Varanasi is a holy city of India.
Both Hindus and non-Hindus from around the world visit Varanasi for different reasons. Popularly called the city of Shiva and Ganga, Varanasi is simultaneously the city of temples, the city of ghats, the city of music, and the center for moksha, or nirvana.
For every visitor, Varanasi has a different experience to offer. The gentle waters of the Ganges, the boat ride at sunrise, the high banks of the ancient ghats, the array of shrines, the meandering narrow serpentine alleys of the city, the myriad temple spires, the palaces at water’s edge, the ashrams (hermitages), the pavilions, the chanting of mantras the fragrance of incense, the palm and cane parasols, the devotional hymn—all offer a kind of mystifying experience that is unique to the city of Shiva.
Varanasi is also famous for its antique temples. The renowned Kashi Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva has a lingam—the phallic icon of Shiva—that goes back to the time of the great epics. Skanda Purana by Kasikanda mentions this temple of Varanasi as Shiva’s abode, and it has withstood the onslaught of various invasions by Muslim rulers.
The present temple was rebuilt by Rani Ahalya Bai Holkar, the ruler of Indore, in 1776. Then in 1835, the Sikh ruler of Lahore, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, had its 15.5 meter high (51 feet-high) spire plated in gold. Since then it is also known as the Golden Temple.
In addition the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, there are other famous temples in Varanasi.
- The 8th century Durga Temple, situated on the Ramnagar Pandav road, is home to hundreds of monkeys that reside in the nearby trees.
- Another popular temple is the Sankatmochan Temple, dedicated to the simian-god Hanuman.
- Varanasi’s Bharat Mata Temple is probably the only temple in India that is dedicated to the ‘Mother India.’ Inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936, it has a big relief map of India carved in marble.
- Another relatively new temple is the Tulsi Manas Temple built in honor of Lord Rama in 1964 at the place where Tulsidas composed the Ramacharitmanas, the vernacular version of the epic of Ramayana. The walls of this temple adorn the scenes and verses depicting the exploits of Lord Rama.
Other significant places of worship include the Sakshi Vinayaka Temple of Ganesha, the Kaal Bhairav Temple, the Nepali Temple, built by the King of Nepal on Lalita Ghat in Nepali style, the Bindu Madhav Temple near the Panchaganga Ghat, and the Tailang Swami Math.