Kashi or Varanasi is the paramount worship place for Hindus among all the other holy cities where they can plan their spiritual tour to carve a way to salvation starting with the darshan of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The name of the city finds its connection with the rivers Varuna and Assi joining to form Varanasi.Many of the great scriptures, epics and works of art and music are credited to this place.
Death is of special significance here, because here Paramasiva has mandated cremation rites at all hours of a day, unlike anywhere else. Thus highlighting death being only an indication of a new beginning. The spirit of Kashi is all about such philosophies and beliefs. The city has served as a cradle to the languages,arts, culture, education and above all religion in the purest of form possible.
The city was invaded and plundered repeatedly by numerous Turkish rulers over several centuries, and yet the city rose to prominence after every act of destruction. The city is the most attractive of all places in India, for Hindus for spiritual tourism, for:
1. Its uncountable temples where various Hindu rites and ceremonies take place day and night,
2. the numerous ghats that dot the banks of river Ganga, built by kings from various regions of India
3. as the place for moksha from the hands of Paramasiva
Pilgrimage Hotspots of Kashi
Kashi has several pilgrimage and tourist hotspots for Hindus. Prominent among them are:
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Also known as the Golden temple, it is among the 12 Jyotirlingas where Lord Shiva manifested Himself. Destroyed during the invasion of the mughal ruler Aurangazeb, the current temple structure was built in 1780, by the great temple building queen, Rani Ahilyabai Holkar (1725-1795).
Dedicated to Kalabhairava, the form of Paramasiva as the Lord of Space and Time, it is one of the oldest temples at Varanasi. Kalabhairava is the Kotwal (Chief police officer) of Creation; everyone who wants to exist in Creation (even if Gods) needs to take his permission to exist.
Annapurna Devi Mandir
It is one of the oldest temples at Varanasi, the current structure was built in 1729 by Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao. Here Devi Parvati is worshiped as Annapurna, the goddess of nourishment and fulfillment, a very prominent manifestation of Parashakti.
The Durga Temple is at the Durga Ghat and was built by an 18th century Bengali queen. The temple is presided by Ashtabhujadhari (eight handed) deity and slaughterer of evil in the form of demons.
An important attraction at the Assi Ghat is Ganga Aarti, a daily ritual organized in a grand manner which brings locals as well as tourists-pilgrims in huge numbers.
Boat Rides on the Ganga
A pilgrim to Varanasi has the option to enjoy boating as well as walking to get immersed in their beauty and antiquity.
Ghats of Ganga at Varanasi
The Assi Ghat, Hanuman Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Dashaswamedh Ghat, Darbhanga Ghat, Kedar Ghat, Man Mandir, Panchganga Ghat, Rana Ghat, are some of the main ghats where people bathe and offer rituals. Many ghats on the banks of the Ganga
Manikarnika & Harishchandra Ghats
Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghats are where cremations take place all day long. It is said that on an average 300 cremations take place everyday at these ghats. Each one of them has a story behind its construction and is unique in some respect or other.
This residence of Kings of Kashi was built in the 17th century. The fort is highly revered by the locals and Shiva devotees, as they believe the kings to be the incarnation of Lord Shiva.
Sarnath is located about 20 kms away from Varanasi, Sarnath was the place where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon, making the place highly revered especially for Buddhist followers from across the globe.
Gyan Vapi Kup
Gyan Vapi Kup: Meaning ‘Well of wisdom’, the Gyan Vapi Kup was constructed in 1828 CE by Baizibai, the Rani of Gwalior.
Death Experience – Unique Experience at Kashi Sarvajnapeetha
There will be one unique experience that devotees, residents and participants will have, that no other place at Varanasi can offer as part of spiritual tourism. And that is the Death Meditation experience, as one watches the burning pyres at the Manikarnika Ghat on the banks of the Ganga.
It was while sitting in a meditative mood at the Manikarnika Ghat that the SPH Bhagawan Sri Nithyananda Paramasivam had the most intense experience and conquered the fear of death itself. Quoting a verse from the Siva Sutra, which says:
“ Focus on fire, rising through your form, from the toes up until the body burns to ashes but not you.”
SPH Bhagavan Sri Nithyananda Paramasivam details his experience while sitting pensive on the banks of the Manikarnika Ghat and watching the dead body of a woman being burnt, describing it thus:
“ I said, Oh god, same it is going to burn, same thing is going to happen to this body also let it happen. That click opened up deep fear of death and that fear when it spread all over body, when I faced with consciously I could see very clearly that fear spreading all over body. When the fear met via awareness, hit my awareness that become death experience. …
I could see with closed eyes, the body is dead and there is no movement. Suddenly after two and half days click happened. Body is dead. I exist still. I am there. That clarity, that click, when it clicks, it becomes such intense ecstasy. Fear of the death leaves once and for all. That becomes such deep ecstacy, such a joy, such a bliss. And slowly opened the eyes, I was able to move the body, First thing I felt was such deep ecstasy and gratitude, I went down to the Ganga (it was just few feet), sprinkled little Ganga water and took the Ganga water in kamandalu, little ash from fire. Straight went to Vishwanatha and put that ash and did the puja. That was the first thing. It was such deep gratitude, I saw Vishwanatha was alive. Understand, Vishwanatha is alive because I died, Vishwanatha become alive.”