The Holy City of Varanasi
A major pilgrimage center for Hindus, the holy city of Varanasi has long been associated with the mighty Ganges River, one of the faith’s most important religious symbols. Dating back to the 8th century BC, Varanasi is one of the oldest still inhabited cities in the world.
It offers many reasons to visit, not least of them the chance to explore the Old Quarter adjacent to the Ganges where you’ll find the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, built in 1780 (the New Vishwanath Temple with its seven separate temples is also of interest).
Bathing in the Ganges is of great importance to Hindus, and numerous locations known as “ghats” feature stairways leading to the water where the faithful bathe before prayers.
All told, Varanasi boasts more than 100 ghats, the largest being Dasashvamedh Ghat and Assi Ghat (the latter, at the confluence of the Ganges and Asi rivers, is considered particularly holy). Also worth seeing is Banaras Hindu University, established in 1917 and noted for its massive library with more than a million books, and the superb Bharat Kala Bhavan museum featuring fine collections of miniature paintings, sculptures, palm-leaf manuscripts, and local history exhibits.