Apart from the 19 archaeological sites identified by the Archaeological Survey of India, some of the prominent places (Notable landmarks) of interest are the Aghor Peeth, the Alamgir Mosque, the Ashoka Pillar, the Bharat Kala Bhavan (Art Museum), the Bharat Mata Mandir, the Central University for Tibetan Studies, the Dhanvantari Temple, the Durga Temple, the Jantar Mantar, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith, the New Vishwanath Temple on the BHU campus, the Ramnagar Fort, the Riverfront Ghats, the Tulsi Manas Temple.
Popular Ghats in Varanasi
Ghats in Varanasi are riverfront steps leading to the banks of the River Ganges. The city has 88 ghats. Most of the ghats are bathing and puja ceremony ghats, while a few are used exclusively as cremation sites. According to the puranic sources, there are five key ghats on the riverfront, important because of their association with a defining feature of the holy city of Kashi: Assi Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Panchganga Ghat and Adi Keshav Ghat.
- Assi Ghat
This ghat that used to lie at the confluence of the Ganges with the dry river Asi marks the traditional southern boundary of the city. Asisangameshwar Temple at the ghat finds mention in the Kashi Khand of Skandmahapuran.This ghat is very popular because it is one of the very few ghats that is linked with the city through a wide street.
- Dashashwamedh Ghat
Dashashwamedh Ghat is located close to Vishwanath Temple, and is probably the most spectacular ghat. Two Hindu mythologies are associated with it: According to one, Lord Brahma created it to welcome Lord Shiva. According to another, Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses, during Dasa-Ashwamedha yajna performed here. A group of priests daily perform in the evening at this ghat “Agni Pooja” (Worship to Fire). wherein a dedication is made to Lord Shiva, River Ganges, Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the whole universe.
- Manikarnika Ghat
Two legends are associated with Manikarnika Ghat. According to one, it is believed to be the place where Lord Vishnu dug a pit with his Chakra and filled it with his perspiration while performing various penances. While Lord Shiva was watching Lord Vishnu at that time, the latter’s earring (“manikarnika”) fell into the pit. According to the second legend, in order to keep Lord Shiva from moving around with his devotees, his consort Goddess Parvati hid her earrings, and asked him to find them, saying that they had been lost on the banks of the Ganges. Goddess Parvati’s idea behind the fib was that Lord Shiva would then stay around, searching forever for the lost earrings. In this legend, whenever a body gets cremated at the Manikarnika Ghat, Lord Shiva asks the soul whether it has seen the earrings.
According to ancient texts, the owner of Manikarnika Ghat bought King Harishchandra as a slave and made him work on the Manikarnika at Harishchandra Ghat. Hindu cremations customarily take place here, though a majority of dead bodies are taken for cremation to the Manikarnik Ghat. According to other sources that Manikarnik Ghat is named after Jhansi ki Rani Laxmibhai.
- Scindia Ghat
Scindia Ghat also known as Shinde Ghat borders Manikarnika to the north, with its Shiva temple lying partially submerged in the river as a result of excessive weight of the ghat’s construction about 150 years ago. Above the ghat, several of Kashi’s most influential shrines are located within the tight maze of alleys of Siddha Kshetra (Field of Fulfillment). According to tradition, Agni, the Hindu God of Fire was born here. Hindu devotees propitiate at this place Vireshwara, the Lord of all heroes, for a son.
- Maan-Mandir Ghat
Mana-Mandir Ghat: Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur built this Ghat in 1770, as well as the Jantar Mantar equipped with ornate window casings along with those at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, and Mathura. There is a fine stone balcony in the northern part of the ghat. Devotees pay homage here to the lingam of Someswar, the Lord of the Moon.
- Lalita Ghat
Lalita Ghat: The late King of Nepal built this Ghat in the northern region of Varanasi. It is the site of the Ganges Keshav Temple, a wooden temple built in typical Kathmandu style,The temple has an image of Pashupateshwar, a manifestation of Lord Shiva. Local festivals including musical parties and games regularly take place at the beautiful Assi Ghat which is at the end of the continuous line of ghats. It is a favorite site of painters and photographers. It is here at the Assi Ghat that Swami Pranabananda, the founder of Bharat Sevasharam Sangh,attained ‘Siddhi’ (fulfilment/success) in his ‘Tapasya’ (endeavor) for Lord Shiva, under the auspices of Guru Gambhirananda of Gorakhpur.
- Bachraj Ghat
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 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.
- Durga temple
- There are two temples named “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.
- Bharat Mata Mandir, dedicated to the national personification of India, which was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936, the Kalabhairav Temple, the Mrithyunjay Mahadev Temple, and the New Vishwanath Temple located in the campus of BHU, the Tulsi Manas Mandir.
There are 15 mosques of significant historical value in Varanasi. The Abdul Razzaq, Alamgir, Bibi Razia, Chaukhambha, Dhai Nim Kangore, Fatman, Ganje Shahada, Gyanavapi and Hazrat Sayyed Salar Masud Dargah are few examples
Many of these mosques were constructed from the components of the Hindu shrines. They were destroyed under the auspices of subsequent Muslim invaders or rulers. The two well known mosques are the Gyanvapi Mosque and the Alamgir Mosque.
The Gyanvapi Mosque was built by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1664 CE, after destroying a Hindu temple.Gyan Vapi (Sanskrit: “the well of knowledge”), the name of the mosque, is derived from a well of the same name located within the precincts of the mosque. The remains of an erstwhile temple can be seen in the foundation, the columns and at the rear part of the mosque. The façade of the mosque is modelled partially on the Taj Mahal’s entrance. The mosque is administered by the Anjuman Inthazamiya Masajid (AIM).
The Jantar Mantar observatory, constructed in 1737, is located above the ghats along the Ganges, and is adjacent to the Manmandir and Dasaswamedh Ghats and near the palace of Jai Singh II of Jaipur. While less equipped than the observatories at Jaipur and Delhi, the Jantar Mantar has a unique equatorial sundial which is functional and allows measurements to be monitored and recorded by one person.
The Ramnagar Fort, located near the Ganges on its eastern bank and opposite the Tulsi Ghat, was built in the 18th century by Kashi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh with cream-coloured chunar sandstone. The fort is a typical example of the Mughal architecture with carved balconies, open courtyards, and scenic pavilions. At present, the fort is in disrepair.
The fort and its museum are the repository of the history of the kings of Benares. Cited as an “eccentric” museum, it contains a rare collection of American vintage cars, bejeweled sedan chairs, an impressive weaponry hall, and a rare astrological clock. In addition, manuscripts, especially religious writings, are housed in the Saraswati Bhawan which is a part of a museum within the fort. Many books illustrated in the Mughal miniature style are also part of the collections. Because of its scenic location on the banks of the Ganges, it is frequently used as an outdoor shooting location for films