PILGRIMAGE OF UTTAR PRADESH
varanasi is a city situated on the left (west) bank of the River Ganga (Ganges) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, regarded as holy by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
The Kashi Naresh (Maharaja of Kashi) is the chief cultural patron of Varanasi and an essential part of all religious celebrations The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in northern India for several thousand years. The Benares Gharana form of Indian classical music developed in Varanasi, and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians resided or reside in Varanasi, including Kabir, Ravidas Their Guru Swami Ramanand,Trailanga Swami, Munshi Premchand, Jaishankar Prasad, Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Girija Devi, Hariprasad Chaurasia, and Ustad Bismillah Khan. Tulsidas wrote his Ramacharitamanas there, and Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath near Kashi.
Varanasi is home to four universities: Banaras Hindu University, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies and Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. Residents mainly speak Kashika Bhojpuri, which is closely related to the Hindi language. People often refer to Varanasi as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", and "the city of learning."
American writer Mark Twain wrote: "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together."
Varanasi is a holy city in Hinduism, being one of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus of all denominations. More than 1,000,000 pilgrims visit the city each year. It has the holy shrine of Lord Kashi Vishwanath (a manifestation of Lord Shiva), and also one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
Hindus believe that bathing in Ganga remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a person's soul from the cycle of its transmigrations. Hindus regard Kashi as one of the Shakti Peethas, and that Vishalakshi Temple stands on the spot where Goddess Sati's earrings fell. Hindus of the Shakti sect make a pilgrimage to the city because they regard river Ganga itself as Goddess Shakti. Adi Shankara wrote his commentaries on Hinduism here, leading to the great Hindu revival. Vaishnavism and Shaivism have always co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously.
Varanasi is one of the holiest places in Buddhism too, being one of the four pilgrimage sites said to have been designated by Gautama Buddha himself, (the others being Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya, and Lumbini). In the residential neighborhood of Varanasi lies Sarnath, the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha is said to have given his first sermon about the basic principles of Buddhism. The Dhamek Stupa is one of the few pre-Ashokan stupas still standing, though only its foundation remains. Also remaining is the Chaukhandi Stupa commemorating the spot where Buddha met his first disciples (in the 5th century or earlier, BC). An octagonal tower was built later there.
Varanasi is a pilgrimage site for Jains along with Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed to be the birthplace of Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar.
Islamic culture has also had an influence on Varanasi.
There has been some degree of continuous tension between different religious communities in the city.
Varanasi is the holiest places of Hindus. One of the oldest living cities of the world formerly known as Banaras or Kashi. Varanasi gets its name from the two tributaries of the Ganga - Varuna and Assi - between which it is situated. It attracts the tourist because of its 2000 year old history, civilization, music and craft of silk weaving etc. It is said that Lord Shiva has founded this city.
The main temple of Varanasi is Golden Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishwanath. Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb distorted the original temple and in that place he built a Mosque. Then in 1776, Ahilya Bai built the present temple. Another is Durga temple, which was built in 17 century by a Bengali Maharani. This temple is also known as Monkey temple. Mahatma Gandhi opened a temple known as Bharat Mata Temple. The most popular places are the Ghats of Varanasi, which line the west bank of river Ganga. There are around 100 Ghats in Varanasi. Ghats like Dasaswamedh Ghat, Manikarnika ghat , Asi ghat, Dasaswamedh, Barna Sangam, Panchganga, Manikarnika, Mansarovar ghat, PanchGanga Ghat, Kedar ghat are the most popular Ghats of Varanasi. It is said that life is incomplete without %%% the Kashi.
People performing Hindu ceremony at one of the ghats of Varanasi
Durga Mandir (temple) in Ramnagar in Varanasi
Architecture of the Vishwanath Temple in BHU
Varanasi attracts thousands of Hindu piligrims every year.
