One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Varanasi or Benaras or Kashi is all about finding an immense calmness in the chaos. This spiritual city is a perfect blend of art, crafts, culture, language, food, and religion. Temples, Ghats, Heritage sites, and monuments adorn the city that itself breathes in a culture even older than the native of the city.
Sprawling along the water of River Ganga, Varanasi is a great centre of Indian culture, and visiting here offers a perfect opportunity for travelers to feel the movements in course of history and the changing patterns. The city showcases the rich and unique style of folk art and other art forms. Varanasi is quite popular for its beautiful Silk Sarees, Toys, Ornaments, Textiles, Clay, Metal Work, Wood Work, and other crafts.
The city has fascinating charm and spiritual challenge that can be witnessed in its exaggerated rituals, cultural activities, and the admiring festivals celebrated in the city. Keep scrolling down the pages to know in detail to witness this spiritually chaotic city at least once in your lifetime.
Culture of Varanasi – Traditional Dress, Art, Music and Dance
The world-famous evening Ganga Arti
The first thing that comes to the mind of every traveler is the gorgeous ghats- Assi, Manikarnika, Dasaswamedha, Scindia, etc. where all the divine ghats are famous in their own terms and have their own significance. Dashashwamedh happens to be one of the most happening and popular ghats in the city where pilgrims from all around the city gather to enchant the spiritual prayers of Goddess Ganga.
A visual retreat for the travelers, this evening Aarti starts just after the sunset and continues uninterrupted for the next 45 minutes. The rhythmic bells, the enchanting, and the brass lit lamps floating in the gorgeously flowing River Ganges. Attending this spiritual ceremony is considered to be one of those experiences that one shouldn’t miss out.
Renowned Temples of Varanasi
There are thousands of small as well as huge temples established all over the city where all of them are dedicated to different deities.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Hindus believe that Kashi is nestled atop the trident of Lord Shiva and hence the temple has been named so. The pilgrimage is dedicated to Shiva, the supreme deity of Hindus, and holds a Shivlinga established below the ground level. This ancient temple is bestowed with a golden spire 750 kg of gold donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab in 1839.
However, the temple is believed to have been constructed in the year 1777 by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore. Because of its golden spire, the temple is also famous as the golden temple of the city and the Shivlinga of the shrine is enlisted amongst the top 12 Jyotirlingas in the country.
Annapurna Temple: Located closer to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, there is another popular temple dedicated to Goddess Annapurna. When you enter inside the temple you get to see the bronze idol of the deity idolized on a silver platform. The golden idol of the temple is opened once a year only for public visits.
Bharat Mata Temple: The only temple dedicated to Mother India, Bharat Mata Mandir boasts of one of the most perfect maps of the country carved out of marble. Shri Durga Prasad Khatri, an antiquarian and a great numismatist, and the great nationalist Shri Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta gifted this temple to the city. This magnificent was then inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi.
Alamgir Mosque: One of the most eminent destinations of Islam followers, Alamgir Mosque is popularly called as Beni Mahadeo Rao in the early seventeenth century and there was a temple at the place. Later, the temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb and then a mosque was raised at the same place. The structure depicts a perfect blend of Hindu as well as Mughal architecture.
Sarnath: One of the hugely frequented Buddhist sites in India, Sarnath holds a wealth of religious tradition as well as archaeological remains. This Buddhist site is believed to be the same spot where Lord Buddha delivered his first speech after attaining enlightenment. This Buddhist site attracts thousands of tourists, students, historians, and archaeologists from all over the country and globe.
Delectable and highly nutritious food
Strolling around the narrow lanes of this cultural capital of India is a perfect idea to binge on the irresistible mouth-watering snacks. Kachori- Sabzi, Dahi Vale Golgappe, Samosa, and Dahi- Rabri are some of the most ordered snacks in Varanasi. The city is also very much famous for its different flavored Paani Puri, Dahi Bade, Aloo Chat, Tamatar Chat, and Lassi. Gujiya is the most loved and popular sweet here that is served on almost every occasion.
Being a religious city, you need to maintain the discipline and the decorum of the city, you are advised to binge on vegetarian dishes. Veg Thali of the city contains multiple lip-smacking and pretty nutritious food items. To top it all off, Benarasi Paan is quite famous for its freshness and is generally eaten after the meal to freshen up.
