Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shopping and other attractions of Varanasi

Other attractions of Varanasi and surroundings:

Kashi Hindu Vishwa vidyalaya (Benaras Hindu University or BHU): Kashi once was the cultural mooring of India. The place attracted countless of ascetics, sages and philosophers in pursuit of knowledge. Some came in search of the true disciples. Some of them were social reformers and some again, religious leaders. Glorious are the names— Buddha, Sankaracharya, Ramanuja, Kabir, Nanak, Tulsidas, Chaitanya,Trailangswami and others.

Central Hindu College of Anne Besant was in fact the birth place of the University. Today it is stretched over a sprawling area of 2000acre across (5 sq km), 11.2km from the city and 1 ½ km from the DurgaTemple. The University is the ultimate expression of a man's profound respect for the cultural heritage of India.

His name is Pandit Madanmohan Malavya (1862-1942), who founded this University.. The classical Indian ideological spirit was a perfect combination of the oriental and the occidental. It was above all sectarianism or narrowness. The University aims at rekindling this spirit among the students. 112 subjects are taught here. BHU Institute of Technology and the Departments of Agriculture and Medical Science is reputed across the world.
There is a rich collection of miniature paintings and sculptures in Bharat Kala Bhawan (Summer: from 8-00 to 12-00 and Winter: from 11-00 to 17-00) It is closed on Sunday.The New Vishwanath Temple, 30 minutes from the gate, is a replica of the destroyed temple of the past. The temple was a brain child of Pandit Malavya and constructed by the Birla Group. The walls have mythological tales inscribed on them in this replica temple. The temple is open to all. Tours are conducted from the city. Otherwise, you may take a service bus/taxi/tanga/rickshaw from Godhulia. You may even take a boat upto Asi Ghat and walk from there. The University is closed on Sunday.

Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya: Kashi in the past was one of the most important research learning centers of Sanskrit language and Indian philosophers. The British Government founded Queen's College in a rental house, in 1791, for study of Sanskrit. The College was shifted to the present building in the later years.

Saraswati Bhawan and the Museum are two more attractions. The University has a fabulous collection of more than one and a half million Sanskrit scriptures. There is a beautiful image of Ardhanariswara in the lawn.

Varanasi is also famous for its age old tradition of Hindusthani Music and even Thumri. The musical gharana has been enriched by maestros like Ravishankar, Shantaprasad and Bismillah Khan. Various musical programs and conferences are held during winter and springtime. The dance and musical program during the bright fortnight in the month of Kartik (Oct-Nov) attracts a huge audience.

The boat race is also a major attraction during Ganga Mahotsav. Millions of lamps are lit and floated in the river water. The 5-day long Dhrupad Mela at Tulsi Ghat fetches a huge number of visitors. The kite festival is yet another big attraction.

Ramnagar : You may take a boat from Dashaswamedh Ghat or a bus/share auto from Godawlia to reach here. Conducted bus tours are also arranged for a trip to Ramnagar( 17.7 km) on the other side of Ganga.

The 17th century royal palace is a real sight with its towering gate. Get across the gatekeeper and there are 10/12 cannons on the courtyard. Tickets are issued for visiting the royal armory and museum. The big clock, manufactured by B Mulchand way back in 1872, still now gives the correct time and even a perfect reading of the solar and lunar position. The museum contains a silver palanquin of the royal family, hawdas or elephant-seats, ivory mats and antique ornaments. The descendants of the royal family still now live in a part of the palace. The visiting hours 10-00 to 12-00 and 14-00 to 17-00 hours.

The Durga Mandir, built by Raja Jait Singh, behind the palace, on the banks of Ganga is another sight. Empanelled images of various gods and worldly creatures stand in a row. The 4-armed Durga the family deity, is worshipped in the temple. The month-long Ramlila festival is annually held here in the month of Aswin (October). The festival was introduced in 1830.

Vyaskashi is on the Kashi-Ramnagar road: The temple has three idols made of eight metals. They are of Vyasdeva, Sukdeva and Viswanath. There is also a 250 year old imaginary oil painting of Vyasdeva. However, anyone dying in Vyaskashi is believed to be born as an ass in the next life.

Shopping at Varanasi
The Silk brocade or, Benarasi saree with zari works is another tradition of Varanasi. Benarasi is one of the most indispensable items in a Bengali marriage. Benarasi here is a cottage industry. Its fame is worldwide. Golghar, adjacent to GPO is the weavers' market and is a reliable place for shopping. You may also see die making process in the weavers' workshops. Quality Benarasi sarees are available also at Mubaraqganj and Madanpura. There are many shops at Godawlia. UPICA at Nadesar and UP Handloom at Lahurabir, Nedesar and Nichibagh. Though costlier but are highly recommendable for their good quality items. Avoid the touts and even the hoteliers while shopping. Shops are closed on Sunday.

Other articles on Varanasi
Varanasi – A must visit place in India
Transport, Tours and Travel agents of Varanasi
Hotels and other accommodation at Varanasi
Choice of Food in Varanasi
Places to visit at Varanasi - Temples
Places to visit at Varanasi - Ghats
Shopping and other attractions of Varanasi

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

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