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If there was ever a word to describe the concept and layout of Bharat Mata Mandir, it is INIMITABLE. This one isn't an ode to the legacies of Laxmi, Shiva, Ganesha, Hanuman or Ram; it is the ultimate tribute to Mother India (Bharat Mata). Upon entering, one is stunned into silence with the sunken-level three-dimensional relief map of undivided India, carved from marble and with every proportion in place. The range of Himalayas protruding upwards particularly catches the eye, so do the smaller mountain ranges and oceans along the west coast. Brainchild of the artistic duo of Babu Shiv Prashad Gupta and Shri Durga Prashad Khatri, this matchless work of art was built in 1936 and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi.
The fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva, 'Kaal Bhairav' is a god of destruction and is ardently worshiped in many parts of India and Nepal. The Kaal Bhairav Temple of Varanasi is a major stop for pilgrims who are captivated by its atmosphere and vivid colors. The temple has a silver idol in the sanctum which is filled with incense and lamps. Established in the 18th Century, this temple has a demonstration of nine planets and the walls have pictorial representations of mythological characters. The narrow road, the crammed entrance, and the vendors selling black ceremonial threads inside give an intriguing feel to this popular religious sight.
Dedicated to the Parshvanath, the 23rd Thirthankara (preacher of Jainism) of Jainism, this temple is a visual treat in Bhelupura. Parshvanath was born in Varanasi and this temple is considered as the preserved monument of his birthplace. The golden spire is a stunning sight which attracts attention from way outside the street. The tranquil setting emanates the peace and harmony of the Jain philosophy and a visit will remarkably influence spirited minds.
Wooden carvings adorn the walls of this small beautiful temple, built by the King of Nepal, at the Lalitha Ghat. Reminiscent of a rich tradition of craftsmanship, the temple creates awe in the eyes of every visitor. The setting is peaceful and calm with a natural silence lingering around the place. Inside the shrine is the Pasupathi Nath Shiva Linga, which is worshiped by devotees. There is a nominal entry fee to visit the Nepali temple, which goes to the welfare trust of the temple.
Pointing to a time when horse sacrifice was common, the translation of the name Dasashwamedh says 'the place where ten horses were sacrificed'. Hindu mythology says the creator Brahma did a sacrifice here to let Lord Shiva get back to Varanasi; and thus it is one of the most auspicious sites for Hindus all over the world. This is the site of the stunning Ganga Aarti, which is performed daily on the raised platforms on the ghat with seven priests doing choreographed ritualistic offerings to mother Ganga. Considered as the most important ghat along the banks of Ganga, a large number of guesthouses and restaurants are located around the area. The main burning ghat, Manikarnika is towards the north. One of the most ancient sites in the city, Dasaswamedh Ghat is a legendary sight filled with tourists and pilgrims.
The exalted Kashi Vishwanath Temple finds itself mentioned in ancient Hindu scriptures, and was actually built in 490 CE but fell prey to successive demolitions by the Mughal invaders all through the centuries. The present temple was built in 1790 by the warrior queen Ahilyabhai Holkar who was aggrieved by the wanton destruction of age-old sacred structures. Hindus believe that a dip in the river Ganges and a visit to this temple serves to break free from the cycle of rebirth. Also referred to as Golden Temple because of the spire which was made from pure gold donated by Maharaja Ranjith Singh, this temple is a must-visit. The main deity here is a black lingam upon which devotees pour blessed water. Foreigners have to register their passports to enter the premises as security has been beefed up in recent years due to the looming terrorist threat. Mobile phones, cameras and bags of all visitors have to be deposited at any of the shops that line the entrance, while police urge crowds to hurry and keep moving. The experience is most intense, intriguing and divine.
