Named after Varuna, the Vedic god of water and the sea, this river is a small tributary of the mighty Ganges. The river flows into the Ganges at the northern side of Varanasi, and there are believable theories that the city got its name because of the convergence of two rivers Varuna and Assi. This small and gentle river carves a simple landscape in the northern neighborhoods of the city before reaching out for the confluence.
According to Hindu tradition, people cremated at the Manikarnika Ghat after death will be freed from the chain of life and death. That explains the chaos, mystery, indifference, noise and everything surrounding this area which is said to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The name Manikarnika goes back to the story where Shiva dropped his earrings at the well here during his transcendental dance and it came to know as Manikarnika Kund. The cremations take place without break and fills the air with the smell of burning flesh which is surprisingly not repulsive. Foreigners from all around the globe watch the activities here with much intrigue and the locals take it with compassion though not without a fragment of disdain. The apparent indifferent face of death is reinforced with the underlying philosophy of material transition and is something that has to be experienced.
One of the most prominent sites in Sarnath, where Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, the original structure of Dhamek Stupa was built in 249 BCE by emperor Asoka. This structure was later replaced in 500 CE. Still withstanding some parts of the original build, this is a stunning sight and visited by pilgrims and tourists from all parts of the world. Beautiful stone carvings are visible at the base of this massive 43.6 meter (143.044 feet) structure, which was much taller in its original form. Part of the complex of Ancient Remains, the adjacent compound has a Jain Temple. Archeological Museum, Deer Park and Modern Reception Center are also nearby.
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.
This rectangular pond beside the Durga Temple and Anand Bagh Park is a major land mark in the holy city of Varanasi. Landscaped by the the supreme aesthetics of the Durga temple, Durga Kund is visually appealing. The reflection of the stunning red structure of the temple bestows charm to the water in the pond which is otherwise dull. Built in the 18th Century by a Queen of Bengal, the pond was once used by devotees for a dip.
Maintained by the Archeological Survey of India, this stupa (Mound-like structure with Buddhist vestiges) is supposed to be built between 4th and 6th Century BCE. The octagonal shape of the imposing edifice is the result of a modification during the period of Humayun, a Mughal ruler. The brick-walled spectacle has a striking appeal which distinguishes it from the numerous relics around the area. Dhamek Stupa, Ancient Ruins and the Archeological Museum are must-visit sights in close proximity to the Chaukhandi Stupa.
A historic temple considered to be over 2000 years old, Dharmesh Temple is a well-worthy site to visit near the Hotel Alka in Meer Ghat. The preserved atmosphere has a serene vibe and the surrounding areas are inhabited by families who conduct the religious rituals at the temple. The historic 'well,' located in the same premises, known as 'Dharmesh Koop' is also a sacred sight to watch. The old 'Shanidev Tree' is another spectacle in the compound. Do visit the temple and talk to the people around who will explain the rich history willingly.
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.
With a mythological tale attached to it this is one of the most visited among the numerous temples in Varanasi. Known as 'Shakti Peetha,' the story says the earrings of Sati, Lord Shiva's consort, fell here while she died and the place came to know as Manikarni. Although historians differ in their opinions, the name Visalakshi denotes the vast-eyed divinity that is omnipresent. A marked south Indian accent is noted in the construction and the bright colors used. Visalakshi Temple is a must-visit site near Alka Hotel and Dharmesh Temple.
Hidden along the narrow alleys from the Man Mandir Ghat, the temple of Varahi has a small shrine with the goddess Varahi adorned in bright red. History says Varahi was one of the 64 pilgrims who were sent by Lord Shiva on a spiritual mission, but enthralled by the charm of Varanasi, decided to stay here. The worshipers of this temple are predominantly women. The temple transforms with vibrant colors and a new look during the nine-day Navarathri festival. Man Mandir Observatory and Kashi Vishwanath Temple are just minutes away.
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.