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The holy city's Banaras Art Gallery is a thriving fine art exposition space established in the year 1988. Set up to promote the vibrant culture and illustrious heritage of the city, it supports various modern as well as tribal artistes of the region. Art lovers can explore myriad art works depicting Varanasi in various forms and portrayals. The gallery also runs the PUNARWAS art program in a bid to provide a successful platform to emerging artistes.
This is the unofficial yet lionized home of long-term backpackers, researchers and students who have chosen to stay on for extended periods of time in Varanasi. The southernmost ghat on the long stretch of ghats, life at Assi is as indulgent as the water buffaloes who wallow around for hours on end in the Ganges. Despite its distance from the main burning ghats, travelers head here for a break from the intrusive touts, guides, fake holy men, beggars, boat men, masseurs and even children who participate with great fervor in the contrived chaos. Assi has a large Jewish community and this is reflected through the hotels and cafes with names such as Haifa and Yafah which serve up typically Middle Eastern dishes like hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush and kawwah (Arabic Coffee). Assi Ghat has been mentioned in the ancient Indian Vedic texts and commands the respect of Indian pilgrims too who arrive here in boats or on foot for a holy dip.
Founded by Ruchika Mehrotra, a Master of Fine Arts degree holder from the esteemed Banaras Hindu University, Ruchika Art Gallery is truly a treasure trove of traditional Indian crafts. The talented artists recreates the breathtaking Varanasi ghats on her canvas, while also weaves magic with antique replicas and Ganesha models. The atmosphere at the gallery is quite welcoming and ambient, complete with soothing music being played in the background and the courteous staff bringing you a cup of tea as soon as you walk in.
Located in the heart of Sarnath, The Garden of Spiritual Wisdom is one of the most visited attractions of the city. Found behind the striking Chaukhandi Stupa, it is home to an array of sculptures and displays portraying the fundamentals of Buddhism. A small garden inside contains a number of medicinal plants and shrubs, acquainting visitors with Ayurveda and its benefits.
The Mahabodhi Society of India was established by the Sri Lankan pilgrim Anagarika Dhammapala in May 1891, and has been accredited with spawning a new lease of life into Buddhism in India. He arrived in Bodhgaya and was astonished to find the ancient Mahabodhi Temple under the control of a Hindu Brahmin priest, and the Buddha's image replaced with a Hindu idol. Anagarika started a massive protest and even filed a lawsuit against the priests. Slowly but surely, his society emerged victorious and took on the responsibility of renovating ancient neglected Buddhist sites in Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar, all of which are crucial pilgrimage points for worshipers. Today this society has branches even in Kolkatta, Orissa, New Delhi, Chennai, Ajmer, Lucknow and Bangalore.
Legend has it that the 11th Jain Tirthankara named Shreyanshnath was born here at the Shri Digambar Jain Mandir which lies right to the southwest of the Dhamek Stupa. This temple attracts not just Jains but also Buddhists from India and South East Asia, as well as Hindu pilgrims who make a day-trip from Varanasi. Built in 1824, the temple exudes a peaceful exuberance that matches the serenity of the ancient Sarnath precincts.