I caught a glimpse of the Ramnagar fort before crossing the river Ganges, a magnificent structure of sandstone standing tall along the bank of the Ganges. Ramnagar is a small town on the eastern bank of the Ganga. It is another peaceful place besides Sarnath with a half-day excursion tour from Varanasi. The fort was built during the 18th century by Kashi Naresh Pelu Bheru Singh. It is now resident of the present members of the royal family.
Only some parts of the fort are open for tourists, which include a museum that holds a rare collection of antique cars, palkis, palanquins, medieval costumes, ivory, and many more others. You can walk around the fort and can notice some of the oldest big astronomical clock, carved balconies, pavilions, open courtyards, Durbar hall, and reception room. There are two stunning temples in the fort, one is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the other one is built to venerate Veda Vyasa who wrote the great Indian epic, Mahabharata.
How to Reach?
Varanasi is well connected by tuk-tuks (auto) and totos for the local city tour. Tuk-tuks are available for Durga temple near BHU from Varanasi railway station. From there, shared tuk-tuks are available for Ramnagar town.
A Day in The Ramnagar Fort
I started my journey from the lodge near Varanasi railway station. The easy accessibility of transport makes the travel very smooth. Though you need to change the transport to reach Ramnagar Fort, I got share tuk-tuks for the Ramnagar fort which is affordable. I reached my destination after covering a distance of almost 10km by crossing the river Ganges on a pontoon bridge.
There is an entry fee to visit the museum of the sleepy palace. As I entered the beautiful courtyard decorated with garden and antique cannons drifted me to another time zone. The museum is famous for its different vintage weapon collection like revolvers, guns, knives, swords and daggers from different countries.
The museum’s grand collection from vintage palkis and cars to ivory carvings, precious jewels and various artefacts amazed me. They look grand even under a thick layer of dust covering with low maintenance. My most vivid memory of the museum is of the palanquin of a Royal Bengal tiger which was hunted by the Kashi Naresh.
Riverside view from the palace is worth to spend a few moments. As I sat there looking at the passing boats and a flock of birds flying with the hissing of the breeze blowing through bushes. The time moved so fast at this amazing place, I almost forgot to visit the temples of the fort. Interestingly Vishnu temple is inspired by the Mughal architecture and Ved Vyas temple is based on the primaeval story.
Though the fort is not maintained and the littering by visitors makes it sully, I still found this place to be very interesting and peaceful. The unexpected collections will surprise you with grandeur antiques. The impressive courtyard captures the different time and phases of the palace. It is a tour you will surely like to add on while in Varanasi.
The following day towards Sarnath-Esteem Preachings of Lord Buddha. It is a prominent Buddhist site in the world as Lord Buddha sermoned his first batch of disciples after his enlightenment. His first preaching, Maha Dharmachakra Pravartan, was in religious language Pali which means set in the motion Wheels of Dharma at this very holy place.
Chinese scholar Hieun Tsang has mentioned in his scriptures about this city of its magnificent Stupas and monasteries built by Emperor Ashoka. This city was excavated and rediscovered in 1863. The ruins of the temples and monasteries speak many stories of themselves and their glorious past.
After an adventurous day in the main city, I spent the night in a hotel at Varanasi and early morning I reached for the shared auto heading towards tranquillity of Sarnath. It is a magnificent place with various sites and temples scattered all over the places. I spent a lot of time visiting various sites there and the time was well spent. I was mesmerized by the ancient remains of the legendary collection of the artefacts.
Even though guides are available in plenty it is worth mentioning that nothing pleases one’s soul more than being your own guide. Once you reach Sarnath, it is easy to explore on foot. A green and calm village named, Sarnath in Varanasi, is now the house of temples from all over the Buddhist countries. Sarnath is an important tourist attraction from around the world, especially on Purnima (Buddha’s birth anniversary), when Buddha’s life, death and enlightenment are celebrated( April/May).
How to Reach?
Sarnath is at a distance of 10km from Varanasi. It is easily accessible by auto and buses. Share autos are cheap to reach Sarnath. You may also hire an auto to reach which may cost up to ₹ 100.
The first spot on the left side when you head towards Sarnath from Varanasi is the Chaukhandi Stupa. The lofty brick structure is one of the important architectures, it was constructed during the Gupta dynasty. It was named Chukhandi Stupa as it consists of four corners with a terraced Buddhist Stupa. The tower on top of the stupa depicts the Mughal architecture.
It is believed to be constructed in the 16th century to mark the visit of Emperor Humayun. This is well surrounded by the park and benches around it. The place is less crowded compared to other stupas and temples. The image of Buddha in Dharamachakra Pravartan mudra and leogryphs with swordsmen was excavated at this place. There is no entry fee for this place and photography is allowed.
