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.
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.
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.
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.
Perched on the terrace of the magnificent Man Mahal Palace, Jantar Mantar is Varanasi's prime observatory, designed to the likes of the ones found in New Delhi and Jaipur. Constructed by Maharaja Jai Singh in they year 1737, the science museum showcases various milestones of India achieved in the field of astrology and science. Apart from serving its main purpose of helping determine stars and planet positions, it also helps to measure altitude, local standard time and the sun position.
Set upon the eastern banks of the River Ganges is the imposing Ramnagar Fort which was built from red sandstone and marble in the 17th Century by Maharajah Balwant Singh. The sprawling complex also includes a couple of temples which enjoy expansive views of the river and of melancholic sunsets which get further compounded by silhouettes of the water buffaloes trudging along forlornly in the distance. A museum within, captivates visitors with its collection of Rolls Royce cars, hunting rifles and palanquins which were used by members of the erstwhile royal family. The Maharajah of Varanasi lives here in his palace which is off-limits to casual tourists. The best time to visit is probably before sunset as this is one of the few attractions in Varanasi which affords visitors sunset views. Entrance to the fort complex itself is free but charges apply for museum entry.
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.
IP Cinema is a movie theatre located in the Sigra area of Varanasi. It caters to Bollywood Hindi films and releases new films on Fridays. The place is generally crowded on the weekends so advance booking is recommended. This movie theatre is located inside IP Sigra Mall so if you have time, you can indulge yourself in shopping before or after the movie. It is a nice place to spend some time with your loved ones.
Located in the JHV Mall, this modern movie hall is a contrasting addition to the ancient city and its historic appeal. With its charming appearance, top notch features and classy amenities, JHV Cinemas attracts a relatively smaller crowd of style-conscious movie-lovers of Varanasi. The extremely good acoustic features prove to be an asset to this cinema. Screening new releases from Hollywood and Bollywood, watching a show here will be a pleasant experience.
Nestled in the heart of the buzzing Maheshpur town, Godowlia Market is swarming with local traders selling all kinds of stuff at great bargains. Found at a short distance from the nearest railway station, it is labeled as one of the busiest open markets of the city, and quite rightly so. The cramped lanes are packed with stalls selling household essentials, ethnic jewelry, handmade shawls and zari garments, among other intricately designed apparel. Post a tiring shopping spree at Godowlia, one may choose the visit the serene Kashi Temple lying a few blocks ahead.
Constantly buzzing with activity, there is not a single dull moment in Varanasi. Whether be it the festivals, fairs, exhibitions or concerts, there is always some thing to do there. Abhinandan Udyan is a versatile venue that can be rented out for various cultural activities as well as private events. It is located near the Indian Oil Petrol Pump and is not too far away from public transport.