The holy city of Varanasi is a true representation of India in a nutshell. The colourful, chaotic and mystic city on the banks of the Ganges equally enchants both the natives and foreigners from across the globe.
One of the oldest cities in the world is all set to enter the modern era after it has been included in the Smart City Mission by the Ministry of Urban Development, recently.
As a part of the smart city project, a sum of Rs 2,520 crore will be spent to develop the city's ghats, infrastructure and e-governance. The historical city is also Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Parliamentary constituency.
The 3,000-year-old Varanasi suffers from several civic problems, which include bad roads, traffic congestion, an age-old drainage system and poor sanitation.
From its towering temples overlooking the ghats to narrow bylanes, Varanasi is a perfect combination of socio-religious aspirations of the country men. In recent times,
Varanasi has become a political hot bed, especially during the Lok Sabha polls of 2014, when Prime Minister Modi defeated Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Here we look at various aspects of Varanasi--also known as Kashi (City of Life) and Benares--which make it a special place on earth:
The city has a staggering number of around 23,000 temples for the Hindu devotees. The Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple are some of the most well-known places of worship in the city. Varanasi also has 15 mosques of significant historical value, thus reaffirming India's age-old secular fabric.
If you visit Varanasi, you have to visit its ghats. The city has a whooping number of 87 ghats. The ghats are the riverfront steps that connect to the banks of holy Ganges, flowing through the city. The ghats serve various purposes, right from places of worship, bathing to exclusive cremation sites.
The fine silk produced by the weavers of the city is world famous. Silk weaving is one of the main sources of livelihood for the residents. Most of the weavers belong to the Muslim community and weaving is a family vocation, passed down from generation to generation.
The economy of Varanasi is hugely dependent on the tourism industry. Lakhs of domestic and foreign tourists visit the city throughout the year mostly on religious purposes. In Varanasi, every second person is involved in one or other aspects of the tourism industry.
Varanasi is a highly literate city in the country. Its overall literary rate is 80 percent. Since ages, the city has attracted students from across the globe. The city is also home to several well-known educational institutions like Benaras Hindu University (BHU) and Indian Institute of Technology (BHU), to name a few.
The holy city has given us some of the finest musicians, right from classical singer Girija Devi, to many great instrumentalists such as Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Vikash Maharaj and Pandit Ravi Shankar. Varanasi's musical legacy traces its roots to the pauranic days. Varanasi is also UNESCO "Cities of Music" under the Creative Cities Network.
The city of gods is the best place in India to enjoy pure vegetarian food. Food lovers say food of Varanasi is as lively as the place itself. Varanasi is also famous for its street food varieties like Kachori Sabji to Ghughri Jalebi.
The city does not only serve its hosts mouth-watering dishes. Varanasi is also the land of festivals. Throughout the year, one or another festival is celebrated with great gusto. In recent times, Ganga Mahotsav, the five-day-long music festival, hosted by the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department in November-December is attracting a lot of revelers to the city. Ganga Mahotsav and Dev Deepawali are also popular festivals celebrated in Varanasi,