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Varanasi, one of the ancient and pious cities in India is known for its sanctity and holiness. Located on the banks of the sacred Ganga, this city has always been associated with mysticism, spirituality and decadence.
Whether the melodies of the temple bells or the devotion of the devotees, the tranquil ghats or the chanting of the prayers, the array of temples or the imprints of a rich and splendid era, the devout lands Varanasi has always attracted tourists from all over the world.
Best Time to Visit: October and March
Distnace From Delhi: 816 kms
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Listed below are some of the best Varanasi sightseeing places:
1) Varanasi Ghats
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The ancient city of Varanasi is known famously for its ghats. These ghats dot a stretch of up to 7 kms along the holy Ganges. These ghats offer some of the most spectacular views of the early morning activities that take place on the banks of the holy river.
These ghats make for great sightseeing in Varansai city. There are close to 84 ghats and each of them holds their own significance and importance. Some of the more priestly ghats in Varanasi include Tulsi Ghat, Bhadaini Ghat, Panchkoat Ghat, Dasaswamedh Ghat and Man Mandir Ghat.
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These ghats have been named after famous poets and members of the royal families and are therefore a part of the rich and vibrant history of Varanasi. A famous tourist destination, these ghats come of life during some of the major festivals; these ghats offer certain uniqueness to the many Hindu festivals that are celebrated here.
It is during these festivals that these ghats buzz with several enchanting and saintly activities. However, in order to experience the sanctities of these ghats and their relevance, one should take an early morning stroll along the ghats and imbibe the spirituality of the holy suburbs of Varanasi.
Some of the famous ghats of Varanasi:
- Tulsi Ghat
- Bhadaini Ghat
- Panchkoat Ghat
- Dasaswamedh Ghat
- Man Mandir Ghat
2) Kashi Vishwanath Temple
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The Vishwanath Temple is considered as one of the most sacred temples in Varanasi, and is also considered as one of the best Varanasi sightseeing places. The temple is visited by thousands of pilgrims throughout the year as they gather at the temple to perform ‘abhishekam’ to the holy ‘Jyotirlingam’ or ‘the pillar of light’.
Besides being known as a place of worship, the temple is also considered as an architectural marvel. The temple is also commonly referred to as the ‘Golden Temple’ because of the gold plating done on the spire. The gold for the plating was donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
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Upon entering the courtyard of the temple, you can easily witness the presence of a number of shrines. The temple premises also have a well which is considered as one of the sacred wells in the Hindu mythology. The temple comprises of a mandapa as well as a sanctum.
Even though the interiors of the temple are not as spacious as other temples in Varanasi, the Vishwanath Temple reflects tranquility and is considered as the abode of peace and solace.
3) Ramnagar Fort
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This fort is considered as the last remaining fort of the kings of Ramnagar and is therefore considered as one of the best places of interest for sightseeing in Varanasi city. Located on the other side of the holy Ganges, a portion of this fort is still used by the royal family as their official residence. The easily accessible location of the fort makes it one of the highly visited places in Varanasi; rickshaw and boat rides are the most popular rides to this fort.
The Ramnagar Fort has now been converted into a museum that houses ancient royal artifacts as well as other pieces of historical significance. A section of the fort houses a vintage collection of cars which were used by the royal family in the past.
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You will also get to view some of the old howdahs and palanquins as well as a collection of weapons which were used by the family during warfare. Some of the other parts of the fort showcase some wonderful works of art as well as gifts of the royal family.
The highlight of the fort is the presence of an ancient clock which not only showcases the date, year and month but also offers some insightful information about astronomy.
4) Chunar Fort
This famous fort was a military establishment and has earned a reputation as one of the popular Varanasi sightseeing places. In fact, it is often said that most kings took over the fort and converted it into an army camp. The famous, Babar, the Mughal ruler also captured this fort and used it as an army camp too. The impounding and massive walls of the fort proved to be the best line of defense; they also restricted the escape of the inmates.
Upon looking closely at the fort walls, you will notice the slanted apertures of rifle butts which were made by the sentries stationed at the fort. The fort also has a tiny temple right in the heart of the premises which was used earlier as a place of worship but has since been abandoned.
