Varanasi – A Popular Pilgrimage
Varanasi or Banaras as it is commonly known, is a hub of culture, literature, religion and art. In Hinduism, it is considered one of the holiest cities. The city is also considered sacred by Jains as well as Buddhists. The varied culture of this grand city also shows colours of Islamic culture. Thus it can be said that the city is a perfect amalgamation of various traditions and cultures. It has many temples, mosques and churches. Some of the highlights of the city are given below.
- Kashi Vishwanath Temple
It is one of the most famous temples in Varanasi and it is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple has a long history, and is said to be as old as the city.After its construction, the temple was destroyed by Mughals around 1194. The temple was rebuilt in 1780 by Ahilya Bai (Hindu Maratha queen of the Malwa kingdom of Indore). Again during the rule of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, the temple was destroyed and a mosque was built. It is believed by experts that the Shivling was thrown in the well and resides there till now.
- Gyanvapi Mosque
The Gyanvapi mosque was built when the temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb. But today, both the Kashi Vishwanath temple, and the mosque exist side by side. The remains of the old temple can be seen behind the mosque.
- St. Mary’s Church
St. Mary’s Church is one of the most famous churches of Varanasi and is situated in the cantonment area. It is unique in its architecture and that’s what makes it different from all other churches in the city. It has louvered doors on the side of the main structure.
Sarnath is just 10 km from the main city of Varanasi and is considered one of the main pilgrimage places for Buddhism. It was in Sarnath that Lord Buddha preached his first sermon, thus making the place religiously important.
- Durga Temple
The Durga temple is an 8th century temple which is built in Nagara style. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga. The temple has beautiful stone work with intricate details around the entire temple campus. The temple also has a square pond in front of it and has ornamental stone details on the walls.
- Bharat Mata Temple
This particular temple is dedicated to Mother India. It was built in 1936 by Mahatma Gandhi himself.
The entire city of Varanasi has about 100 Ghats (a ‘Ghat’ is a series of steps that lead down to the river). There are various Ghats for different purposes. While some are known to be the bathing Ghats where devotees take a dip in the holy Ganges and wash away their sins, others are exclusively for meditation, yoga and religious rituals of various kinds. There are some Ghats which are known as the burning Ghats, where the dead bodies are burnt so that the souls of the deceased may attain moksha or salvation.
- Pilgrimage for Jains
The city is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty third Tirthankar of Jains, making the city is an important place for pilgrimage for Jains as well.
- Tulsi Manas Temple
The temple is dedicated to Lord Ram and was built by a philanthropist’s family in 1964. Religious experts believe that the temple is built where Tulsidas wrote the epic Ramcharitmanas.
The city shows the harmonious coexistence of various religions, which exemplifies the concept of unity in diversity.