In tune with the enormous religious potential of Varanasi, Shri Siddh Hanumanji Nyas is a Hindu religious sight at Scindhia Ghat in Varanasi. The refreshing spiritual practice of 'Nyas', which rejuvenates mind and body by the constant chanting of mantras is the highlight of the place. Located in an old building close to the Scindhia Guest House, this place is visited by large number of foreign and Indian spiritual seekers. Dedicated to Lord Hanuman, this place will replenish the hidden energy sources inside you.
Alternately known as Aurangzeb Mosque or Dharahara Mosque, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)- protected Alamgir Mosque enjoys a superb location along the relatively quieter Panchganga Ghat which is sacred to Hindu bathers. A steep climb will lead you up to one of Varanasi's most celebrated landmarks which pretty much defines the skyline with its spectacular brown minarets. Built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb upon the site of the Bindu Madhava Temple, legend has it that this structure was actually much taller than its present state, and the Emperor enjoyed views all across to Delhi! While there is no way of verifying this, there remains no doubt that this mosque is a must-visit especially for its unusual architecture manifesting both Hindu and Mughal elements. Its proximity to the nearby Shri Laxmi Narayan Mandir and the newer Bindu Mahadev Temple reflects the co-existence of 2 major world religions - Hinduism and Islam.
Built in 1964 as a memorial to Tulsi Das, the author of the Hindi version of the epic Ramayana, this magnificent temple is a major tourist attraction in the city. Built in white marble, the temple has beautiful gardens surrounding it. The interiors are large and spacious and exudes an aura of Indian religious zeal. The engravings on the walls read excerpts from 'Ramcharitmanas' and the major shrine has statues of Ram and Sita. The vast area upstairs has figurines that creatively describe various mythological scenes. Sankat Mochan Temple and Durga Temple are nearby.
The word Sankat Mochan translates to freer of troubles - and that's the tag devotees have put on the deity of this temple, Lord Hanuman. A busy religious sight in the holy city of Varanasi, the temple was restructured in the early 20th Century by the founder of Banaras Hindu University, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. Inside the temple there are dual shrines of Hanuman and Shri Ram facing each other. The main offering here is the delicious Indian sweet Laddu. A must-visit location in Varanasi, Sankat Mochan temple is only minutes away from the popular Tulsi Manas Mandir and the stunning Durga Temple.
Mark Twain described Varanasi as 'older than history, older than tradition, older than legend'; this epitomizes the inspirations and experiences this ancient city offers to any visitor that graces its sacred streets. The seat of Hinduism, believed to be directly governed by the supreme deity Lord Shiva Himself, it is also the site where one seeks moksha, or liberation from the endless cycle of life and death. At the holy riverfront of the sacred Manikarnika Ghat, publicly-held cremation ceremonies reinforce this timeless belief. The scenic stretch of steps, also known as the Dashashwamedh Ghat, on the banks of the mythical River Ganges, outlines the deeply iconic legacy of Varanasi. As the sun sets on this holy city, the ghat comes alive with religious rituals that awaken and stir even the most non-religious of souls. The city returns to a state of calm soon after, until the first rays of the sun render it alive again. Several historic monuments that tremble with divinity dot its streets,from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the Sankat Mochan Temple, to Bharat Mata Mandir the Buddhist site of Sarnath (a few kilometers away). Varanasi, with its narrow alleyways, saffron-robed Godmen, atmospheric ghats and a cornucopia of smells is a splendid milieu of sought-after chaos.
Located 13 kilometers (8 miles) away from the holy city of Varanasi, Sarnath is a major site of Buddhist pilgrimage. The deer park here is believed to be the location where Gautama Buddha gave his first lecture after attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya. Also known as Isipatana, the major sight here are the ruins of historic Buddhist establishments mostly destructed by Muslim invasion. Dhamek Stupa, is another conspicuous sight inside this stunning archeological complex. The Archeological Museum and the base of the famous Ashoka Pillar are also things not to miss in Sarnath.The location is bestowed with a lot of Tibetan, Burmese and Chinese monasteries which interests visitors with their distinctive architecture and layout. A small number of guesthouses and restaurants are also available in the area.