The Kassi Vishwanath Temple: One of the prime jotirlingas, the Shiva temple of Kashi is one of the most revered temples of India. One has to pass through some very narrow corridors to reach the temple. En route, there will be many temples of different Gods and Goddess of Hindu religion. On either sides of the road, you will find shops of varies nature. The paan masala and the brassware deserve a special mention. The temple is open for the entire day. However, there is a special entry in the early morning and in the evening for Rs.51 per head, which entitles you to be a part of the limited devotees that are allowed inside, and is highly recommended.
The temple has been the eyesore of different Muslim rules sans Akbar, and it has been destroyed again and again. Aurangzeb had built his Alamgir Mosque after destroying the temple in 1669, right over it. The azan minars on top of the mosque are still known as benimadhab’s Dhwaza, as the destroyed temple was built by Beni Madav Rao Scindhia. The actual temple was behind the mosque. Its ruins were completely destroyed in the floods of 1948. However, parts of the temple’s architecture and works can still be seen in the foundation of the mosque and at its rear side. Hiuen Tsang had mentioned that the Shiv Linga measured a 100 hands, and was bronze colored.
The present mandir was built by Rani Ahalya Bai of Indore in 1777. Punjab Kesri Ranjit Singh enveloped the domes of the temple with 820 kgs of gold. The main bell was gifted by the Maharaja of Nepal. There is a nahabatkhana too, in the left of the temple, which was built by Warren Hastings.
Between the temple and the mosque is the Gyan Vapi well, a well that is considered holy by the Hindus.
Just opposite the Vishwanath temple is the Annupurna temple, built by Baji Rao 1st. in 1725. The main deith is made entirely of Gold, but one can have a darshan only in the festival time of the Shukla Pratipad in the moth of Kartick.
Other temples: By a rough estimate, the number of temples would be more than thousand in Varanasi. However, the most important ones are:
Durga Mandir in Aussi Ghat. Also known as monkey temple due to the large number of fearless monkeys in the temple. Tulsi Manas Mandir at the same place in memory of Tulsidas. The ground floor of this temple has the Ram Sita Laxman deities and the 8 Dohas carved out in marble. The 1st floor has got moving dolls that depict the entire epic Ramayana.
Bharat Mata Mandir: Situated on Vidyapith road, it is an unique temple dedicated to Bharat Mata, or India. It ha a relief map of India.
Bhiaravnath Temple: It is near the Police station and town hall. Nearby is also the Dandapani mandir and Kamrup well. It is said that if you cannot see your reflection in the waters of the well, then you are slated to die soon. One can also check out the Ganesh mandir, Sakhi Gopal, Sankatmochan and tilebhandeshwar temple. A Shiv mandir also exists in the middle of Banaras Hindu University.
The Ganges: The Hindu culture in the banks of the river Ganga is prime attraction to visit the place. A total of 365 ghats exist starting from Harish Chandra ghat in the South, and ending at Manikarnika Ghat in the North. All the ghats remain busy right from the dawn, prior to sunrise, till late in the evening. Dashashwamedh ghat is known for its evening aarti of Ganga Mayaa, or Mother Ganga.
The ghats are also home to numerous pandits of Varanasi and yoga practices.
The Dashashwamedh ghat. Is the most important ghat of Varanasi city.
The Dasaswamedh Ghat is where Lord Brahma is said to have sacrificed ten horses in order to celebrate the return of Shiva on earth. Manikarnika Ghat is a sacred place for cremation. The Man Mandir Ghat was built in 1770 by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur, and is known for its 'lingam' of Someshwar, the Lord of the Moon. Some of the other Ghats in Varanasi are the Maha Nirvani Ghat, Shivala Ghat, Gulariya Ghat, Dandi Ghat, Hanuman Ghat, Karnataka Ghat, Mansarover Ghat, Bachraj Ghat, Kedar Ghat, and the Lalita Ghat.
Banaras Hindu University: Kaashi has remained the learning seat of Indian culture and Hindu culture, and scholers have come and imparted their knowledge for thousands of years here. To hold on to the tradition, Pandit MadanMohan Malabya’s lone efforts has turned out into this university, acronym BHU. A total of 122 subjects are taught here. The process of imparting technical education like engineering, medicines and agriculture has become an example to the rest of the world. Each department is housed in a different building in the campus. It is a pleasure to tour the university. The White Shiva linga at the Shiva temple in the middle of the university is an added attraction.
Sanskrit University: Kaashi is also the seat of Sanskrit language and its development since time immemorial. The university is in possession of 1.5 lacs of old, priceless scriptures. There is a Vishnu’s Ardh Narishwar deity too, in the lawn.
Ramnagar: Arguably, the biggest attraction of tourist to Varanasi is the Ramnagar fort. Situated in the Eastern ghat of the Ganges, it can be reached by hiring a boat, an auto rickshaw, or a car. Almost the entire fort has been turned into a museum, and collection is worth many visits. One has to buy tickets to enter. It is open from 10am to 12, and from 2pm to 5 pm. Collections include vintage guns, hawadas, palenquins, cars, paintings, stuffed animals and the mulchand watch. There are a couple of canons in exquisite condition too. The rear of the fort has a Annupurna temple.
Another Prime attraction of Ramnagar fort is its one month long Ramlila utsav, when local perform dramas based on Ramayana. Enroute to Ramnagar, you can also check out Vyaas Kaashi mandir. Ramnagar, Sarnath and Vyaas Kashi are generally done toger by hiring a car.