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Varanasi is the oldest and the most sacred place for the Hindus. Varanasi, also known as the holy city, combines in itself the cultural essence and mysticism of India. Varanasi stands on the banks of river Ganga, considered the holiest of all Indian rivers. Varanasi or Kashi is both an exalted place of pilgrimage and a microcosmic centre of faith. A large number of pilgrims visit the holy city from all parts of India and the world. Varanasi is a unique city where the past and present, eternity and continuity live side by side.
Legends have it that the holy city of Varanasi was founded centuries before the birth of the Christ. Varanasi is situated between the two tributaries of River Ganga- Varuna to the north and Asi to the south. Varanasi combines the name of both these rivers. Varanasi is mentioned in Holy Scriptures like Puranas, Buddhist texts and in the Mahabharata. The most fascinating part of the holy city of Varanasi is that almost all the activities seem to revolve around river Ganga and its Ghats. Life on the banks of the Ganga begins before dawn, when thousands of pilgrims come to the river for the holy dip. It is believed that the sacred river will cleanse them of their sufferings and wash their sins away.
With the sun rise the Ghats burst into activity. In the morning, the Ghats present a charged holistic atmosphere. Brahmins recite passages from sacred texts and priests perform various kinds of holy rituals. Perhaps Varanasi is the only place that stirs an individual to reflect about life, to contemplate about creation and the irrelevance of temporal wealth in the face of death. The burning Ghats at the edge of River Ganga keep reminding people that life is mortal. At the same time, the rising sun and the morning and evening rituals at the Ghats bring hope and optimism to thousands of beleaguered people. This is the essence of Varanasi- "the Gateway to Moksha."
Pilgrimage Attractions of Varanasi
The Vishwanath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is the most sacred shrine in Varanasi. People from all parts of the world come to visit this temple. After its destruction in the medieval period, the temple was restored by Rani Ahilyabai of Indore in the 18th century.
Bharat Mata Temple
The Bharat Mata temple is the only temple dedicated to Mother India. The Bharat Mata temple was built by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth. This temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. The statute of Bharat Mata is built in marble and is a replica of undivided India in three dimensions which depicts the mountains, plains and oceans.
Tulsi Manas Temple
The Tulsi Manas Mandir (temple) is dedicated to Lord Rama. The temple is believed to be built at the place where Tulsidas composed the 'Ramacharitramanas', the great epic. It provides us with detailed description of the history and deeds of Lord Rama. The walls of the Tulsi Manas temple are adorned with "Dohas" from Ramcharitramanasa.