Varanasi is a city of temples. Almost every road crossing has a nearby temple. Such small temples form the basis of daily local prayers and other rituals. But there are many large temples too, erected at different times through out the history of Varanasi.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, also called Golden Temple, which in its present shape was built in 1780 by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, is located on the outskirts of the Ganga. This temple makes Varanasi a place of great religious importance to the Hindus, as Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha, the aforementioned Jyotirlinga of the Lord Shiva is enshrined here. It is said that a single view of Vishwanatha Jyotirlinga is considered to merit more than that of other jyotirlingas. A Naubatkhana was built up in front of the Temple by the collector Mohammed Ibrahim Khan at the instance of Governor General Warren Hastings in 1785. In 1839, Punjab Kesari, the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the ruler of Punjab donated gold to cover the two domes of the temple. On 28 January 1983 the Temple was taken over by the government of Uttar Pradesh and its management was transferred to a trust with Late Dr. Vibhuti Narayan Singh, then Kashi Naresh, as president and an executive committee with Divisional Commissioner as chairman.
The temple was once destroyed by the Muslim Emperor Aurangzeb who built a mosque over it. It was later resurrected at a location near the mosque.
Durga Temple, also nicknamed "Monkey temple," was built at some point of time in 18th century. The temple got the name 'Monkey temple' because of the presence of large number of monkeys in the temple. According to legends, the present statue of Goddess Durga was not made by man but appeared on its own in the temple. Thousands of Hindu devotees visit the Durga temple during Navratri and other auspicious occasions. Non-Hindus can enter the courtyard of the Durga temple but not the inner sanctum.
The architecture is of Nagara Style, which is typical of North India. The temple is accompanied by a rectangular tank of water called Durga Kund. ("Kund" meaning a pond or pool.) The temple has multi-tiered spires and is stained red with ochre, signifying the red colour of Durga. The Kund was earlier connected to the river itself thus refreshing the water. This channel was later closed, leading to locked water which is replenished only by rain or drainage from the Temple. Every year on the occasion of Nag panchami, the act of depicting Lord Vishnu reclining on the coiled-up mystical snake or "Shesha" is repeated in the Kund.
Sankat Mochan Temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman and is very popular with the local citizens. It is a place for many yearly religious as well as cultural festivals. On 7 March 2006, one of the three explosions carried out by Islamic militants hit the temple, while the aarti, in which numerous worshippers and wedding attendees participated, was in progress
The new Vishwanath Temple, called Birla Mandir, mainly funded by Raja Birla of the Birla family of industrialists, was built as a replica of the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Planned by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, the temple is part of the Banaras Hindu University, and stands for national revival. The temple is open to people of all castes and religions.
Kedarnath shrine is one among the twelve jyotirlings of Lord Shiva. Kedar is another name of lord Shiva. Kedarnath is situated as an altitude of 3,581 mt, and 14 km. trek from gaurikund. It is believed to have been made by the 5 Pandav brothers (Mahabharat) after they won the war. It is set amidst the stunning mountainscape of the Garhwal Himalayas at the head of the Mandakini River. There are more than 200 shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva in Chamoli district itself, the most important one is Kedarnath. The lingam at Kedarnath is pyramidal, unlike its usual form. A status of Nandi the celestial bull stands at the entrance of the temple and exquisitely carved images adorn the interiors of the temple. During the winters, the shrine is submerged in snow and hence is closed. The ideal time to visit is between May to October.
This is a Vishnu temple situated at a height of 3000 meters in the Himalayas. It is famous for it's statue of Lord Vishnu with many priceless gems and a large diamond over his third eye. The Bhrama Kapala located at a distance of 200 ft. from the main shrine to the north on the banks of the river Alaknanda is the site for performance of remembrance rites for the ancestors pitras (souls of the dead) by offering prasad (rice food) of Lord Badri Narayan. Main Festivals are Mata Murti ka Mela (Sept.), Krishna Janmashtami; (Jul/Aug), Badri-Kedar Utsav. Other Places to see there are Tapt Kund, Sheshnetra, Neelkanth, Charanpaduka, Brahma Kapal and many more. Road : Well connected to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun, Kotdwar and other hill stations of Gaharwal and Kumaon. Railhead : Rishikesh (300 kms.), Kotdwar (327 kms.)
Rishikesh is one of the popular pilgrimage place of Hindus, which is famous as TAPO BHUMI, the place for meditation of the gods. Rishikesh is 24 km from Haridwar. This is the place where River Ganga starts his journey through plains after leaving the mountains. Another reason of the popularity of this place is that there are lots of Ashrams, Yoga centers and meditation centers and the ideal locations. The two famous bridges Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula connect Rishikesh’s two sides. Other places to see in Rishikesh are Neelkanth Mahadev Mandir, Bharat Temple etc