Varanasi, located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, along the holy Ganges, is one of the sacred places for the Hindus and is thronged by devotees round the year. Banaras, Kashi or Varanasi, call it by any name you may deem fit, this city never fails to invoke a feeling of ecstasy in the heart and mind of every traveller visiting it. A city with a soul of its own, it definitely deserves a visit at least once in your lifetime for the spiritual wealth that is reflected through its incredible temples. Pilgrims flock here in great numbers to perform the last rites or Pind Daan ceremonies of their deceased ancestors on the Ghats of Varanasi because it is believed that last rites performed here can give salvation to the soul of the deceased.
Why visit Varanasi?
Varanasi has a timeless feel to it that will delight you to no end. With close to 3,000 temples and shrines dotting the city’s landscape, Varanasi is often referred to as the City of Temples. In fact, each lane of this ancient city houses one or more temples. The city is also famed for its historical and mythological stories, beautiful temples and interesting legends. Being a town of spiritual importance, there are a lot of beautiful and well-known holy places to visit in Varanasi which provide a religious as well as cultural insight into the rich heritage of the city.
Varanasi is a land of great historical and religious significance. The temples here are highly revered across India, and are visited by many foreigners as well. In Hindu mythology, the city is considered the place for absolute salvation. While some temples in Varanasi are centuries old, others are relatively new. The many different religious sites in Varanasi will impress you with their history, architecture, and spirituality. For history buffs or those interested in Indian mythology, this place is a must visit. Besides being a renowned Hindu pilgrimage centre and an important tourist destination, the holy Indian city is known for its scenic beauty, imposing forts, colossal ghats, colourful bazaars, beautiful gardens and spectacular museums.
When to visit Varanasi?
Varanasi is often visited round the year, but October to March is considered as the best time to visit it, when the weather is ideal for sightseeing plans. The temperature is around 19 degree Celsius and the climate is very pleasant in Varanasi then. Being a popular tourist destination, there is no dearth of places for plush or affordable stay in Varanasi, and the city has many hotels and resorts to help you discover the many aspects of this holy city.
There are many famous temples in Varanasi that must be explored and experienced on your trip. Most temples are situated at a walking distance from each other, so it’s easy to cover all these places in a matter of few days.
Top 7 Temples To Visit In Varanasi
- Bharat Mata Mandir
- Sankat Mochan Mandir
- Kanaka Durga Mandir
- Sankata Devi Mandir
- Annapurna Devi Mandir
- Lalita Gauri Temple
- Kashi Vishwanath Mandir
1. Bharat Mata Mandir
This is one of the most significant temples in the city located on the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith campus, and is visited by people from all corners of the country. The temple is believed to be one of a kind as it is one of the few temples that are dedicated to Mother India and is touted as one of the greatest and most famous religious sites in Varanasi. The place is a beautiful spiritual retreat for all its devotees. The temple was built by one of the freedom fighters, Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta in 1936, and does not have any deity, but features a relief map of the country carved in marble.
Address: Cannt Road, Guru Nanak Nagar Colony, Chetganj, Varanasi
Timings: 9 AM to 8:30 PM, open all days
Best Time to Visit: Independence Day, Gandhi Jayanti and Republic Day
2. Sankat Mochan Mandir
This temple is dedicated to the all powerful Lord Hanuman, and is frequented by devotees who can be seen chanting verses related to the lord, praying to him to save them from all troubles. The temple is located along River Assi, and was constructed in the early 19th century under the initiative of the famous freedom fighter and educationist, Madan Mohan Malaviya. The main idol is embellished beautifully with marigold flowers and lip-smacking besan ke ladoos are a special Prasad here. The temple is visited by thousands of devotees every Tuesday and Saturday and one can see devotees feeding the monkeys who live here, which is considered auspicious.
Address: Sankat Mochan Saket Nagar Road, Saket Nagar Colony, Sankata Mochan Leprosy, Varanasi
Timings: 6 AM to 9:30 PM, and open all days
Best Time to Visit: Hanuman Jayanti
3. Kanaka Durga Mandir
One of the important holy places to visit in Varanasi is the Kanaka Durga Mandir, which is adjacent to a kund. The temple has an interesting story related to it. Legend has it that the existing idol of the Goddess is not a man-made structure, but appeared by itself in the temple complex. Also known as the Monkey Temple, the shrine is a fine example of the Nagara style of architecture that is prevalent in North India, and is adorned with multi-tiered spires. The temple is believed to have been constructed in the 18th century under the reign of a Maharani from Bengal.
