A.B.C. Art Gallery Prabhu Astha ( Opp. Tulsi Manas Temple), Durgakund. Holds exhibitions of contemporary art, mainly paintings, open only during the winter season i.e. October to March. Opening times: 3.00-7.00 p.m. Tel : 310434, 310967. Entry Free.
Annapurna Temple , located next to the Vishwanath temple was built in the 18th century by Peshwa Baji Rao I. The idol of Annapurna Bhavani (the provider of food), a benevolent form of Shakti, made in solid gold and carrying a cooking pot is housed here. There is also a striking silver-faced image of Shani (Saturn) within the temple. Shani is feared for his destructive powers and is propitiated to prevent any ill befalling the devout.
Archaeological Museum located in Sarnath. The main attraction at this excellent archaeological museum is the superb Ashokan pillar. It has the Ashokan symbol of four back-to-back lions which has been adopted as the state symbol of modern India. Other finds from the site include many figures and sculptures from the various periods of Saranath - Mauryan, Kushana, Gupta and later. Among them is the earliest Buddha image found at Sarnath, Buddha figures in various positions dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries, and many images of Hindu gods such as Saraswati, Ganesh and Vishnu from the 9th to 12th centuries. The museum is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily, closed on Fridays.
Benares Hindu University was founded by the great nationalist Pandit Malaviya in 1917 as a centre for education in Indian art, music, culture and philosophy, and for the study of Sanskrit and attracts students both from India and abroad. The five sq km campus houses the Bharat Kala Bhavan which has a fine collection miniature paintings and sculptures from the 1st to 15th centuries and old photographs of Varanasi. It's open from 11 am to 4.30 pm (7.30 am to 12.30 pm in May and June) but is closed on Sunday.
Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum lies within the sprawling grounds of Banaras Hindu University. Its outstanding collection of sculpture, painting and textiles began with the private collection of the enlightened Rai Krishnadasa. Ancient terracotta varing from ritual icons to toys to utilitarian objects date to the Indus Valley Civilisation, Mauryan, Sunga and Gupta periods. Among the stone sculptures are red sandstone reliefs from the 2nd century B.C, a Buddhist stupa at Bharhut and rare images and statues from well known schools like Gandhara, which saw the synthesis of Greek and Indian styles and Mathura, a powerful art centre during the Kushana period. The large and impressive collection of textiles contain precious example of Banaras silk and brocades, embroidered shawls from Kashmir and the rare Chamba rumals, once used to wrap ceremonial gifts and offering were richly embroidered pieces with designs and stories from the life of Krishna.
Bharat Mata Temple Dedicated to 'Mother India', this unadorned temple has a marble relief map of India instead of usual images of gods and goddesses. The map is said to be perfectly in scale, both vertically and horizontally and the place was opened by Mahatma Gandhi.
Carpet Weaving Centre Near Banaras is the famous carpet weaving centre at Bhadoi where handmade carpets are produced by skilled craftsmen who have acquired their rich repertoire of designs and techniques from their ancestral traditions. Banaras is also famous for its silk weaving cottage industry. Banarasi silk brocades have small, often minute , motifs made of gold or silver thread. Each motif has to be created individually using tiny shuttles. In the old days the gold thread was authentic, but today artificial fibres are used. For more shopping ideas please take a look through our Dining and Shopping pages.
Durga Temple is one of the most important temples in Varanasi and is built in the 8th century, by Bengali Maharani and is stained red with ochre. This temple is built in north Indian Nagara style with a multi-tiered shikhara (spire). The shikhara of the temple is formed by many small spires which are built one on top of the other. Durga is the 'terrible' form of Shiva's consort Parvati, so at festivals there are often sacrifices of goats. Non-Hindus can enter the courtyard but not the inner sanctum. It is commonly known as Monkey Temple due to many frisky monkeys that have made it their home.
Government Museum Mathura The rich treasure of antiquarian values unearthed by Cunnigham, Growse, Fuhrer and others formed the nucleus of this museum. The museum was founded by the collector, F.S. Growse in 1874. The collections were shifted to the present building in 1930. Regional in character its scope was limited primarily to the archeological finds from the Mathura region. The vast collection includes stone sculptures, bas reliefs, architectural fragments, inscriptions of various faiths and creeds, coins, terracotta, inscribed bricks, pottery pieces, clay seals, bronze objects and paintings. The museum has the richest and by far the most important collection of the Mathura School of Sculptures of 3rd century B.C - 12th century A.D.
Gyanvapi Mosque 4.8km from the railway station , this Mosque was constructed by Emperor Aurangzeb on the ruins of an ancient temple. Rare specimens of ancient temple art are still evident in the foundation and at the rear of the mosque.
Jantar Mantar The ruler of Jaisingh built an observatory in Varanasi in line with those built in Delhi , Mathura, Ujjain and Jaipur observatories. The Varanasi observatory has all the instruments which were required to record the motion, speed and properties of various stars and planets and other cosmic objects. The observatory was built in 1600 and still the instruments give the exact measurements which can match any modern instrument today.
Kashi-Vishwanath Temple Situated 3.8km from the railway station , near the ghats, the is the most sacred of the shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, the patron deity of Varanasi. (Originally constructed by Rani Ahillya Bai Holkar in 1776, it was reconstructed in the 18th century and its gold plating on the 'shikharas' was a gift of the one-eyed Sikh King, Maharaja Ranjit Singh). It is also popularly known as the Golden Temple . Non Hindus are not allowed inside the temple.
Man Mandir (Manmandir) Palace The archeological survey of India (ASI) has rediscovered the art behind the science of Man Mandir, the third observatory by the creator of Jantar Mantar, hidden for decades under a coat of crude lime plaster. The palace was built by Raja (King) Man Singh of Amber (Rajasthan) and the observatory houses five astronomical instruments for the study of the heavenly bodies.
