In Pali, Varanasi was written Baranasi, from whence the word Banaras was finally derived. In Varanasi, the homeland of Lord Shiva, there are 54 temples dedicated to Shiva and 54 to Shakti. As the human body is made up of “pingla” and “eeda” in equal parts. This is how the city is built up as a whole. One of the centers for music, learning, and commerce is Kashi.

There are about 100 ghats, with the Dashashwamegha, Manikarnika, and Harishchandra Ghats being among the most well-known and historic.

Older than traditions and spectacular beyond interpretation, these Ghats have witnessed the evolvement of humanity across ages.

An architect should visit some of the following locations while in Varanasi:

Stupa Land: Sarnath

The ancient texts mention Varanasi, one of the oldest towns still inhabited in the world. 

For all Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists, the Ganga River and the area surrounding it are sacred. Sarnath is the most revered ancient Buddhist site in Varanasi. The Dhamekh stupa complex, where the excavated remains reside, is the primary draw. 

The site is home to a stupa (shrine) and the well-known lion-capital memorial pillar, built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in the third century BCE and is now the national symbol of India. The Buddhist Sangha was founded at the deer park in Sarnath, the location of Gautama Buddha’s first Dhamma teachings and Kondanna’s enlightenment.

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Stupa at Sanchi Tim Whitby _©Alamy Stock Photo

Alamgir masjid 

Architectural Style: Indo-Islamic
Period: 1669
Established by: Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb named the mosque “Alamgir Mosque” in recognition of his honorific title. 

The building previously included two roughly 50m-tall minarets in addition to three enormous domes. 

The mosque’s interior is rather basic, except for some ceiling paintings that include simple geometric and floral patterns.

This mosque stands out for its rustic appearance and enormous size as a spiritual and attractive place in Varanasi.

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Detail of floral design on Mosque ceiling_©https://kevinstandagephotography.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/ksp_4138.jpg?w=900
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Alamgir Mosque_©https://www.mughallibrary.com/images-1/aurangzeb-alamgir-mosque,-varanasi,-banaras,-hindustan

Manikarnika Ghat

Manikarnika Ghat, one of Varanasi’s oldest and most revered Ghats, serves as the city’s main cremation location. 

Hindu mythology states that the person burned here immediately frees himself from the cycle of birth and reincarnation. 

At the intersection of the five main Tirtha Sthals, the Manikarnika Ghat represents both creation and destruction. A holy well known as the Manikarnika Kund is also located here.

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Manikarnika Ghat_©https://travelogyindia.b-cdn.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/manikarnika-ghat.jpg

Ramnagar fort and Museum

Style- Mughal architecture
Construction Material- a red sandstone
Period: 18th century

This fort is home to the well-known Ved Vyasa Temple, the Dakshin Mukhi Hanuman Temple, carved balconies, pavilions, open courtyards, rooms, the king’s living quarters, and a quirky museum called Saraswati Bhawan that features a unique collection of ivory works, vintage American cars, medieval costumes, gold ornaments, silver works, antique weapons, manuscripts, Mughal miniature illustrated books, and an astronomical clock.

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Ramnagar Fort Museum_©https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g297685-d19764896-

Shri Kashi Vishwanath temple 

Style: Nagara style 

This historic temple, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples, is known as the “Golden Temple of Varanasi” because of its gold-plated spires and domes. The Jyotirlinga is a 60 cm tall, dark brown stone that sits on a silver pedestal in the Sanctum.

Around the primary temple, which has a quadrangle-like structure, are smaller shrines dedicated to various deities. The inner Garbha Griha, also known as the Sanctum Sanctorum, is reached by a Sabha Griha, or congregation hall. 

Rajghat’s ancient sites have uncovered traces of a city that existed in the 9th–10th centuries BCE. 

Additionally, the shrine is recorded in the travelogues of foreigners like Hieun Tsang.

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Aerial view of kashi Vishwanath temple_©https://wallpapercave.com/w/wp8841444

Bharat mata temple

Established by: Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt
inaugurated by: Mahatma Gandhi
Period: 1936

The Bharat Mata Mandir is solely dedicated to India and no other deity. 

The Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus is home to this temple, which has a map of a unified India in its centre. 

The map’s precise structure includes 450 mountain ranges and peaks, large plains, bodies of water, rivers, oceans, and plateaus. 

The map of Undivided India is shown on marble in the temple, which makes it distinctive. The temple is a homage to everyone who helped create India and is a rare example of anything that may be attributed to nationalism.

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Carvings above a door at Bharat Mata Mandir_©https://www.alamy.com/beautiful-carvings-above-a-door-at-the-bharat-mata-mandir

Shri Durga Mandir

Architectural StyleNagara
Period: 18th century
Established by: Rani Bhabani of Natore

This 300-year-old temple was constructed in the 18th century and honours the goddess Durga. To match the colours of the main Durga idol, the goddess of power and strength, the temple is painted red with ochre. Numerous stones that have been intricately carved and etched can be discovered inside the shrine. The temple is constructed of several little sikharas connected. On the right side of the temple, a picturesque pond known as the Durga Kund was constructed.

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Shri Durga Mandir _©https://www.facebook.com/indiancontents/photos/1-the-durga-mandir-temple-is-situated-in-ramnagar-of-banaras-or-varanasi-was-bui/2557366361250319

Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum, Varanasi

Typology: University Museum
Established: 1 January 1920 

Bharat Kala Bhavan is home to 11 galleries; among these are ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, terracotta beads, and unique collections of Gujarati, Rajasthani, and Pahari miniature paintings. For individuals of all ages, this location is the ideal celebration of Indian art and culture. It is situated inside the compound of Banaras Hindu University. There are 104,376 distinct holdings total at Bharat Kala Bhawan.

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Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum_©https://c8.alamy.com/zooms/9/0daaede757bb4818ba6a04b7db5daadc/mb0n22.jpg

Ganga Mahal ghat

Established by: Narayan Dynasty
Period: 1830
Architectural Style- Rajput

The Narayan dynasty governed Varanasi till the 20th century A.D. In 1830, the Maharaja of Banaras built a lavish palace on the banks of the Ganga that became known as the “Ganga Mahal.” The ghat was called “Ganga Mahal Ghat” since the palace was erected atop it. Assi Ghat and Ganga Mahal Ghat are separated from one another by stone stairs, and each ghat has lovely carvings that show off the Rajputs’ architectural splendour and culture.

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Ganga ghat, Varanasi_©https://i.pinimg.com/originals/a5/68/f8/a568f8aaa4320555905b1966511c503b.jpg

Maan Mandir Observatory 

Architectural Style: Indo-Islamic
Period: the 16th century
Established by: Maharaja Jai Singh, the king of Jaipur

Mann mandir, Commonly known as Jantar Mantar of Varanasi, got its name Maan Mandir, Maan Maha, and “Maan Singh Vedshala,” was named after Raja Maan Singh, ruler of Amer. 

Someshwar was the previous name of this location. 

The Jaipur ruler Raja Sawai Singh II added Vedshalas to the fort after it was erected. 

The Samrat Yantra, The Nadivlay Yantra, The Chakra Yantra, The Digansha, and The Bhitti Yantra are a few of this observatory’s equipment.

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Maan Singh Observatory_©https://images.jdmagicbox.com/comp/varanasi/h9/0542px542.x542.190827073240.n6h9/catalogue/man-singh-observatory-godowlia-varanasi-i9nxyhem8n.jpg

Kaal Bhairav Temple  

Kshetrapal Bhairav, another aspect of Bhairava, is shown in an image on the temple’s back entrance. A silver-faced Kal Bhairav statue, known to his followers as “Kotwal of Kashi” (Chief of Police), is kept in the temple’s inner sanctuary. The idol is depicted sitting on his vahana (vehicle), a dog, clutching a trident. In the middle of the 17th century, Maratha Army Commander Sardar Vinchurkar constructed the current temple in the Nagra Style.

The Kotwal of Kashi is Kaal Bhairav, who determines how inhabitants will be punished. Without his consent, no one can live in Kashi or carry out their tasks without interference. Government officials continue to pay respect regardless of their caste, faith, or culture to ensure their ability to live in peace.

