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Exploring Varanasi’s temples: A detailed guide for travellers

Exploring Varanasi’s temples: A detailed guide for travellers
PEOPLE & CULTURE

By Aquib Nawab

01 Jul, 2024

The holy city of Varanasi in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has been one of the spiritual centres for Hindus. In India, Varanasi is among the most visited pilgrimage sites, with over 2000 shrines. This detailed guide will help you plan your temple tour in Varanasi.

Getting to Varanasi

Varanasi

Varanasi Ghat | Credits: Canva

Varanasi is well connected by air, rail, and road. The Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport receives flights from all major Indian cities. There are overnight trains running from Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, or Kolkata as well. Luxury buses frequently depart from nearby cities. To get around the city, hire a taxi or auto rickshaw, as driving yourself could be problematic due to the narrow, winding alleys in the old city.

  • By air: The Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport receives flights from all major Indian cities.
  • By train: There are overnight trains running from Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, or Kolkata as well.
  • By road: Luxury buses frequently depart from nearby cities.

The best way to explore these temples is on foot. Most sites are clustered around the Ganges river bank of the old city area.

Top temples to visit

1. Kashi Vishwanath temple

The Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the most popular places of worship for Hindus who come here in large numbers every year. Though the figure is hard to tell, approximations put it at around ten million visitors annually. The most impressive part of the temple is its towering spire, which has been intricately designed and plated with eight hundred kilograms of gold, which Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated.

Getting to the shrine through the crowded temple premises might be tougher than you think. Sometimes it will be very difficult to even move a step or see where you are going but you will find an inexplicable sense of calm inspite of the minor incoveniences.

Inside the temple, there are hymns being sung by worshippers. Ardent devotees chant “Har Har Mahadev" in praise of Lord Shiva. Priests perform mesmerising Aarti ceremonies accompanied by melodious bells ringing and lamps glowing. Soak in some spiritual atmosphere, but expect large crowds, especially during festivals.

The Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi | Credits: Canva

2. Kaal Bhairav temple

Kaal Bhairav Temple in Varanasi is an esteemed place of worship where people pay homage to Kaal Bhairav, a fierce avatar of Shiva. “Kotwal of Varanasi,” as he is known, is regarded as the patron god of this town.

Its history goes back to very old periods and it has great importance for all those who are looking for safety and blessings. For example, the god is shown holding a trident and noose which symbolize power and justice. The temple’s peculiar traditions and lively mood have made it popular among tourists from different parts of the world.

Kaal Bhairav

The Kaal Bhairav temple in Varanasi | Credits: kashiarchan

3. Durga kund temple

The popular Durga temple, situated inside Ramnagar Fort, sits along the river Ganga. This is an 18th-century shrine dedicated to Hindu Goddess Durga.

It has majestic red-coloured spires, intricately carved pillars, and elaborate wall panels, which render it visually captivating. You must cross the Ganga by boat which takes about an hour– Take the help of locals if you have any queries.

The sight of colourful umbrellas dotted on ghats, along with the stunningly beautiful view of the Ganges, makes the boat ride an epic one! Priests chanting mantras on one hand and devotees signing devotional songs on the other make it a spiritual experience like no other.

The fortress is surrounded by lush greenery, which adds to its beauty for sure. Depending on the time of year and day of the week, crowd size may vary; however, generally speaking, it is not as crowded as other major temples in Varanasi.

Durga kund

The Durga temple in Varanasi | Credits: ciroinfocus, Instagram

4. Tulsi Manas temple

Built-in 1964, the Tulsi Manas temple represents one of Varanasi’s newest shrines, unlike many other age-old temples found there. This temple pays homage to Lord Rama, who plays a central role in the Hindu epic Ramayana.

There is a well-maintained outdoor lawn with fountains in the temple complex, which provides a peaceful environment for visitors. While it may not be as crowded as some major temples, there is always a steady stream of devotees coming here on religious occasions.

The Tulsi Manas temple in Varanasi | Credits: Canva

5. Sankat Mochan temple

Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi, dedicated to Lord Hanuman, is a revered shrine for worshippers seeking solace. It was founded by the eminent freedom fighter and Hindu sage Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya in the early 20th century and it nestles along the tranquil banks of Assi river.

The air in here is laden with Marigold as well as Jasmine scent while the singing of Hanuman Chalisa creates spiritual highness. The temple is not only an important religion destination but also a hub of cultural and social events that showcase Varanasi’s vibrant character.

The Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi | Credits: Canva

6. Nepali temple

The Nepali Temple in Varanasi, also called Kathwala Temple, is a striking example of Nepalese architecture which can be found on Lalita Ghat along the Ganges River. It was constructed by the Nepal’s king during the 19th century and it has magnificent woodcrafts and carvings that remind one of Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu.

Nepali Temple's serene ambiance and detailed craftsmanship offer a peaceful retreat from the bustling city, making it a unique cultural gem in Varanasi. The temple’s pagoda-style structure and extravagant embellishments accentuate Nepal’s deep spiritual and artistic bonds with India.

The Nepali temple in Varanasi | Credits: Canva

The best time to visit

Visiting Varanasi’s temples is an enriching experience year-round, but the ideal time depends on what you seek:

October - February: The best times to visit are during these months when the weather is cool and crowds are thinner.

March - May: These months can be hot but manageable, with early mornings and evenings offering pleasant escapes.

June - September: The monsoons bring lush greenery and a special atmosphere, adding a unique charm to the experience.

Pro tip: If you have only a short period of time, then try coming in the early morning from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. to enjoy the quietness and less tourist activity there.

Another option is participating in worship ceremonies by organising your visit around any specific aarti timings.

Varanasi - The city of lights | Credits: Canva

Travel tips

  • During worship at any temple, legs must always be covered.
  • It’s recommended to have some cash for buying tickets to temples, donating, etc.
  • Carry an umbrella, raincoat, hats, peak caps, and quick-drying clothes.
  • Buy a boat return ticket ahead of time before crossing the Durga Temple over the river.
  • To escape throngs, head out early in the morning hours.
  • In the afternoons, eat at ashram restaurants near the temples freely.
  • Attend early morning or evening aartis for quiet and calming experiences.
  • Beware of roadside hawkers offering expensive services outside the gates of the temple.

Varanasi - A mosaic of culture, spirituality, and history | Credits: Canva

Conclusion

Varanasi has many ancient temples that are worth exploring. One can visit this holy city at any time of the year, however, it will be better for you to plan when the crowd is less.

Besides, you make sure that you go to the ghats and participate in rituals while moving from one street food spot to another, which is an amazing experience. Soak in the positive vibes and fully embrace the city's vibrant culture.

Varanasi – Where every flame illuminates a thousand hopes | Credits: Canva
 

Note: The feature image has been generated through AI (Images copyright- Midjourney)

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