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.
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.
A quaint site of active spirituality, the Scindhia Ghat charms with the orchestrated flight of steps to the holy river Ganges. Previously known as Vireswara ghat, this spiritual abode was renovated in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries by different rulers. Being in the proximity of the cremation site, Manikarnika Ghat, this ghat sees a lot of pilgrims coming here for a holy dip in the river. There are platforms specifically made for religious rituals. Local wrestlers exercising in the platforms is an interesting early morning sight here. The Sinking Temple, Vireswara Mandir , Dattatreya Paduka Mandir and Siddh Hanumanji Nyas are the major religious attractions which have this ghat as their base. Another conspicuous presence here is the popular Scindhia Guest House, which offers budget accommodation with impressive river views.
The Ganga Mahal Ghat never fails to capture the imagination of first-time visitors to the holy city of Varanasi. What else can one do other than marvel at the majestic stone brown building that soars into the blue skies while the fortress-like facade looks down benevolently upon the Ganges, it's bathing pilgrims and the dreamy boats! Watch out for the exquisite stone carvings that reflect Rajput architecture.
The adorable green pasture and the well maintained walkways define the visual aesthetics of this prime location in Varanasi. Maintained by the government of Uttar Pradesh, the park is the memorial of the spiritual master Sant Ravidas. The centrally placed fountain and the platform with a statue of the saint provide a surreal ambiance to Sant Ravidas Park in the evenings. Lot of people from around the locality visit the park for a relaxed outing. Flocks of tourists and pilgrims also can be spotted here unwinding.
Started as a small collection in 1917, the Central Library of the Banaras Hindu University has grown into its present status with generous donations from Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda in 1941. The library, presently housed in a majestic building, has a comprehensive collection of books, research journals and study materials. The library offers a lending facility for the students of the university and visitors have to pay a fees to access the reference section. Set in a beautiful green landscape, Sayaji Rao Gaekwad Library evokes a persistent atmosphere of well being and knowledge seeking.
The ingenuous design of St Mary's Cathedral was the handiwork of architect Krishna Menon who successfully conceptualized and executed an architecture which would not be typically Christian but which would also allude to elements of Indian architecture. As opposed to the traditional spire that's common to European cathedrals, this one has a number of sloping roofs tiled with red mangalore tiles. An aerial view presents an interesting geometric pattern that represents a many-sided star. This Roman Catholic church is popular with tourists who often stop by at the basement to view the permanent collection of religious art work.
Dedicated to martyrs of war, Shaheed Udyan is a peaceful garden in Varanasi. The well-curated interiors have walkways which are made use by a lot of morning-walkers around the neighborhood. The spread out reserve has an abundant collection of medicinal plants which gives it the name Herbal Park. Located in close proximity is the landmark Sigra Stadium and Kovil Vegetarian Restaurant.
Kabir Chaura Math Varanasi is a composite collection of the immortal memories of the 15th-century mystic Kabir. The highlight here is the Samadhi-Mandir, a temple where the mortal remains of the saint is kept. Kabir-Hut and Kabir Chabutara, two platforms where the saint used to talk to his followers, is another sight visited with reverence here. Beejak Temple, has a collection of Kabir's scriptures and Neeru Teela, has his parents' remains preserved in a temple-like atmosphere. The complex also has a library and sculptures around a beautifully curated garden. The atmosphere is serene and evokes an interest to go deeper into Kabir's teachings.
Also known as Girja Ghar to the locals of Varanasi, St. Thomas Church belongs to the Protestant Church of North India denomination. It does look a bit out-of-place in a city built by Shiva with strong associations to Hinduism. Most first-time travelers to the city stop at this crossing because auto rickshaws and taxis won't take them any further into the labyrinth of the Old City. Painted in hues of yellow, the architecture is built in typical European style with its main spire soaring into the sky with a cross atop it. Though St.Thomas Church pales in comparison to its more visually striking counterpart St. Mary's Cathedral, it does possess an awkward and unassuming charm of its own.
The lesser-known Dundi Raj Ganesh Mandir lies just a few minutes away from the acclaimed Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Heavily armed policemen are the first thing you will encounter at the entrance, and they will fiercely ward off anyone trying to take photographs even from the entrance. Though this may seem a bit much to foreign travelers, the reasons are more to prevent terrorists from conducting a recce rather than preservation of sanctity. The main deity of this revered temple is Lord Ganesha who is the son of Shiva.
Located along the busy Dasashwamedh Road is the beautiful sandstone Guru Brihaspathi Mandir (temple) whose entrance is lined with shops selling saffron garments sporting ancient Sanskrit verses, Hindu religious symbols or simply the word 'Kashi' (ancient name for Varanasi). Legend has it that Lord Shiva revealed himself to Guru Brihaspathi thousands of years ago here, and till date Hindu pilgrims consider this temple a must-visit. Thursdays are auspicious and getting past the teeming crowds can be a task but if witnessing spiritual fervor at its height appeals to you, go for it!