Wat Thai Temple
Wat Thai Temple will surely leave you with the peace and calmness that you always long for. It might look like a small temple but this very small temple took almost a decade to be built. Before the main temple on the right side, there is a picturesque statue of Lord Buddha delivering his sermon to his disciples and there are three more statues of Buddha in different postures.
On the other hand, there is a huge standing statue of Lord Buddha around 80m, which is surrounded by a clean park with a variety of colourful flowers and running fountains. Remains of Ashoka Chakra and pillar around the temple asserts its historic presence. I spotted a few monks in their traditional orange robes around the temple. There is no entry fee for the temple and photography is allowed.
Lord Buddha had sermoned his first disciples at this stupa. The red brick constructions of the stupa and the ruins of 243 AD is a perfect slot for time travel. The beautiful park with the fragmented pavements will give you a glorious view of the temple and its ruins. According to Buddhism always start your trail from the left to right.
People from all over the world visit stupa to pay homage to the great spiritual leader and feel spiritual perfection. This place is busiest during holidays, people from the city and surroundings gather for picnic and get-togethers. Yet the place is quite big to find your peace and connect with history. There is an entry fee for visitors, the charges depend on the nationality of the tourist.
It’s another time capsule with four sections in it. It was built for the protection of the ruins safely near Wat Thai Temple. Many of the statues and the important structures of stupas are well preserved in the museum with all the details mentioned on it. Photography is strictly prohibited in the museum for the preservation of its arts. There is an entry fee for the museum. It is open from 10 am to 5 pm and is closed on particular days of weeks.
The ‘spiritual’ capital of India-Varanasi is beyond what one can imagine. The 88 ghats of Varanasi showcase periods of life-cycle as a melting pot where both life and death come together, which are interconnected in a rhythm. You can be wafted around the inter-connected ghats with the flow of Ganga and its essences of holy aroma. It concatenates to the strong metaphysical soul of yourself.
The holy saints’ bathe in Ganga for purification, meditating at the bank, serving other pilgrims for salvation along with the ghats marks a great outpouring of artistic revelation. Different eras merging at the ghats are well portrayed on the street walls. Narrow maze-like lanes and by-lanes give an instant plot with mystification. Every lane will make discover something new about the place.
How to Reach?
The Ganga ghats in Varanasi are interconnected with each other. To begin your trails for the ghats you can have share tuk-tuks to Godowlia. The easy availability of tuk-tuks is cheap to travel. No vehicles are allowed beyond a certain point at Godowlia.
I started wandering around the ghats from Dashwamedh Ghat with a large crowd puller. The succession of shops along the streets has touts trying to drag you to their shop. It is believed that if you take a dip in Kashi’s Ganges with a patient prayer, it can purify the tainted soul. The vibrancy of Varanasi with the hymn of pilgrimage and aroma of delicacies makes every visitor a devotee.
People of any religion or from any corner of the world can find solace in the place. The boat ride around the river along the ghats gives you a perfect picture of the Holy Varanasi. According to the story from Purana, the ghat was constructed by Lord Brahma to welcome Lord Shiva in the Earthly adobe.
Dashashwamedh Ghat is the most important and colourful ghat of Varanasi. The baroque street towards the ghat is embellished with colourful shops around and the people from all over the world rendezvous towards the ghat. The holy temples with pandits waiting under the round umbrellas highlights its archaism and devotedness of the people serving there for ages.
The city comes to a standstill during the famous Ganga aarti in Varanasi which takes place in the evening at Dashashwamedh Ghat, a ceremony of immense grandeur and prosperity. The pandits line up to perform rituals which is no lesser than a performance of devotion with the light-up of flaring lamps along the river bank. You can take boats that are lined along the ghats to get the front view of Ganga Aarti.
I sauntered to the next ghat which was Manmandir Ghat. Adjacent to the ghat is an overlooking Jantar Mantar built by Maharaja Man Singh. The ornamental palace grabbed my attention in seconds. I later discovered a fine observatory on the palace. It gives a glimpse of the tradition in astronomy of the stars and planets towards which our country has significantly contributed. I found out that the 400-year-old palace is a big laudation for multifarious architecture lovers.
And so it is the artefact pillars, windows, and doors of the palace which will leave you in admiration of the work of the creator. Raja Man Singh of Amer built a bewitching palace along the ghat during the 16th century, which is known for its ostentatious windows. Thus this ghat was re-named after him as Manmandir Ghat from Someswara Ghat. You will get the panoramic view of ghats and the mighty Ganges from its balcony.