Nepali Temple Situated on Lalita Ghat , was constructed by the late King of Nepal. Made of wood brought from Nepal, the walls have exquisite and lively carvings. Also known locally as 'mini Khajuraho' .
Pandit Malaviya Temple Pandit Malaviya wished to see Hinduism revived without its caste distinctions and prejudices - accordingly, unlike many temples in Varanasi, this temple is open to all, irrespective of caste or religion. The interior has a Siva lingam and verses from Hindu scriptures inscribed on the walls and is supposed to be a replica of the earlier Vishwanath Temple destroyed by Aurangazeb. It's open between 4 am and noon, and 1 and 9 pm.
Ram Nagar Fort and Museum This 17th century fort is the home of the former Maharaja of Benaras. It looks most impressive from the river, though the decrepit planking of the pontoon bridge you cross to reach it is somewhat of a distraction. During the monsoon access is by ferry. The interesting museum here contains old silver and brocade palanquins for the ladies of the court, gold-plated elephant howdahs, an astrological clock, macabre elephant traps and an armoury of swords and old guns.
River Fronts The most fascinating aspect of Varanasi is the life on the river ghats at dawn. As the first rays of the sun set the gently flowing Ganga afire, people flock here in large numbers every day to take bath and worship in the temples built beside the river bank. The centuries old tradition of offering puja to the rising sun is still maintained. Sarnath About 10km from Varanasi , is Sarnath, where lord Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment or as the Buddhist say set the 'wheel of dharma' or law rolling. Today Sarnath is considered as one of the best places to buy antiques from the Ashoka period to the 12th century. The Dharmarajika stupa here was built by Ashoka and is surmounted by a pillar. This pillar with four lions today forms the national emblem of India. Sarnath has many ruins of monasteries and stupas worth seeing and an extremely rich collection of Buddhist statues kept in the Archaeological Museum of Sarnath
St. Mary's Church Situated in the cantonment area of Benaras ( Varanasi ) the St. Mary's Church has a low tower, spire and projecting portico. Instead of windows the church has louvred doors to the sides and hooded ventilation slots beneath the cornice.
Tulsi Manas Temple A short walk south of the Durga Temple is the modern marble sikhara-style Tulsi Manas Temple, built in 1964. Its walls are engraved with verses and scenes from the Ram Charit Manas, the Hindi version of the Ramayana. Its author, poet Tulsi Das, lived here while writing it. You can watch figures performing scenes from Hindu mythology on the 2nd floor for a small fee. The temple is open from 5.30 am to noon and 3.30 to 9 pm daily.
(New) Viswanath Temple This temple is situated in the premises of the university and has 'Geeta' engraved in its marble walls. It's about a 30 minute walk from the gates of the university to the New Vishwanath Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is the most sacred shrine in Varanasi. The original temple was destroyed by the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb which was later restored by Rani Ahilyabai of Indore in the 18th century. The Gold plating of the dome was done during the 19th century by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab . The original temple is said to have been over 1000 years old. The Gyan Vapi tank enclosed in a hall is said to contain the original shivalingam. Pilgrims offer prayers here before embarking on the Panchatirtha.
Assi Ghat This is one of the five special ghats which pilgrims are supposed to bathe at in sequence during the ritual route called Panchatirthi Yatra. There is a lingam under a peepal tree and a marble temple of Asisangameshwara (lord of the confluence of Asi). An ancient tank dedicated to sun worship, the Lolarka Kund (pool) lies 15 metres below the ground and is approached by a steep flight of steps worth seeing.
Bharat Mata Temple Dedicated to ?Mother India? this temple found to the north-wes t of Godaulia is a modern shrine, inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. It has a huge relief map of the Indian sub-continent showing all its rivers, mountains and pilgrimages and is one of the few open to non Hindus.
Chauki Ghat to Chaumsathi Ghat Northwards along the river, Chauki Ghat is distinguished by an enormous tree that shelters small stones shrines to the nagas, water-snake deities, while at the unmistakable Dhobi (Laundrymen's) Ghat clothes are still rhythmically pulverized in the pursuit of purity. Past smaller ghats such as Mansarovar Ghat , named after the holy lake in Tibet, and Narada Ghat, honouring the divine musician and sage, lies Chaumsathi Ghat , where impressive stone steps lead up to the small temple of the Chaumsathi (64) Yoginis. Images of Kali and Durga in its inner sanctum represent a stage in the emergence of the great goddess as a single representation of a number of female divinities. Overlooking the ghats here is Peshwa Amrit Rao's majestic sandstone haveli (mansion), built in 1807 and currently used for religious ceremonies and occasionally, as an auditorium for concerts.
Dasaswamedh (Dashashwamedha) Ghat offers a splendid view of the river front. The name indicates that Brahma sacrificed (medh) 10 (das) horses (aswa) here. Conveniently central it's one of the most important and busiest ghats and therefore is a good place to linger and soak up the atmosphere. Note its status and the shrine of Sitala, goddess of smallpox. Boats can be hired at this ghat for a tour of the riverfront. It is also the most popular site for Hindus to perform ancestor worship rituals, and the entire ghat is lined with umbrella covered stalls where Brahmin priests undertake pujas (worship).
Scindia Ghat Bordering Manikarnika to the north is the picturesque Scindia Ghat, with its titled Shiva temple lying partially submerged in the river, having fallen in as a result of the sheer weight of the ghat's construction around 150 years ago. Above the ghat, several of Kashi's most influential shrines are hidden within the tight maze of alleyways of the area known as Siddha Kshetra (the field of Fullfilment). Vireshvara, the Lord of all Heroes, is especially propitiated in prayer for a son; the Lord of Fire, Agni, was supposed to have been born here.