Varanasi, also known as Kashi and Banaras, is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth. Situated in Uttar Pradesh on the banks of river Ganga, it is among the most revered religious destinations in India.
Varanasi got its name from two rivers – Varuna and Assi – which meet here. The word Kashi is derived from the word ‘Kas’ which means to shine. Varanasi is famous for the bathing ghats along the banks of river Ganga. Pilgrims throng these Ghats to take a holy dip and rid themselves of sins.
Varanasi has been synonymous with the majestic river Ganga and her numerous rivulets. The Ganga Aarti held every evening at Dasashwamedha Ghat is a sight to behold.
The Kashi Vishwanath temple and is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, the holiest of pilgrimages dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Varanasi is important for Hindus as they believe those who die in Varanasi attain salvation. Many people like to spend their old-age in this holy city and prefer to die here. Varanasi is also preferred site for immersing ashes of the dead in river Ganga. Performing funeral rites and cremation in the pyres are very common sights here.
WHERE TO STAY
Varanasi has numerous Ashrams around the Ghats. Affordable hotels and lodgings are available in the interior sections of the city. The hotels also provide travel and medical assistance to the guests. The city gets very hot and humid in summer, but is quite cool during the nights. Air-conditioned rooms are available in almost all hotels. Most hotels here are located near the Ghats and offer a beautiful view of the Ganges.
WHERE TO EAT
Food in Varanasi is basically traditional, plain and simple. Roof-top restaurants offering homemade food are also available. The restaurants and bars (found in some hotels) serve variety of cuisines. Restaurants located closer to the ghats cater more to foreign tourists. To get the taste of authentic Banarasi food, head to the main market area. The city is also known for its sweetmeats. You can’t go from Varanasi without trying street food specialties like aloo chat and pani puri. But the one thing you must try here is the famous ‘Benarasi Paan’ (mixture of betel nut leaves, arecanut, tobacco and lime), made even more popular by Bollywood movies and songs.
The famous Bhang is a potent, powdered form of canabis often mixed into lassis, and called Bhang Lassi. As Varanasi is a major center of Shiva worship, it is offered to the Lord in form of prasad. It can be quite intoxicating. Thandai is a cool milk based drink made with pistachios, almonds and saffron, served with a large dollop of malai (cream). Many thandai and lassi stores are located near the Godowlia area.
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Varanasi is as given below. The best time to visit Varanasi is also specified.