The city of Varanasi along the western bank of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh is an incredibly important pilgrimage centre for Hindus. This city which even finds mention in the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana was a prosperous trade center in 500 BC. According to Mark Twain, "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together." Varanasi stands as a symbol of the Hindu renaissance and preserves the traditions of Hindu philosophy. Summers are quite harsh in Varanasi with temperatures soaring up to 45C. The monsoons set in by late June or early July, bringing torrential rains and high humidity. Winters are quite pleasant with temperatures around 20C. Ancient temples are the major source of attraction in this city. The banks of the Ganges are considered to be extremely sacred by the Hindus and the ghats are the centre of most religious activities that occur in the city. Other interesting places to visit around this city are Alamgir Mosque, Durga Temple, Bharat Mata temple, Tulsi Manas Temple, Vishwanat Temple, Banaras Hindu University and the Archaeological Museum. Excursions around Varanasi give one an insight into the mystic religion of Hinduism as well as Buddhism. A visit to Sarnath, Bodhgaya and Kushinagar throws light on Buddha from his enlightenment to his passing away. Allahabad and Ramnagar Fort are other places around Varanasi worth a visit.

River Front

Varanasi lies along the sacred Ganges River and has a 4 km long river front with hordes of devotees performing rituals at all times of the day. The Ghats look the best at dawn and boats can also be hired at reasonable rates from the 'Dashashwamedha' ghat.

Alamgir Mosque

Popularly known as Beni Madhav Ka Darera, this mosque is a blend of Hindu and Mughal styles of architecture. It was built by Aurangzeb on the site of the Vishnu Temple and overlooks the Panchganga Ghat.

Durga Temple

About 2 km south of Varanasi, this 18th century Durga Temple is also called the Monkey Temple due to aggressive monkeys that reside here. It has been built in a common north Indian style with an ornate shikhara, with five segments symbolizing the elements, supported by finely carved columns. Durga represented as shakti or female power is clad in red, riding a tiger and fully armed with a sword, Shiva's trident and Vishnu's discus. A forked stake in the courtyard was used in the past during festivals to sacrifel goats. Non-Hindus are allowed to the courtyard but not into the inner sanctum.

Vishwanath Temple

Located within the premises of the Banaras Hindu University this temple built by the Birlas was planned by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. This temple is open to all people irrespective of caste or creed.

Tulsi Manas temple

Erected in 1964, this temple lies about 150 m south of this Durga Temple. It is dedicated to Lord Rama and is situated where Tulsidas, the great medieval saint, is believed to have written the great epic, Shri Ramcharitmanas. The two-tier walls are engraved with verses and scenes from this epic.

Banaras Hindu University

One of the oldest educational centres of India, this university was was founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in 1917 for the study of Sanskrit, Indian art, culture and music. The university campus extends over five square kms and contains the Bharat Kala Bhavan. The Bhavan has a beautiful collection of miniature paintings, sculptures dating from the first to the fifteenth centuries along with old photographs of Varanasi and brocade textiles. The campus premises also houses the New Vishwanatha Temple.


Located in Sarnath about 10 km from Varanasi, the Archaeological Museum houses a part of the Ashokan pillar. It also has figures and sculptures ranging from the Mauryan, Kushana and Gupta periods excavated at Sarnath dating from the 9th to 12th centuries.