which reflect a blend of Hindu and Mughal styles.

By visiting this temple, you can experience the rich cultural heritage of Varanasi. The temple complex has the main shrine of Lord Vishwanath, along with smaller shrines dedicated to various deities. As you enter the sanctorum, you will feel surrounded by a sense of tranquillity and calmness. Don’t forget to include the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the list of spiritual places to visit in Varanasi.

2. Dashashwamedh Ghat

Dashashwamedh Ghat, situated on the banks of the sacred Ganges River in Varanasi, is a vibrant hub of spiritual activity and cultural significance. Renowned for its mesmerising Ganga Aarti ceremony, performed daily at dusk, the Ganges ghat in Varanasi attracts throngs of devotees and tourists alike. As the evening unfolds, priests clad in traditional attire offer prayers to the river goddess, accompanied by rhythmic chants, the melodious hymns, and the rhythmic sound of bells.

Thousands of oil lamps arranged on platforms cast a warm glow across the waters, creating a stunning ambience that is both awe-inspiring and deeply moving. Dashashwamedh Ghat also serves as a sacred site for rituals such as bathing in the holy waters of the Ganges and performing ancestral rites. With its rich cultural heritage and spiritual resonance, Dashashwamedh Ghat is the perfect spot to enjoy the Ganges view in Varanasi.

3. Assi Ghat

Assi Ghat, nestled at the confluence of the Assi and Ganges rivers in Varanasi, offers a serene retreat from the bustling city streets. Assi Ghat exudes a tranquil ambience, unlike its more crowded counterparts, making it a favourite spot to relax and unwind. Popularly known for the Shiva Lingam under the peepal tree, you can immerse yourself in the soothing sounds of flowing waters and soak in panoramic views of the river.

In addition to its natural beauty, Assi Ghat holds cultural significance as the site where the Assi River meets the Ganges. Pilgrims and locals often gather at Assi Ghat to perform rituals, meditate, or simply enjoy a leisurely boat ride along the river. With its peaceful atmosphere and spiritual resonance, Assi Ghat invites you to pause, reflect, and connect with the timeless spirit of Varanasi.

4. Tulsi Manas Temple

The Tulsi Manas Temple is a contemporary architectural wonder that boasts of ancient mythology and spiritual significance. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and named after the renowned saint-poet Tulsidas. It was constructed in 1964 and features intricate carvings and sculptures that depict scenes from the Ramayana.

The temple is surrounded by lush gardens and serene pathways, offering a peaceful oasis for reflection and prayer. Devotees and tourists alike come here to pay homage to Lord Rama and seek blessings for prosperity and well-being. If you’re looking for a spiritual experience, don’t forget to add the Tulsi Manas Temple to your Varanasi things to see list.

5. Banaras Hindu University (BHU)

Banaras Hindu University (BHU), located in the ancient city of Varanasi, is a prestigious institution renowned for its rich academic heritage and cultural significance. Founded in 1916 by the visionary nationalist leader Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, BHU focuses on the ideals of education, research, and service to society. Spread across a sprawling campus, BHU is home to numerous faculties, departments, and research centres.

It offers various undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral programs in various disciplines. The university’s architectural grandeur, imposing buildings, lush greenery, and serene surroundings provide an inspiring learning and intellectual growth environment. Beyond academics, BHU is a vibrant hub of cultural and extracurricular activities, fostering the holistic development of its students.

With its esteemed faculty, state-of-the-art facilities, and commitment to excellence, Banaras Hindu University continues to uphold its legacy as a university of knowledge and enlightenment in the heart of Varanasi.

6. Ramnagar Fort

Ramnagar Fort is a popular tourist attraction located on the eastern bank of the Ganges River in Varanasi. The fort was built in 1750 by Raja Balwant Singh and boasts a unique blend of Mughal and Rajput architectural styles. Visitors can admire the fort’s impressive ramparts, intricate carvings, and ornate balconies, which are a testament to the city’s rich royal legacy and architectural grandeur.

Additionally, the fort is home to a museum that houses an extensive collection of vintage artefacts, including royal carriages, weaponry, and historical documents. This collection provides valuable insight into the cultural heritage of the region. With its fascinating history and architectural charm, Ramnagar Fort is a must-visit destination in Varanasi.

7. Alamgir Mosque

The Alamgir Mosque is a magnificent architectural wonder situated on Panchganga Ghat. It showcases the harmonious blend of Mughal and Hindu influences in its design and construction. Built in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the mosque stands as a testament to the area’s diverse religious heritage.

The mosque’s red sandstone and marble structure, decorated with intricate carvings and ornamental motifs, is a prime example of Mughal architecture’s exquisite craftsmanship. The mosque provides panoramic views of the river and the bustling cityscape from its elevated location, creating a peaceful environment that you can appreciate.

Varanasi offers a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re seeking enlightenment, cultural immersion, or simply a break from the ordinary, Varanasi has something special for everyone. So, why wait? Plan your Varanasi tour package with Thomas Cook, your trusted travel companion. Book your trip today and uncover the magic of Varanasi. Book now!

Table of contents

    Recommended Articles for you