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 :
- 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.
- Drive on to the Durga Temple. It’s a beautiful stone structure. Not very noisy. Photography inside the temple is not allowed.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 ♥