Classical Music and Dance
Benaras Gharana is nationwide popular in the art of Tabla playing and the maestros like Kishan Maharaj, Samta Prasad, and others come from the city only. Also, on every Saturday and Wednesday evening, you can witness the music of the city at International Music Centre Ashram.
Dance forms of Varanasi
Kathak- a form of dance depicting storytelling and mythological narration.
Raslila- dance-cum drama explaining the love and life of Lord Krishna. This dance form is performe on almost every auspicious occasions related to Krishna.
Ramlila- dance-cum drama explaining the life of Lord Rama which is generally performed during the festive season of Dussehra. Tabla and Harmonium are the two major musical instruments used for this typical mythology dance form.
A harmonious mix of beliefs
This beautiful city of Uttar Pradesh represents the era-old long tradition of harmony and love prevalent in Indian culture. Only after covering the distance of 12 km from the main city you reach Sarnath, the admiring Buddhist site. You can also explore the magnificent archaeological museum that houses objects and artifacts dating back to the Mauryan period. Sarnath is home to Chaukhandi and Dhamek Stupas and there are five galleries established here.
Inside these galleries, you get to see the captivating images of Bodhisattvas, Lord Buddha, divinities, and many others. Exploring the popular Ashoka Stambh offers you a perfect opportunity to witness the grace and the valor of that particular time period. This small, chaotic yet soothing city has been a mystery for several artists for the last many years.
More than 95 percent of the city population speaks Hindi and almost 3 percent uses Urdu as their communicating language and the rest of the people use Bhojpuri to interact with others. If we go through the history of this place then we will realize that Sanskrit is the oldest language of Varanasi. Also, nowadays English has become very popular here as thousands of foreign tourists visit here and English is the only language they understand.
Benaras was once the center of religious learning, hence, it was named as Sarva Vidya Ki Rajdhani (the capital of knowledge of everything). There were many intellects, scholars, and others in different fields born in this city, and several Universities were also established here in the past. Bharatendu Harishchandra, Tulsidas, Tegh Ali, Kabir Das, and many other great personalities thrived here.
Varanasi also thrived in Panchkarma treatment and Ayurveda medical education and Sushruta, the author of the very popular medical book namely Sushruta Samhita is believed to have spent several years of his life and attained his training in Varanasi only.
The city is believed to be the birthplace of the three main religions of India- Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. River Ganga plays a key role in maintaining the spiritual beliefs and rituals followed by the religions especially Hinduism. Besides being home to more than 3000 temples, Varanasi is also blessed with 9 Buddhist monasteries, 3 churches, 1388 mosques, and 3 Jain temples.
Varanasi or Benaras is a spiritual land with strongly held and dignified life values. People living in this city are known for their simplicity and decent clothing and they don’t follow the western culture. Hence, tourists are also expected to respect their traditions and maintain their dignity by wearing decent clothes.
Both males and females are required to cover their neck area properly and also they should carry dresses that stretch below the knee. However, the travelers are advised to consider the climate first and then plan their dress accordingly.
Centuries back, the city happened to be the centre of culture and tradition because of its unique art culture. Historians and the locals believe that the modern tradition followed by the local folks is all inspired by the ancient tradition, art, and culture. The city was quite popular for its performing arts and other artwork.
Some very interesting facts about the city
- Varanasi or Benaras or Kashi call it by any name you want, is believed to be the oldest surviving cities of the globe.
- It happened to be the hugely frequented epicenter for learning yoga, holistic healing science, Ayurveda, natural science, and many other informative educational training.
- The city is known as the spiritual and cultural capital of India.
- There is nothing to deny the fact that Varanasi is the leading trade center for Benarasi Silk, other silk products, gold brocades, silver articles, and many more.
- Benaras Hindu University (BHU) is the oldest and the largest university of Asia where travelers from all across the world come.
- There are more than 3000 small and big temples established in the city devoted to different deities and religions.
- There is an unflinching belief in Hinduism that one who takes his last breath in this particular city reaches to heaven. There have been many cases found where people jumped into the river to take their lives to attain salvation and reach heaven.
- Varanasi is said to be the city bestowed with a maximum number of ghats i.e. a total of 88 ghats are established there.