In the 16th century, Varanasi had a cultural revival under the Mughal emperor Akbar who patronised the city, and built two large temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. Much of what is considered modern Varanasi was built during the 18th century, by the Maratha and Bhumihar Brahmin kings. The Kingdom of Benares was given official status by the Mughals in 1737, and continued as a dynasty-governed area until Indian independence in 1947. The city is governed by the Varanasi Nagar Nigam (Municipal Corporation) and is represented in the Parliament of India by the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, who won the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 by a huge margin. Silk weaving, carpets and crafts and tourism employ a significant number of the local population, as do the Banaras Locomotive Works and Bharat Heavy Electricals.
How to Reach
Varanasi Junction, commonly known as Varanasi Cantt Railway Station, is the city’s largest train station. More than 360,000 passengers and 240 trains pass through each day. Manduadih railway station is also a Terminal station of Varanasi. Because of huge rush at Varanasi Junction the railway developed the station as a high facilitated terminal.Varanasi City railway station is also one of the railway stations in Varanasi district. It is 4 km North-East of Varanasi Junction railway station. It serves as Terminal station because of heavy rush at Varanasi Junction. Mughalsarai Junction railway station is also the important station in Varanasi suburban.
The Ghats in Varanasi are world-renowned embankments made in steps of stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions. The ghats are an integral complement to the Hindu concept of divinity represented in physical, metaphysical, and supernatural elements. Varanasi has at least 84 ghats, most of which are used for bathing by pilgrims and spiritually significant Hindu puja ceremony, while a few are used exclusively as Hindu cremation sites. Steps in the ghats lead to the banks of Ganges, including the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the Manikarnika Ghat, the Panchganga Ghat, and the Harishchandra Ghat, where Hindus cremate their dead. Many ghats are associated with Hindu legends and several are now privately owned.
The Dashashwamedh Ghat is the main and probably the oldest ghat of Varanasi located on the Ganges, close to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. It is believed that Brahma created this ghat to welcome Shiva and sacrificed ten horses during the Dasa-Ashwamedha yajna performed there. Above and adjacent to this ghat, there are also temples dedicated to Sulatankesvara, Brahmesvara, Varahesvara, Abhaya Vinayaka, Ganga (the Ganges), and Bandi Devi, which are all important pilgrimage sites. A group of priests performs “Agni Pooja” (Sanskrit: “Worship of Fire”) daily in the evening at this ghat as a dedication to Shiva, Ganga, Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the entire universe. Special aartis are held on Tuesdays and on religious festivals.
The Manikarnika Ghat is the Mahasmasana, the primary site for Hindu cremation in the city. Adjoining the ghat, there are raised platforms that are used for death anniversary rituals. According to a myth, it is said that an earring of Shiva or his wife Sati fell here. Fourth-century Gupta period inscriptions mention this ghat. However, the current ghat as a permanent riverside embankment was built in 1302 and has been renovated at least three times throughout its existence.
The Jain Ghat is believed to birthplace of Suparshvanatha (7th Tirthankara) and Parshvanatha (23rd tirthankara). The Jain Ghat or Bachraj Ghat is a Jain Ghat and has three Jain Temples located on the banks of the River. It is believed that the Jain Maharajas used to own these ghats. Bachraj Ghat has three Jain temples near the river’s banks, and one them is a very ancient temple of Tirthankara Suparswanath.
Among the estimated 23,000 temples in Varanasi, the temples most popular for worship are: the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Shiva; the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple; and the Durga Temple, known for monkeys that reside in the large trees nearby.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, on the Ganges, is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga Shiva temples in Varanasi. The temple has been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout its existence. The Gyanvapi Mosque, which is adjacent to the temple, is the original site of the temple. The temple, which is also known as the Golden Temple, was built in 1780 by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore. The two pinnacles of the temple are covered in gold and were donated in 1839 by Ranjit Singh, the ruler of Punjab. The dome is scheduled to receive gold plating through a proposed initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs of Uttar Pradesh. Numerous rituals, prayers, and aartis are held daily at the temple between 02:30 and 23:00.
The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, which is situated by the Asi River, is one of the sacred temples of the Hindu god Hanuman. The present temple was built in the early 1900s by the educationist and Indian independence figure, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, the founder of Banaras Hindu University. According to Hindu legend the temple was built on the spot where the medieval Hindu saint Tulsidas had a vision of Hanuman. During a 7 March 2006 terrorist attack, one of three explosions hit the temple while a wedding was in progress, and resulted in injuries to 30 people apart from 23 deaths. Following the attack, a permanent police post was installed inside the temple.
There are two temples dedicated to the goddess Durga in Varanasi: Durga Mandir built in the 16th century (exact date not known), and Durga Kund (Sanskrit ‘kund’ meaning “pond or pool”) built in the 18th century. A large number of Hindu devotees visit Durga Kund during Navratri to worship the goddess Durga. The temple, built in the Nagara architectural style, has multi-tiered spires and is stained red with ochre, representing the red colour of Durga. The building has a rectangular tank of water called the Durga Kund (“Kund” meaning a pond or pool). During annual celebrations of Nag Panchami, the act of depicting the god Vishnu reclining on the serpent Shesha is recreated in the Kund. While the Annapurna Temple, located nearby to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, is dedicated to Annapoorna devi, the goddess of food, the Sankatha Temple adjacent to the Sindhia Ghat is dedicated to Sankatha, the goddess of remedy. The Sankatha Temple has a large sculpture of a lion and a cluster of nine smaller temples dedicated to the nine planets.
Still a living place of worship, the temple is dedicated to shiva, has an eight feet high lingam, and is outside the precincts of the Western Group.
Dulah Deo Temple
The sanctum today enshrines a shivlingam. The superstructure is in the traditional style, with several subsidiary shikhars clustering around the central shikhara. in this temple also, apart from the othr various sculptures inside the temple, the outer walls of the temple are decorated with three bands f sculptres. “The masters of Dulhadeo temple worked on a high level of inspiration”, remarks Stella Kramrisch. “indeed, whether oe examines the ‘superb grace and elegance’ of the Shalbhanjika-bracket capitals of the mahamandap, or the glory of the breathing bodies of apsaras on the pilasters of the ardhamandapa or again the squat forms of the living four armed ganas which provide the contrasting elements the ugly against the lovely-the masterly touch is ever apparent.