Benaras : In and Around

Yes, temples! There are loads of them and they are all totally worth a visit. Religion aside, I am a firm believer of – la foi peut déplacer des montagnes (faith can move mountains). There are a lot of mythological stories you’ll hear about the temples in and around Varanasi. They make for an interesting listen.

Hire a car from the hotel to take you around because that’s the best way to cover everything. Here’s a pretty doable itinerary :

  1. Start at about 8 and make a breakfast stop for kachaudi. Two big kachaudis + sabzi is quite filling. Top that with hot jalebis and you are pretty much set until lunch time.
  2. Drive on to the Durga Temple. It’s a beautiful stone structure. Not very noisy. Photography inside the temple is not allowed.
  3. Next up is the Sankatmochan Hanuman Temple. There are two temples facing each other – Shri Ram and Hanuman. There’s a short walk inside the main gate. Be careful because there are monkeys everywhere. Make sure you leave all valuables in your car. Don’t even think about taking that camera along.
  4. The Benaras Hindu University is a campus worth a visit. It is impossible to walk inside unless you are planning on getting some exercise. Drive around. Check out the student scene. The new Vishwanath Mandir is inside the campus.
    There are a lot of stalls for refreshment outside the temple. I don’t recommend eating here because you’ll need your appetites for the next one. Note – A public restroom is available here. (I don’t use public restrooms in India but this one didn’t look bad).
  5. Ramnagar Fort. This one’s quite the drive. My sister wanted to see it just for the photo opportunities. IMHO, I wasn’t impressed. After all my time in France and Germany, I think there is so much more that you can do with forts and palaces. Nevertheless, buy a ticket and take the tour. It doesn’t take very long. Photography is not allowed inside. But there isn’t much to capture anyway. The cars (think Seabiscuit era) are kept in such bad condition that your heart breaks for them. Behind the fort, there are two tiny temples. There is an underground tunnel leading to them. All forts, from what I remember of history, had their own places of worship. The ones here are overlooking the river.
  6. When you exit the fort, walk a short distance on your left. There is circle of sorts where the roads meet. At that turning, on your side of the road, is a small establishment selling lassi. You’ll see a man making fresh, creamy lassi and pouring it into kullads (earthen cups). Don’t be prejudiced by size of that cup. This is essentially three layers of thickened, sweetened milk and curd – lassi, milk cream, and khoya. I just wanted to sleep in the car and not move after I finished mine!
  7. Move your butts people. We are off to Sarnath to see the Buddha temples and the stupa. I have deep admiration for Buddhism and the whole sense of peace it transcends. The big Buddha statue is beautiful. Walk around the courtyard. We had a tour guide affiliated with the society who accepted only a tip and no charges. He was quite informative. But, I leave that option to you. On the other side of the road is a workshop underground where they sell sarees, dress material, and scarves. They are not expensive and we were delighted with our purchases.
  8. On the way to the stupa, there is a Tibetan monastery. We didn’t stop here because we were running short of time. But it looks beautiful. The drive to the stupa isn’t very long and the Buddhist temple there is lovely. This is your last stop before you return to Varanasi.

If you follow this itinerary, you should be back to your hotel in Benaras by 5PM, leaving you enough time to shower and get ready for the evening arati at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. I will give you more information about the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in my next and final post. Stay tuned, folks ♥

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12 thoughts on “Benaras : In and Around

      • Thank you! I’ll have the pleasure to enjoy Bengaluru for two nights, Mumbai for one night, Jaipur for two nights, Agra for one night, Delhi for two nights and Mussoorie for another two nights. While time is a little limited, I’m sure the experience will be truly amazing! If you got any tips for the cities, always feel free to share these 🙂

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      • Oh that’s fantastic. I thoroughly approve of your choice of cities! In brief, be a little careful in Delhi. Not the safest place, IMHO. The pollution there is off the charts. keep a mask handy. Bombay is my home. I just moved back. until recently I lived in Bengaluru. Both cities I hold close to my heart. Try the local cuisine (I am doing a Bombay post soon), check the local bars, stand up comedy scene and flea markets. Both are English friendly cities. Are you going to use a temporary cell phone number here? If yes, download Ola from PlayStore. it’s an app for hiring cabs. It might come handy. They all speak English and are very safe.

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      • Thanks so much for the tips! Is safety an issue in general (especially when having a DSLR with you)? I’ll definitely go for any kind of data plan to also use Uber. Do you actually prefer Ola over Uber when it comes to drivers?

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      • Almost everyone carries a DSLR around these days! so, no worries there. We are densely populated so I think your worry is crowds. Protect your lens and that’s good enough. When I said be safe, I just meant that read up on your tourist sites in advance or download maps for offline usage so that you can use GPS when travelling around. I was misdirected in Delhi ten years ago (and I was travelling WITH my parents) so it’s good to have an independent control on your bearings. People in India are quite used to foreign travellers. but they will still try to get close to you to provide unsolicited advice. just be a little streetsmart and that’s enough 🙂 it is quite a friendly country. just a bit noisy!
        Uber is great. All my friends use it. If you have been using it, I’d suggest keep it. Ola is just an additional choice. It’s a matter of availability at times.

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      • Also, are you looking to eat a nice full fledged Indian meal? If yes, locate “Rajdhani” near your hotel. It’s a chain of restaurants that serve you a multi course meal. it’s not expensive and the experience is very traditional. When I returned from my stint in France, my first meal was at one of their outlets in Bengaluru 🙂

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      • Thanks for this one as well! Most likely there’ll be any outlet near as we are staying at hotels in the city center pretty much everywhere (Shangri-La Bengaluru, Oberoi Mumbai, Oberoi Bengaluru, Hilton Jaipur, …)

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      • Oooh la la, Moritz. Those are fancy places. I’m sure you’ll get good service. I hope that doesn’t deter you from trying some of the lesser known, local stuff.
        Shangri La Blore is near Bellandur. Remember to avoid Silk Board. That place is traffic hell.
        Oberoi Bombay is the dream! you are ON Marine Drive. Walking distance from NCPA, the Stock Exchange and the naval docks.

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      • I’m really looking forward to the Oberoi in Mumbai, it looks like a heavenly place! The other property I can’t wait to experience is JW Marriott Mussoorie up in the mountains 🙂

        I’ll surely check out several local things as well, but as I’m mainly reviewing airlines, lounges and hotels on my blog, I always have to splurge for some luxury properties along the way 🙂

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  1. Bombay: Marine Drive at night or Worli Seaface. Shopping at Coloba Causeway. Concerts/Plays at NCPA, St. Andrews, Prithvi Theatre. Check out the area near Palladium for pub crawl – BlueFrog, Barking Deer, Social, Hoppipola. Zoe and The Bagel Shop are very nice breakfast places.

    Bangalore(Bengaluru) : Indiranagar is your place for shopping, cafes and bars. Blore is beer paradise. Don’t miss TOIT, Blistering Barnacles, or Mother Cluckers. Tons of good places to eat as well. Bflat, Humming Tree, Claytopia, Hole in the Wall cafe. There are a lot of boutiques and the likes here. MG road and the area around is very nice.

    If you want to know what’s happening in the cities, check http://www.bookmyshow.com for updates on the local scene. Stand up scene in India is very developing and they are all mostly English comedy. This is a good time for shows.

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