Varanasi: General Information

Location Located on the left bank of River Ganges between Varuna & Assi River, in Varanasi district, U.P., India
DistancesAllahabad about 125 km, Sarnath- 10 km, Ramnagar- 10 km, Gorakhpur- 220 km, Lucknow- 286 km, Lumbini (Nepal)- 386 km, Kanpur- 330 km, Bodhgaya- 240 km
STD Code +91-542
Ideal time Oct.-March, especially during various festivals
Language Spoken Hindi, English
Temperature Summers-32°C-43°C, Winters- 5°C-15.5°C
Local Transport Taxi/auto rickshaw/cycle rickshaw
Must Visit Kashi Vishwanath temple, Ghats (River front), New Vishwanath temple, BHU, Sarnath, Ramnagar, Bharat Kala Bhawan, daily Ganga Arti, rising sun from the river front
Fair/festivals Buddha Purnima (Sarnath), Ramleela (Ramnagar), Ganga Dushehra, Ramleela, Nag Nathaiya, Dev Deepawali (Kartik Purnima), Ganga Mahotsav, Magh Mela, Rathyatra Mela, Prabodhini Ekadashi, Navratri Mela, Kartik Purnima, Maha Shivratri, Panchkoshi Parikrama, Mataki Leela, etc.
Attractions Religious, Historical & Archaeological
How to reach
Road-NH-2, NH-7 & NH-29 connect Varanasi with Kolkata, Delhi, Kanyakumari & Gorakhpur respectively
Rail-NR, ECR & NER railway lines connect Varanasi to all the major cities of the country
Air-Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport/Babatpur Airport, about 20 km from Varanasi & 30 km from Sarnath has direct & daily flights to all major cities of the country

Varanasi, the abode of Lord Shiva & one of the oldest living cities in the world is situated on the crescent shaped left (western) bank of River Ganges. The city has been known by many different names since ancient times. Avimukta, Anandvana, Mahashamshana, Kashi (city of spiritual light), Varanasi, Banaras or Benaras are some of them. The official name of the city has been declared as Varanasi, by Govt. of India since 1956. The city lies to the south of Varuna River & north of Assi River, hence the name Varanasi. According to one mythological belief these rivers originated from the left and right legs of lord Vishnu and Varanasi is supposed to have occupied the area between these two rivers, which is considered to be the holiest land.

Varanasi is the microcosm of Hinduism and the city of traditional classical Indian culture. Its rich, religious & spiritual heritage has been drawing visitors (both Indian & foreigners) since long in search of salvation. The city is full of historical temples which are the major tourist attractions of this religious city. Varanasi is also the pilgrimage site for both Buddhists (Sarnath 10 km from here, Information about Sarnath is given below after Varanasi General Information) & Jains. It has the honour of being the birthplace of four Thirthankars, viz., Suparshav, Chandraprabhu, Shreas & Parshva. Many Jain temples and dharmshalas are situated in different parts of the city and attract Jain devotees from all over the world.

The city has been the centre of learning of Indian Philosophy, spiritualism, mysticism & other branches of learning, and it has produced numerous famous scholars & intellectuals. The city has many noted institutions imparting knowledge that includes both older ones as well as newer ones such as BHU, Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Kashi Vidyapeeth etc. It has also been an important centre of Sanskrit studies and a great cultural centre of music & craft of silk weaving.

Ghats (River Front)-
The bathing ghats, stretching up to about 4 km are the centre of attraction of this ancient city. People come here daily to take a holy dip in the River Ganges & worship the rising Sun, which is the sight to behold. They also worship in the temples built on these ghats. Their number goes in thousands on special occasions. The rituals are performed by the devotees as per their religious diktats. There are about 100 ghats on the western bank and a new ghat has been added to the eastern bank recently. Daily Ganga Arti, performed on Dashashwamedha ghat, is a must for the visitors.

Music-
Varanasi has been a great centre of Indian classical & folk music. Some of the world renowned artists that India has produced have been associated with Varanasi. It is called mini India and many artists from all over India have made it their home. Various musical Gharanas (Schools) having their distinct style have been serving the cause of Indian classical music since long. Many a great Indian artists have learnt the subtlety of Indian music from these Gharanas. It has also developed its own school of Kathak dance.

Crafts-
Varanasi, one of the rich weaving craft centres of India is famous for its Zari & Brocade saries & dress materials, gold & silver brocades which were the specialty of this region, seem to have now been replaced by synthetic fibers. Brassware, copperware, wooden & clay toys, exclusive gold jewellery, glass beads, ivory work etc are some of the other crafts the city is famous for. It is among the few centers of India that has preserved the ancient traditions of hand weaving. The products are in demand all over the world. Varanasi and its adjoining areas are well known for knotted carpets & rugs, which have a large International market.

Sarnath: General Information

Location About 10 km from Varanasi & comes under Varanasi Agglomeration in Varanasi District, U.P., India
DistancesKaushambi 190 km, Kushinagar 266 km, Lucknow 296 km, Lumbini 386 km, Allahabad 128 km, Bodhgaya 240 km
Ideal time Oct-April/May, especially during Buddha Purnima, Anniversary of Buddha’s, first Sermon
Climate Summer- 32°-43° Celsius, Winter 5°-15.5° Celsius
Festivals Sarnath Mahotsava (Festival) on Buddha Purnima (Full moon day) in April-May, Anniversary of Buddha’s first sermon (Full moon day of Kartik month) in Nov.
Must Visit Mulgandha Kuti Vihar, Dhamek Stupa, Archaeological Museum
STD Code +91-542
Local Transport Sarnath is a very small place. One can visit all the shrines and other buildings on foot or by hiring locally available cycle rickshaw
How to reach
Road-Sarnath is well connected by road through Varanasi by NH-2 running between Kolkata-Delhi, NH-7 to Kanyakumari and NH-29 to Gorakhpur, which is connected to all major cities of India.
Rail-Sarnath itself is a railway station but only passenger trains stop here, while Varanasi is a major railway station and is connected to all the metros & major cities of the country.
Air-Babatpur Airport (Varanasi) 30 km

This place was earlier known as Isipattana (the Abode of God) Mrigdava (Rishipattana (the Abode of Saints) Mrigadaya in Sanskrit. Sarnath is the place where Lord Buddha, after attaining enlightenment at Bodhgaya, delivered his first sermon. He travelled almost 240 km from Bodhgaya to reach this place. On his way, he got the opportunity to spread his message to common people. Finally, he reached Kashi, which was then a great centre of intellectuals.

Today, Sarnath is considered to be one of the most sacred places among all the Buddhist pilgrimage centres in India. Emperor Ashoka, who spread the message of Buddha throughout his empire and also in other countries, visited Sarnath around 234 BC and got the stupa & a pillar erected (17mts. high- Ashoka Pillar). Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between 3rdcentury BC-11thcentury AD. Today, Sarnath treasures the most expansive ruins, stupas & monasteries, along with Mulgandha Kuti Vihar. Sarnath School of Arts is known for its elegance and simplicity of forms & sublimity.