Address: 27, Durgakund Road, Anand bagh, Bhelupur, Varanasi
Timings: 6 AM to 10:30 PM, and open all days
Best Time to Visit: Navratri and Nag Panchmi
4. Sankata Devi Mandir
One of the most recognized temples in Varanasi, is the Sankata Devi Mandir situated next to the Sindhia Ghat. Here, the Sankata Devi, a four armed idol is worshiped. The temple features a massive statue of a lion which is also her wahana or vehicle. Besides, you can also see statues of nine planets in the temple. On both sides of the Goddess, there are idols of Lord Hanuman and Lord Bhairava. It is believed that Pandavas during their exile had visited this place to worship Goddess Sankatha. According to mythological beliefs, Sankata Devi or Goddess of all Answers protects her devotees from all the dangers in life with her magical powers.
Address: CK 21/20, Shitala Gali, Garwasitola, Ghasi Tola, Varanasi
Timings: 4:30 AM to 1 PM and 5 PM to 10 PM, open all days
Best Time to Visit: Navratri
5. Annapurna Devi Mandir
This temple is dedicated to Goddess Annapurna, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati and the symbol of food and nourishment. The temple enshrines a golden image of Maa Annapurna who is said to protect the entire Kashi from food crisis. The temple was erected during the early 18th century by Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao, who was one of the generals of the Maratha Empire. It is said that Parvati fed Shiva with her own hands after she came back to Kailasha and the Lord agreed to the fact that material world cannot be dismissed as an illusion, something he was not ready to accept before, thus upsetting Goddess Parvati. Every year, during the grand Annakoot festival, the temple brightens up with a real carnival spirit, and coins are meted out to the pilgrims. It is said that one who worships these coins ardently can achieve peace and prosperity in life. Being one of the most popular religious sites in Varanasi, it brims with devotees throughout the year.
Address: D 9, Annapurna Math Mandir, 1, Vishwanath Gali, Godowlia, Varanasi
Timings: 5 AM to 9 PM, and open all days
Best Time to Visit: Round the year
6. Lalita Gauri Temple
This is one of the most beautiful and historic temples in the holy city of Varanasi, dedicated to Goddess Lalita Gauriand, and it is situated on one of the ghats of the Ganges named after the Goddess herself. Constructed in the 19th century under the orders of King of Nepal, Rana Bahadur Shah, the temple complex also houses the famous Nepali Mandir. Rana Bahadur Shah took exile in Varanasi from 1800 to 1804 and called himself as ‘Swami Nirgunanda’, and decided to build a ghat to house replica of Pashupatinath Temple in Varanasi. According to legends, one who worships this goddess with all his heart will attain massive wealth and prosper a lot in future.
Address: Ghats of varanasi, Ghasi Tola, Varanasi
Timings: 5:30 AM to 9:30 PM, and open all days
Best Time to Visit: Round the year
7. Kashi Vishwanath Mandir
Situated on the western banks of the River Ganga, Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is one of the 12 holiest jyotirlingas or sacred centres of Shiva worship across India. This significant Varanasi Shiva temple even finds mention in the holy Puranas. While the temple has been subjected to destruction and re-construction a number of times over the course of history, it has never bowed to the dictates of time and even today it stands as one of the most popular religious sites in Varanasi. One of the fascinating facts about this temple is that it features a gold dome and a gold spire on top. Legend has it, that if you make a wish after seeing the dome, Lord Shiva fulfils your wish.
Address: Lahori Tola, Varanasi
Timings: 4:30 AM to 11 PM, and open all days
Best Time to Visit: Maha Shivratri
With its historically and culturally significant sacred places and temples, Varanasi is completely worth a visit, especially if you are spiritually inclined. It is also a special experience to sit on one of the Ghats and admire the mighty Ganges in its pious aura. You should book flight tickets and hotels from beforehand if you are visiting Varanasi in the winters, as tourists flock here in large numbers during this season. You might also be able to secure some great deals.