Varanasi, Benaras, Banaras, Kashi - this city on the banks of river Ganga (nullGanges) has been known by all these names through its three millennia long history. A history that is all the more remarkable as its great contemporaries - Athens, Jerusalem and Beijing â have long moved away from their ancient way of life.
Any attempt to encapsulate the essence of Varanasi is to touch the very core of Indian Spiritual Thought. Much of India's inclusive ethos stems from here. A place where mosques built on sacred temples are protected by law; a place where Bismillah Khan, a pious Shi'ite Muslim musician, and a devotee of Hindu Goddess Saraswati, played shehnai at the portals of Vishwanath Temple, remains India's pre-eminent place for spiritual quest.
Banarasi sari is a must-buy from Varanasi. Weighing over 500 grams, and price ranging upwards of Rs 2000, these saris come in beautiful colors and designs rich in golden zari work. One of the most famous handloom saris in terms of design in India, these handcrafted creations can spiral out reach for most, depending on the level of brocade work on them. Handloom House and Bhagwan Leela at Sigra, Mehta International at Varuna Bridge and Mohan Silk House near Viswanath Temple are some of the leading places to pick up quality Banarasi saris.
Area around Dashaswamedh Ghat is an interesting place for people looking for knickknacks and traditional Banarasi paan.
About 13 kilometers (null miles) north-east of Varanasi lies a quiet, serene place called Sarnath. One of the top four Buddhist pilgrimage destinations in the world, it was here that the Buddha (nullEnlightened One) gave his first sermon. The others being Lumbini, where he was born, Bodh Gaya, where he attained enlightenment (nullnirvana), and Kushinagar, where he left his mortal remains.
On attaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, Gautama Buddha walked to Sarnath along with disciples who were attracted to him en route. Here at the Deer Park, he delivered his first sermon. Following this, the original Sangha was formed.
The city of Varanasi is located in the middle Ganga valley of North India, in the Eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, along the left crescent-shaped bank of the Ganga river. It has the headquarters of Varanasi district. The "Varanasi Urban Agglomeration" â an agglomeration of seven urban sub-units â covers an area of 112.26 km² (nullapproximately 43 mi²). The urban agglomeration is stretched between 82° 56âE - 83° 03âE and 25° 14âN - 25° 23.5âN. Being located in the Gangetic plains of North India, the land is very fertile because low level floods in the Ganges continually replenish the soil.
On a local level, Varanasi is located on a higher ground between rivers Ganga and Varuna, the mean elevation being 80.71 m. As a result of absence of tributaries and canals, the main land is continuous and relatively dry. In ancient times, this geographic situation must have been highly favorable for forming settlements. But it is difficult to ascertain the original geography of Varanasi because the city's current location is not exactly the same as the one described in some old texts.
Varanasi is often said to be located between two confluences: one of Ganga and Varuna, and other of Ganga and Assi, (nullAssi having always been a rivulet rather than a river.) The distance between these two confluences is around 2.5 miles, and religious Hindus regard a round trip between these two places --a Pancha-kroshi Yatra (nulla five mile journey)-- ending with a visit to a Sakshi Vinayak Temple as a holy ritual.
Varanasi has a humid subtropical climate with large variations between summer and winter temperatures. Summers are long, from early April to October, with intervening monsoon seasons. Cold waves from the Himalayan region cause temperatures to dip across the city in the winter from December to February. The temperature ranges between 32°C â 46°C (null°F â 115°F) in the summers, and 5°C â 15°C (null°F â 59°F) in the winters. The average annual rainfall is 1110 mm (null in). Fog is common in the winters, while hot dry winds, called loo, blow in the summers.
Through a combination of water pollution, new constructions of upstream dams, and increase in the local temperature, the water level of the Ganges has recently gone down significantly, and small islands have become visible in the middle of the river.
Surface - Regular buses from Anand Vihar, ISBT, Delhi service visitors headed for Varanasi. Located on NH 2 between DelhiâKolkata, Varanasi is about 809 km (null m) from Delhi and 681 km (null) from Kolkata. NH 56 connects the city to Lucknow which is about 300 km (null m) away. Kanpur 320 km (null m) and Allahabad 125 km (null m) are the other places that are well connected to town. The place is also well connected to other cities in UP and Bihar.
Train - Served by Varanasi Junction and Mughal Sarai Junction, Varanasi is well connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai among other cities by rail..
Air - The airport is 27 km (null m) from town. Average taxi fare is around Rs 300. Varanasi is well connected with Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kathmandu, Khajuraho, Kolkata, Pune and Agra.
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