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.
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.
With a vast collection of vintage cars, palanquins, weapons and other artifacts, the museum inside Ramnagar Fort takes you through a ride back to the glorious rule of Varanasi Kings. The museum effortlessly creates the atmosphere of royal living in tune with the general vibe felt at this nostalgic city. Like the surreal sunset that is visible from the Fort balcony, the museum creates a sense of well being and good taste through the numerous collectibles and art works. The dark corridors and the preserved courtroom tell stories of a rich past. The highlight of the Ramnagar Museum is an astrological clock which displays the phases of moon along with the correct time and date. Do not miss this awe-inspiring destination which is just ten minutes away from Assi Ghat. Also visit the few historic temples around the area like the Vyasa Temple and the Durga Temple. Admission price different for foreign nationals.
The Deer Park in Sarnath was where Lord Buddha gave his first discourse while sitting amongst the Brahmins of Kapilavastu. Not much seems to have changed even now in these tranquil confines where one can spot the occasional deer frolicking in the foliage, blissfully unaware of the world outside. Reminiscent of the days gone by, one is almost taken back to the history class text book chapter, 'Sermon in the Deer Park'. The word Sarnath actually comes from Saranganath which means 'Lord of the Deer', a nickname given to Buddha.
Located on the first floor of the same building as Wow India is Assi Ghat's very own Qeritica Art Gallery which welcomes visitors into its air-conditioned confines accentuated by stark white walls and pristine floors. Boasting 12,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection, this versatile space often doubles up as a venue for symposiums, awards and art camps. The friendly curators will gladly show you around and even take you to the adjacent Banares Sculpture Gallery.
Believed to be set upon the confluence of 5 sacred rivers namely Ganga, Saraswati, Yamuna, Kirana and Dhutapapa, the Panchganga Ghat is relatively quieter than its counterparts but this makes it no less special. One of India's most venerated poets Tulsidas put together his masterpiece Vinay-Patrikahere right here. Several thousand years later not much has changed and one often finds pilgrims taking a holy dip in the river during full moon nights - this makes for a unforgettable spectacle! Easily identified even from afar by the looming outline of the Alamgir Mosque, Panchganga serves as one of the main entrances to the aforesaid mosque, the Bindu Madhava Temple, Shri Matha and Shri Laxmi Narayan Temple.
The foresighted founder of the Banares Hindu University recognized the pressing need for women to break through the existing oppressive social barriers which affected their independence and life as a whole. In 1929, a plan was announced to set aside 45 acres of land for the Women's College or Mahila Mahavidyalaya which coincidentally also happened to be in the forefront during India's freedom struggle and during the infamous Indo-China war. Today this college is keeping pace with changing times and regularly hosts debates, essay writing competitions, quizzes and other extra-curricular activities for its students. Check website for details.