The fort also has a jail on its premises which boasts of small dungeons which were used to capture enemies. The dungeons only have small holes which were used for ventilation. Above the dungeons were the army barracks where the soldiers would stay and keep guard.
You will also come across an execution chamber among the ruins of the fort. However, there are quite a few people who come to visit the fort round the year as it has an interesting story behind it.
5) ABC Art Gallery
This famous art gallery can be found on Durga Kund Road and is considered to be one of the best Varanasi sightseeing places. The gallery offers visitors a look into the ancient culture of Varanasi as well as provides a glimpse of the transition from the ancient way of life to a newer and modern world with contemporary looks.
The gallery houses some important works of several well known artists and painters of India. The colourful and thoughtful ambience of the art gallery will surely make you feel connected with the canvases and portraits within the gallery.
This feeling will gradually get strengthened with your visit to many different exhibitions. The paintings and other works of art are a true depiction of the contemporary society of Varanasi. These paintings highlight the contrasted fusion of old and new facets of the holy city through the strokes of various colours.
Amidst all the modernisation, Varanasi still holds the charm and benevolence of a rustic and balmy world, and this can be witnessed with a visit to the ABC Art Gallery. Also, the art gallery does not charge an entry fee and is therefore open to the general public from around 3-7 pm.
If you are longing to know more about Varanasi and its vicinity, you must visit this art gallery. For history buffs, this art gallery is the Shangri-La of knowledge and facts about Varanasi and its piousness.
6) Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum
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This famous museum was constructed in the year 1902 and is among the places of sightseeing in Varanasi city. The museum is also internationally recognized as a place of interest as it houses some ancient pieces of art and various other artefacts that enrich the history of Varanasi. Over the years, the museum has grown steadily through the addition of a modest collection of historical pieces of art.
The museum houses close to more than 100,000 memorable pieces of art which include some of the oldest archaeological materials, paintings and decorative art. In addition to paintings, the museum also houses memorabilia, textiles, costumes, large collection postage stamps of ancient India. This collection is quite rare and has been exquisitely preserved by the Government.
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The museum has become famous owing to the fact that it houses a priceless collection of ancient materials as well as a great collection of miniature paintings.
Most of the visitors who frequent this museum include scholars, teachers, students, alum from the nearby universities and enthusiasts of art and history. Well, the uniqueness and vivacity of this museum makes it one of the preferred Varanasi sightseeing places.
7) Ashoka Pillar, Sarnath
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The Ashoka Pillar, or more commonly referred to as the ‘Lion Capital’, is a world renowned sculpture of four lions, standing back to back. Constructed by King Asoka, the structure stands 7 feet high and is grand and elaborate. Its historical significance bestows it to be the best Varanasi sightseeing places.
This sculpture was initially placed on top of the A?oka Pillar at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. This pillar is also sometimes referred to as the A?oka Column and can still be found in its original location; however the Lion Capital has been shifted to the Sarnath Museum.
It is interesting to note that the Lion Capital of Ashoka, which is located in Sarnath was adopted as the National Emblem of India. The ‘Ashoka Chakra’ that can be found at the base of the structure has also been placed right in the centre of India’s National Flag. The capital has been carved from sandstone and stands as a separate entity from the entire structure.
8) Sarnath Archaeological Excavation Area
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It should be noted that from the year of 1907 onwards, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has continued repeated excavations at the historical place of Sarnath, making it one of the best Varanasi sightseeing places.
Sarnath’s main excavation site is composed of a vast expanse of low lying monuments and structures. It is interesting to note that you can also witness the various elements of Buddhist history, their growth origin as well as other facets which can be found in and around this site.
While visiting this excavation area, you can also witness the ancient relics of the various aspects Buddhist Art. Most of these scripts were written with signs and symbols and were used to communicate the preaching and ideology of the Buddhist faith.
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Among these relics, one of the most significant relics is located in the area is the famous Asoka Pillar which was erected during the early 250 B.C. As you delve deeper into the open complex, you will find a considerable amount of ruins; you will also be able to find monasteries which date back to older periods.
It should also be noted that these monasteries were constructed around the 4th to the 12th century, and they outlooks a clear picture of the architectural skills of the ancient era. The Dhamekh Stupa is one of the most remarkable structures in this area; it is estimated to be constructed during the reign of the Guptas.
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