Guide to Varanasi, India
Varanasi, an Indian city located in the north, is considered sacred by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. It is on the banks of the river Ganges where Hindus come to perform pilgrimage by bathing in the river.
The city of temples, as it is known, is a beacon of culture and has produced many prolific and world renowned writers. Silk weaving is also practiced here and you can get beautiful pieces at the chaotic bazaar. Be sure to practice your bargaining skills. Master craftsmen have also come from Varanasi and you can find an array of handicrafts, metal works, and wood works among many other crafts.
Pilgrimage in Varanasi
The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple which is dedicated to the Lord Shiva can be found in the city of Varanasi. Its name comes from the gold plating on its 15.5 meter high spire. The Gold was donated by the Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It has been destroyed twice but you can still see the remains of the temple in the fine artwork on the western wall.
St. Mary’s Church
What makes this church different from the rest is its louvered doors and hooded ventilation. It has a plain timber canopy and a low tower, spire and projecting portico.
When to Go
Varanasi experiences extreme temperature changes and fog is common during winter and summer. Hot dry winds, locally known as loo, are also to be expected during these times.
Summer which is in April to October has temperatures soaring at between 32°C and 46°C (90 – 115 Fahrenheit). Sunstroke is common and outdoor activities are not recommended.
Monsoon time, which starts in July and ends in September, receives average rainfall. The natural beauty is at its peak during this time but the humidity and heat makes it hard to enjoy the outdoors.
Winter time starts in October and ends in March and is the perfect time to go to Varanasi. The maximum temperatures you can expect are 15°C with lows of 5°C (40 – 60 Fahrenheit).
Why You Should Go
The rich culture and heritage of Varanasi makes it the cultural capital of India. It is the center of spiritualism, mysticism and philosophy as well as other branches of education. In Hindu religion, it is believed that if someone dies and is cremated in Varanasi, they will have an instant gateway to liberation from reincarnation, the cycle of births and rebirths.
There is a festival going on in Varanasi almost every month. A mix of mythology, archaeology, geography and art make it central to Indian Culture. There is a museum in the city where you can go and learn about the history of India.
The city has miles of ghats, steps for religious bathing and a wide array of temples, shrines and palaces. The inner streets are winding and not vehicle friendly but you can get a rickshaw to drive you around. There is a road known as Panchakosi which every devout Hindu hopes to walk on at least once in their lifetime. More than a million pilgrims walk this road every year.
Photo credit: Lyle Vincent