The observatory which is popularly known as Jantar Mantar can be witnessed from the roof of the palace. A huge stone made instrument which attracted me in the observatory is said to be used for studying heavenly bodies. This palace is overlooked due to its silence but it is fruitful to explore how the architecture amalgamates with history. The palace is now preserved under the Archeological Survey of India. Few devotees also come to pay respect to shiva lingam a popular avatar of Shiva’s Somweshar.
I moved from the historic architecture of Raja Mann Singh’s fort which signifies the role of India in astronomy with the beautiful carved balconies and windows. The panoramic view of Ganga swiftly instructed me to proceed for my next ghat. Walking along ghats of Varanasi is delightful with plenty of unfoldings which attracts people from different regions. As I mentioned earlier, the city is defined as a melting pot, so my next destination was the ghat where life stops. After a while, I picked a boat to appreciate the view of the ghats from Ganga. You can clearly find the turn of scenario while moving towards Manikarnika Ghat.
The journey of a man’s life is like a rollercoaster, and when the journey ends we forage for a place for salvation which can be found in Varanasi’s Manikarnika Ghat. It is the most auspicious place where it showcases you the reality of the life cycle. This is the holiest place for Hindu cremation with huge piles of firewood stacked along the top of the ghat with the smoke of salvation coming down from the ghat. As it is the oldest ghat of Varanasi, it carries along with it many mythical stories. Photography is strictly prohibited; it is the place for salvation and this should be respected in every manner. After praying for the peace for the soul I moved back to Dashwamedh Ghat for the Ganga Aarti.
The visually entrancing and architecturally impressive ghat features a photogenic favourite! Assi Ghat is the heart of Varanasi and a famous spot among the tourists to enjoy the amazing view of the sunset. It is at the confluence of the rivers Assi and Ganga which is 30min of walks along the south of Dashawamedh Ghat. The Ghat has immense religious importance in the Puranas and various legends. The large Shiva lingam under the peepal tree esteems a pilgrimage place for Hindus. To experience the true spirit of Varanasi, travel from Assi to Dashaswamedh Ghat in the evening by boat. The less crowded ghat compared to other ghats of Varanasi,it is the best place to stay in the city for a prolonged interval. The Ganga Aarti is also conducted here every evening with a splendid outlook.
According to Hindu mythology, Scindia Ghat is considered to be the birthplace of Agni “The God of Fire”. The ghat is estimated to be 150 years old and well known for its peaceful and clean environment. The attraction of the place is partially the submerged Shiva temple which is believed due to its weight it is sinking in the shore since its inception. The narrow maze of alleyways above is more lively in its atmosphere than any of other ghats of Varanasi. If you have spare time in your hand, you can book for temple circuit tour along the alleyways. The tourists gather for the early morning meditation at the serenity of the ghat to have an unforgettable experience.
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Varanasi (Benaras ) also referred to Kashi as its antediluvian name, is one of the oldest city of India which is believed to be more than 3000 years old. My short trip to places near Varanasi took me to instantaneous time travel as this place has mysterious corridors, unearthings and stories that inspired me to cognize its historical eminences.
This city has something to propound – dissimilar Ghats belonging to different Raja and Zamindars, temples of a variegated existence, the ramshackle of stupendous stupas, the forts with antiques and finding serenity on the banks of the Ganges. If you visit this city at least once it becomes immortal in your reminiscence.
Kashi is cultured with the sermons of great saints like Gautam Buddha, Kalidasa, Mahavira, Kabira, Tulsidas and many others. The old Varanasi is the intrinsic edifice of the city with the pilgrimage for Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain communities. Pilgrims in huge numbers flock to the city for the salvation and purification.
Varanasi is the most treasured pilgrimage place for the Hindus. One of the seven holiest cities, Varanasi also has one of the Shakti Peethas and one of the twelve Jyotir Linga temples in India. It is a heritage city standing tall in all her magnificence for thousands of years and will remain for many more centuries.
How to reach?
Varanasi is well connected by the airport, railways, and roads. The airport is around 20 km. from the main city. The cabs and buses are available from the airport. Make sure you avoid the rental cab drivers who will approach the exit of the airport if you want to travel economically. It’s better to go for prepaid taxis or buses which are much affordable and economical.
Where to stay?
Varanasi is very economical for stayovers. Hostels and cheap lodges are available near the railway station which is the best place to halt as every mode of transport are available and all the major places are well connected from there.
The Cheapest Way to Travel
The most convenient mode of transport to visit in Varanasi or along some nearby places is always the availability of tuk-tuks (auto-rickshaw) and e-rickshaws which are cheap on sharing. The most efficient way to explore places near Varanasi is on foot but be careful with the crazy traffic of Varanasi.