Banaras…..The City of Religion, Tradition and Culture

So, again I am here with another experience of ghumakkadi in my life. Though, I have read blogs on the locations are written in the order of planning those visits. But , there are some places, where you need not to plan your tour for a week or for some days. These are the places around you, where you live. They can also have a great significant in the touring world. Just for example, My native place is just 30 kms away from Varanasi, so I need not to plan a tour to visit this holy city. It is the part of my daily life, whenever I come to hometown.

Banaras is consider as one of the oldest cities in the world. You can refer it as “the city of temples”, “the holy city of India”, “the religious capital of India”, “the city of lights”, “the city of learning” or the “culture capital of India”


A shop in Banaras

Once Mark Twain wrote, “Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. I have visited this city countless times..as a visitor, as a local people, as a student . So this story in not about my any specific visits to Banaras. I will put many of them to describe, how banaras look like?


Godaulia, A market in Varanasi

During my childhood days whenever I came Banaras, It was only because my Grandfather used to live here and my uncles used to study here. So it seems just like a curiosity for a boy of a village to see banaras. Banaras was my dream destination as a school going children. Banaras was having the best medical facility at that time. So , when a dog bite me on the back, I came to this city for those 16 injections to avoid rabies. But that I was too young to understand a culture, tradition or to describe a place.


Near Viswanath Gali, Godaulia, Varanasi

When I was in 9th standard, I got a chance to visit varanasi again to attend a marriage. The marriage was at Basant Theosophical Society, Kamachha (a well known girls college). When I walked thorugh the lanes of BTS, its beauty only amazed me and so the young girls of this college. After attending the marriage I was going back to my grandfather home at 11 pm. I saw some cycle repair shop open on the roadside, vehicle are still running on the road, I saw the lighting at Varanasi Canntt Railway Station. It all was a grand feeling for me.

I visited here several times after that to complete the formalities of IIT JEE Entrance Exam or to buy some good books to prepare for this exam. But then still I was too young to understand Banaras. Finally, in July 2000, I got admission in Banaras Hindu University and started living in the Broacha Hostel. This was the time when I started to enjoy the banarasi culture of banaras. Life away from home was a fantastic experience. You were free to do whatever you want , you were free to go wherever you want, you have full freedom in your life. So during all those days, I have seen banaras in different parts:

Banaras Hindu University: It is regarded as the largest residential university in Asia. The fully-residential campus has more than 128 independent teaching departments. Its 1350 acre (5.5 km²) campus was built on land donated by the Kashi Naresh. The total enrollment in the University stands at just over 15000, including students from all over India and abroad. Several of its colleges, including engineering (IT-BHU), science, linguistics, law and medicine (IMS_BHU), are ranked amongst the best in India.The university is also unique in the sense that it will be the only university in India that will host one of the IIT (IIT-BHU) in its premises from academic session 2010.

This university is a complete tourist place of its own kind. You take a entry from the main gate of Lanka Market and walk thorugh a green-lavish campus. On one side there is famous BHU Hospital and another side is the Mahila Mahavidayla, Women’s College of BHU.


BHU Entrnace


BHU Entrance in a night

Then you pass through the prestigious Institute of medical Scieces. After IMS and adjacent to the VC Residence, there is Malviya Heritage Complex, dedicated to the founder of this university, Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya. This memorial building serves as the centre of studies and research on the life and teaching of Mahamanaji. It consists of five main constituents – Geeta-Yoga Library, Yoga Sadhana Kendra, Geeta Samiti, Malaviya Adhyayan Sansthan, and Malaviya Centre for Value Studies. The Centre for Yoga runs Diploma and Certificate Courses in Yoga. The Geeta Samiti organises morning lectures on religio-philosophical topics. Every Sunday Geeta discourses by eminent persons are held. The Center for Value Studies offers a short-term course on Value Education for Integrated Personality Development.

Malaviya Bhavan has a beautiful garden with a variety of plants. Every year the Flower Show of the University is held here. The Central Assembly Hall of the Malaviya Bhavan is often used for important cultural and religious events and lectures.


In front of Mahila Maha Vidyalaya, Popularly known as Piya Milan Chauraha (PMC) among the students

Further walking will lead you to Bharat Kala Bhawan. It is an art and archealogical museuem. Founded with a modest collection, the museum has a record of steady growth and its present holding exceeded 100,000. The collection includes archaeological materials, paintings, textiles and costumes, decorative art, personalia collections, Indian philately and literary and archival materials. Most of its collections are historically important, aesthetically beautiful and enjoy certain amount of uniqueness. Bharat Kala Bhavan is considered as the best University Museum in India, if not in Asia. There is no university in India which has a museum of this dimension.

Walking through BHU Campus

After this when you walk further you pass thorugh the various faculties and centers for excellence like Physics, Zoology, Botany, Geology etc.

Department of Geology, BHU

Department of Physics, BHU

Then you reach to famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple of BHU. The Viswanath temple of the University is a massive temple complex consisting of seven temples. The Shiva temple is in the ground floor and the Lakshmi Narayan and the Durga temples are in the first floor. This elegant temple structure is located almost at the center of the University campus. The laying of the foundation stone of the temple took place in March, 1931 and it took almost three decades to complete its construction. Its sky penetrating spiraling top is 252 ft. high. The whole of Geeta and extracts from the sacred Hindu scriptures are inscribed with illustrations on the inner walls of the temple. Devotees, pilgrims and tourists from all over the world visit the temple throughout the year. Religious discourses are held periodically in the central hall of the temple. Viswanath temple is the spiritual center of the University.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple, BHU

Kashi Vishwanath Temple, BHU

Kashi Vishwanath Temple, BHU

Adjacent to Temple you can see the splendid Central Library of BHU and Greenhouse of Institute of Agricultural Sciences.