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Kaal Bhairav Temple, Varanasi_©https://www.trawell.in/admin/images/upload/195238717Kaal_Bhairav_Mandir.jpg

Banaras Hindu University 

Period: on 4 February 1916
Area: 1300 acres
Founder: Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya

The Largest Residential University, Banaras Hindu University, has more than sixty dorms and more than 20,000 students. 

It is thought that this university is Asia’s biggest residential institution. 

Oxford of the East is how it is known. 

140 departments make up the university’s 140 departments are divided among its four main institutions. 

Students from around 34 different nations attend Banaras Hindu University.

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Banaras Hindu College, Varanasi_©https://www.news9live.com/education-career/bhu-bsc-agriculture-admit-card-2021-released-123030

Nepali Temple 

Period- 19th century
Architectural style: Pagoda style
Established by- King of Nepal Rana Bahadur Shah
Construction material: wood, Terracotta, and stone.

It is one of Varanasi’s oldest Shiva temples. During Rana Bahadur Shah’s exile, work on the temple began; it took 30 years to complete. The superb skill of Nepali craftspeople is evident in this composition. This temple is also known as Kanthawala Temple since it is built of wood. Kantha signifies wood.

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Varanasi Nepali Temple_©https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/Nepali_Temple%2C_Varanasi.jpg

Tulsi Manas Temple 

Period – 1964
Established by – Seth Ratan Lal Sureka of Bandhaghat (Howrah)

Tulsi Manas Temple is also known as Tulsi Birla Manas Mandir. 

The temple is primarily dedicated to Lord Rama since Goswami Tulsidas wrote the Ramcharitmanas, an ancient Hindu epic, here in the 16th century CE. The temple was constructed in white marble, and landscaping all around the temple. Verses and scenes (pictorials) from Ramcharitmanas are engraved on the marble walls all over the temple.

Within the temple grounds, there is a lovely Tulsi Garden. 

Ramcharitmanas, the Hindi translation of the Ramayana, is depicted in scenes on the temple walls.

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Tulsi Manas Temple_©https://www.sunleisureworld.com/destination/india/varanasi/tour/top-attractions/69/tulsi-manas-temple

Tibetan Temple

Period: 1955
Architectural Style – Traditional Tibetan 

The serene and conventional Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, Tibetan Temple, located in Varanasi, is well-known for its Thangka paintings, frescoes, and the magnificent figure of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Outside the structure, there are prayer wheels that, when rotated anticlockwise, reveal discharge paper with written pleas on them. The Lhadhan Chotrul Monlam Chenmo trust maintains the Tibetan temple.

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Tibetan Temple_©https://www.trawell.in/admin/images/upload/471343665Sarnath_tibetan_temple_1.jpg

Varanasi, the oldest city and “City of ghats,” is said to be older than the traditions and the history of mankind to is all about 

One of the great things is the opportunity to explore the ghats and experience various spiritual vibes. 

One must visit Varanasi once in a lifetime since, as the adage goes in Sanskrit, “death in Varanasi is a blessing for the devout”.

References:

Varanasi.org.in (05 September 2012). Varanasi, About Varanasi. [online]. Available at: https://www.varanasi.org.in/sarnath[Accessed date: 3/January/2023].

IncredibleIndia (no date). BHARAT MATA MANDIR. [online]. Available at: https://www.incredibleindia.org/content/incredibleindia/en/destinations/varanasi/bharat-mata-temple.html [Accessed date: 4/January/2023].

Wikipedia (2021). Tulsi Manas Mandir. [online]. (Last updated:13/November/2021). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsi_Manas_Mandir [Accessed date: 4/January/2023].

ANI news service (2022). Varanasi’s Pashupatinath Mahadev Mandir: A symbol of India-Nepal unity. [online]. Available at :https://theprint.in/world/varanasis-pashupatinath-mahadev-mandir-a-symbol-of-india-nepal-unity/890826/ [Accessed date: 4/January/2023].

Author

Deepika is an undergraduate architecture student who truly believes everything has a relation to everything. Therefore, several fields do teach us a lot about the same thing. She perceives Architecture as a paradigm of change in the world followed by evolution with the utmost potential for a better civilization to come.

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