The ghats are probably the first things that come to our minds when we think of Varanasi. Whether it is Dashashwamedh or Manikarnika, each of these ghats are undoubtedly a spectacle to behold. From the sight of bodies being cremated and priests performing their rituals to people making offerings to God, the ghats indeed offer pageantry of the cycle of life and death. However, while these ghats are a must-visit when you are in Varanasi, the city has a lot more to offer, after all, not for nothing is it called ‘the spiritual heart of India’.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Legend has it that people who breathe their last breath in this temple will attain liberation from the vicious cycle of life and death. Located on the banks of the holy Ganges, the temple houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Before you pay your visit, it may be interesting to know that it is considered a tradition to give up at least one desire after a pilgrimage to Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
Sankat Mochan Mandir
Located on the banks of River Assi, Sankat Mochan Temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. A trip to Varanasi is said to be incomplete without a pilgrimage to this temple. Another significance of this temple is that it is the place where Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitmanas. As the name ‘Sankat Mochan’ translates to ‘reliever from problems’, devotees believe that a visit to this religious site would fulfill their wishes. This is also one of the many reasons why Varanasi is called the spiritual heart of India.
Annapurna Devi Mandir
The temple is dedicated to Goddess Annapurna who is known as the Hindu goddess of food and nourishment and is also an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. Constructed during the early 18th century by Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao, the temple enshrines two icons of Goddess Annapurna – one made of gold and the other of brass. Annapurna Devi Mandir is situated in Visheshwarganj, Varanasi, around 5 kilometers southeast of Kashi Vishwanath Mandir.
Sankata Devi Temple
Though lesser-known, the temple also holds great significance as Sankata Devi is one of the main goddesses worshipped in the city of Varanasi. She is also said to be a manifestation of Goddess Chandi and a sister of Vaishno Devi. The temple is located near Sindhia Ghat and the goddess is believed to have the power of helping her devotees get rid of their problems.
Varanasi, the spiritual heart of India, holds significance not only in Hinduism but in Buddhism as well. Did you know that Sarnath, situated about 10 km northeast of Varanasi is where Lord Gautam Buddha first taught the Dharma after attaining enlightenment? In 389 BC, King Ashoka built stupas and a pillar in Sarnath.
Today, only the ruins of the monuments and stupas remain. However, there is nothing like taking a walk and immersing yourself in a place that holds a rich historical and cultural significance.
Nevertheless, whether you are a devotee or a mere wanderer, Varanasi is a place that you don’t want to miss. Though summers may be sweltering, if you visit during the cooler times of the year, there is so much you can do. Take a boat ride at sunrise, try community yoga, trail hippie cafes or visit the silk market, the city will have a lot to offer.