Central Library, BHU

Green House at Institute of Agricultural Sciences, BHU

Banaras and Ganga:

Banaras and Ganges share a very special bond. No other piligrimage shares that bond. From early morning to late night ganga looks like the lifeline of this holy city. The ghats of Ganges are always full with countless people trying to understand the mystery of life. They all include dehati Indians to high profile foreigners. Assi is the closest ghat to the BHU. When I lived there as a student, I daily went to Assi Ghat in the evening. A sitting on this ghat gave immense peace and happiness. You can roam on the bank of Ganges, chat with a foreinner, you can also see people trying to cheat these foreignes…everything is there. But the ghats of ganges are remarkable place to see while you are in Varanasi.

Assi Ghat, when Ganga is on its full bloom

There are Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghat also , where fire never cools down. Hindus believe that bathing in Ganga remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a person’s soul from the cycle of its transmigrations. So you can always see a hindu cremation take place on these two ghats round the clock 24 x 7.

The most famous ghat is Dashaswamedh Ghat. It is close to the Old Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Every evening hundreds of people gathered here to attend the Ganga Aarti performed here daily




.




Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi






Ganga Aarti Going On…..


Lights, Camera, Action, Animals, Humans, Religion, Emotions, Dust, Smoke, Culture, Tradition….everything is here…..you may not like it, but you will surely love it…..thats the Banaras……


People watching Ganga Aarti


Old Kashi Vishwanath Temple:

In mythology, it is believed that “ Kashi ke kan-kan me Bhagwan Shiva vyapt hain” (Lord Shiva lives in every sand and grain of Varanasi).

Vishwanath Gali…Foreigners are not allowed inside temple complex

Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the most famous Hindu dedicated to Lord Shiva .The temple stands on the western bank of Hinduism’s holiest river Ganges, and the deity is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva deities. The main deity is known by the name Vishwanatha or Vishweshwara meaning the Ruler of the universe. The temple town that claims to be the oldest living city in the world, with 3500 years of documented history is also called Kashi and hence the temple is popularly called as Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Due to this 15.5m high golden spire, the temple is sometimes called as the Golden Temple, similar to the Sikh Gurudwara at Amritsar. It is said that a single view of Vishwanatha Jyotirlinga is considered to merit more than that of other jyotirlingas.

Non-Hindus are not allowed into the sanctum, but they may view the worship from the nearby Naubatkhana, which is the seat of the temple choir.

Adjacent to this temple, there is a temple of Ma Annapurna Devi. It is believed that in the city of Maa Annappurna, nobody will remain hungry.

Nobody remains hungry here

The temples of Varanasi are generally small, not more than a few hundred years old and do not have any great pretensions to beauty or architectural splendour. But some magic in them draws millions to their portals every year.There are a variety of deities to solve every conceivable problem, and Varanasi’s narrow galis (alleyways) are crowded with temples to these helpful gods and goddesses. Worshippers crowd these temples to seek the deity’s favour and depart confident that their troubles will soon end.In all, there are more than 200 temples in Varanasi.

These include famous Tulsi Manas Mandir, Bharat Mata Mandir, Durga Temple, Kaal Bhairav Temple, Sankat Mochan and the newly built Tridev Temple.

Tridev temple, Durgakund

Durgakund.

Sarnath:

Sarnath has been developed as a place of pilgrimage, both for Buddhists from India and abroad. A number of countries in which Buddhism is a major (or the dominant) religion, among them Thailand, Japan, Tibet, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, have established temples and monasteries in Sarnath in the style that is typical for the respective country. Thus, pilgrims and visitors have the opportunity to experience an overview of Buddhist architecture from various cultures.Here Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondana.

Buddha Temple, Sarnath

There is also a small deer park in Sarnath, where you can see deer, various species of birds and crocodiles.




Sarnath is an important archeological site for Ashoka’s Pillar. Our national emblem Ashoka Stambha is taken from the pillar, that is excavated here. The pillar and stambha is still available in the archeological museum of Sarnath.

There are also some chienese and buddhist temple around the sites of Sarnath.

7 Comments

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Avanish,

    Very well written write-up. Your Post is full of useful informations. I had been to Varanasi n nos. of time , your post with all the pic refreshed the memories. I think you missed one of the varanasi Specialty – Thandai, outside the Kashi Vishwanath Temple

    • avanishmaurya says:

      Hi Mahesh Sir…well said that I missed Thandai..but then I missed some other things too like Banarasi Paan…Banarasi Langda…Pahalwan ka Launglata…Banarasi Saree…It will take one complete post to describe all these…I will try to come back with another post on these sir…

  • nandanjha says:

    Whooa. What a ride.

    Ghumakkar Avanish returns.

    I first went to Benares in 2000 or 2001, work related. We went there by train (I think Lichhavi and came back via air), had a full day at IT-BHU, hired few folks, had Banarasi Pan and thats about it.

    My 2nd journey to this great city was via Road, drove from Delhi and spent two nights there. Amazing experience, here’s the link of my short log

    http://www.ghumakkar.com/2008/08/04/bana-banaya-ras-banaras/

    Great log Avanish, its such a thorough and complete about the city that I am sure that a lot of people are going to bookmark this.

  • tripper says:

    Reading ur post makes me want to go to banaras…U have done a good job…

  • hi i m nidhi i m very glad to see varanasi’s nice picture.

  • Thanks, that wasvery interesting. Actually,I was born in Thailand in 1980 but my mother and I fled and settled here to Britain. To be honest, I didnt care much about my Thai past until my mother died last month, now I’ve been trying to discover as much as I can. Seemed like food was as good a place as any to start ! Anyway, I found a thai food recipe site here that other readers might be interested in .

  • Ashutosh says:

    Thanks for such a nice information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *