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The land of gods and goddesses, Varanasi, is where the Vedic chanting never stops, where the Ganges washes sins, and where serenity meets spirituality.
Varanasi, Kashi, and Banaras are three names of one single city. The outstanding fact that Lord Shiva (Lord of Moksha, or liberation) himself created the town is how this city gained its “Spiritual Capital of India” title.
Nestled along the banks of the holy river Ganges, this city has been a hub for seekers, philosophers, and spiritual enthusiasts for centuries. Varanasi offers a unique blend of vibrant rituals, serene landscapes, and a multitude of meditation experiences that cater to the soul’s yearning for introspection and connection. In this blog, we’ll take you on a journey through the top things to do in Varanasi, with a focus on meditation and spirituality, inviting you to immerse yourself in the profound mystique of this enchanting city.
The energetic Ghats, epic temples, and age-old culture and traditions are some of the most delicate things to do in Varanasi since the essence of India resides in the city in the form of the holy river Ganges.
Best Time to Visit: October and March
Distance From Delhi: 863 km
A Journey to Spiritual Liberation: Attaining Moksha through After-Death Rituals in Varanasi
In the spiritual landscape of India, the concept of “Moksha” stands as the ultimate goal – the liberation from the cycle of birth and death, the eternal release from the bonds of karma, and the merging of the individual soul with the cosmic consciousness. Varanasi, the ancient city on the banks of the sacred Ganges, holds profound significance in the pursuit of Moksha. Its hallowed ground is believed to amplify the potential for spiritual elevation, not only during life but also after death, through meditation and intricate rituals.
Moksha, also known as Nirvana, Mukti, or Enlightenment, is the culmination of the spiritual journey in Hinduism, Jainism, and some schools of Buddhism. Achieving Moksha means transcending the limitations of the material world, breaking free from the cycle of suffering, and realizing one’s true nature – often described as the union of the individual soul (Atman) with the cosmic soul (Brahman).
Significance of Varanasi in the Quest for Moksha
It is believed that dying in Varanasi or having one’s ashes immersed in the Ganges River can facilitate an expedited journey towards Moksha. The city’s very fabric resonates with spiritual energy, making it an ideal environment for introspection, meditation, and ultimately, attaining liberation.
After-Death Rituals for Moksha
The rituals associated with achieving Moksha in Varanasi are deeply rooted in ancient traditions and philosophies. When a person passes away, their soul is believed to transition through various realms before achieving liberation. To aid in this transition and to ensure a swift path to Moksha, specific rituals are performed by the deceased’s family or designated priests, including cremation at the ghats and immersing the ashes in the Ganga River.
Top 6 Spiritual and Meditative Experiences
1. Witness Grandeur Evening Aarti Ceremony
The Dasawamedh Ghat is the best place to observe the stunning event since exquisite rituals are performed right in front of your eyes. Big brass lamps are used during this celebration, which is accompanied by chants and hundreds of people waiting to pray.
If you want to get the most out of the ceremony, arrive at least one hour before the Aarti. You can witness how brass lamps are cleaned and prepared for the occasion and how the elevated planks are being set up at the edge of the Ghats’ steps.
Visitors who want to take pictures with their cameras should take evening boats to the Ghats because they can easily capture everything in view.
Every night, a 45-minute ritual is done in preparation for the Aarti ceremony. It usually begins at 6:45 in the evening.
2. Explore 10 Most Popular Varanasi Temples
A trip to Varanasi would be incomplete without seeing the city’s best temples. In Varanasi, you will find a temple on every lane and road crossing. While smaller temples serve for daily local prayers and rituals, larger temples are related to Hindu history and mythology. An enormous number of tourists frequently visit these places of worship and top the list of the best things to do in Varanasi.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, built in 1780 by Queen Ahilyabai Holker of Indore, is the most visited temple in the area. The place of devotion is especially popular since Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh generously donated large sums of gold. Two temple domes were built out of the same gold.
Kashi Vishwanath is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country. The Jyotirlingas, revered as the divine abodes of Lord Shiva, hold immense significance in Hinduism. Among the twelve prominent Jyotirlingas scattered across India, Varanasi proudly houses one – the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. This sacred shrine is believed to encapsulate the essence of Lord Shiva’s cosmic presence, offering a direct connection to the divine.
The Jyotirlingas are not merely physical representations; they symbolize the unmanifested form of Shiva, the supreme creator, and destroyer. In the context of Varanasi, the Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga radiates the spiritual energy of the city, enriching the spiritual experience of pilgrims and seekers.
The presence of the Jyotirlinga in Varanasi amplifies the city’s spiritual aura, drawing devotees from far and wide. It serves as a focal point for prayers, rituals, and meditative contemplation, providing a conduit for seekers to access Shiva’s transformative energy. As pilgrims gather to offer their devotion, they partake in a timeless tradition that underscores the inseparable link between Varanasi’s spiritual legacy and the eternal presence of Lord Shiva.
10 Famous Temples in Varanasi
- Kashi Vishwanath Temple: The holiest shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, it embodies spiritual energy, inviting divine aspects of existence.
- Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple: Devotees find solace here, and the temple’s peaceful surroundings make it ideal for meditation and inner reflection.
- Tulsi Manas Temple: Immersed in verses from the Ramcharitmanas, it offers a serene atmosphere for contemplation and connecting with the divine teachings.
- Durga Temple: Dedicated to Goddess Durga, it symbolizes feminine power and the balance between creation and destruction, inspiring meditation.
- Bharat Mata Temple: This unique temple pays homage to Mother India
- New Vishwanath Temple: The modern counterpart to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, it provides a serene space for meditation amidst intricate architectural bea
- Annapurna Devi Temple: Dedicated to the goddess of nourishment, it fosters gratitude and mindfulness, making it conducive for meditative reflection.
- Kal Bhairav Temple: Lord Bhairav, a fierce form of Shiva, represents the impermanence of life. Meditating here invites contemplation on life’s transient nature.
- Mrityunjaya Mahadev Temple: Focused on Lord Shiva’s victory over death, it inspires meditation on conquering fears and embracing transformation.
- Kaala Bhairava Temple: This temple symbolizes the cosmic guardian of time. Meditating here encourages reflection on the eternal cycle of existence and the significance of the present moment.
3. Take a Holy Bath in the Ganges
The Ganges River is regarded as the holiest river in India. According to legend, a bath in the holy waters here will offer sin forgiveness and purification. Taking a dip or bathing in the Ganges’ sacred waters is one of the most popular things to do in Varanasi.
Ganga is believed to have come to earth to safeguard 60000 ancestors. Her falling power is supposed to be so great that Lord Shiva had to hold her in his matted hair, and he was the one who eventually released her in the form of a river.
Varanasi features 84 Ghats, which lead to the Ganges River. The Ghats are easily accessible and can be used for bathing in the Ganga. In addition, boat tours are encouraged for travelers to treasure the cultural and historical significance of the enigmatic river.
4. Manikarnika Ghat: A Gateway to Transcendence and Spiritual Evolution
Manikarnika Ghat, one of Varanasi’s most prominent ghats along the sacred Ganges River, is a place of profound spiritual significance and ceremonial activities. This ghat is a testament to the intertwining of life and death, symbolizing the cyclical nature of existence in Hindu beliefs.
Named after a mythical well said to have been dug by Lord Vishnu, Manikarnika Ghat is synonymous with cremation rituals. Hindus believe that cremating a loved one here grants them liberation from the cycle of birth and death, leading to Moksha (spiritual liberation). The ghat bustles with activity as cremations take place around the clock, perpetuating the idea of death as a passage to spiritual elevation.
In the heart of Manikarnika Ghat lies the eternal flame, said to have been burning for centuries and never extinguished. This fire, known as the “Mahasmasana” or the great cremation fire, symbolizes the eternal cosmic force and serves as a reminder of the impermanence of life.
Despite the cremation activities, Manikarnika Ghat is more than just a site for mortal remains. It’s a place of contemplation and meditation, where the contrast of life and death encourages introspection on the transient nature of existence. The ghat’s ambiance fosters an atmosphere conducive to seeking higher truths and connecting with the divine.
Visitors often gather on boats along the Ganges to witness the rituals at Manikarnika Ghat. Pilgrims and seekers often come here not only to pay their respects to departed loved ones but also to ponder the mysteries of existence and their own spiritual journeys.
5. Stroll along the Ghats
One of the most lovely things to do in Varanasi is to explore the Ghats. The city is home to about a hundred Ghats, the stairs of which lead to the banks of the Ganges.
The privately owned ones here are well-known for their morning boat rides that provide excellent panoramic views of the region. The Mata Anandamai Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Assi Ghat, Munshi Ghat, Raj Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, and Scindia Ghat are some of the important Ghats that visitors to Varanasi can visit.
Dashashwamedh Ghat is probably the most well-known of these. Because it is close to Vishwanath Temple, its beautiful appearance makes it an enchanting site to visit in Varanasi.
6. Go for a Sightseeing Tour of Sarnath
Singhpur is a peaceful village just a few kilometers from Varanasi. While Varanasi is a Hindu religious center, Sarnath near Singhpur is a Buddhist religious site. Visiting this village, famous for its Buddhist structures, is one of the top things to do in Varanasi and the surrounding areas. Sarnath is also known as a deer park since it is where Gautama Buddha first came to teach about the notion of Dharma.
Buddhist Sangha attained enlightenment here. It is located near Singhpur, the birthplace of Shreyansanath, Jainism’s eleventh Tirthankara. Sarnath is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit near Varanasi, especially for those interested in Indian history and religion.
A tour to Sarnath typically lasts half a day and begins early in the morning. The stunning beauty of Chaukhandi Stupa, one of the primary stupas built by Ashoka after converting to Buddhism, is best appreciated in the morning.
The Dhammek Stupa, composed of stone and bricks, is another major sight. The stupa is 28 meters in circumference and 43.6 meters tall. Various theorists and historians from different countries believe that the stupa’s dome refers to aliens and UFOs.
Immerse in the Unrushed Essence of Spirituality
While a fleeting visit to Varanasi can offer glimpses of its spiritual and cultural tapestry, there’s an undeniable allure in the idea of an extended stay. This city, pulsating with energy and steeped in spirituality, demands more than just a cursory glance. To truly absorb the essence of Varanasi, unravel its layers of mystique and spirituality, and forge a deep connection with its soul, a more extended stay is undoubtedly the better choice.
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