Varanasi (Banaras), Sarnath, and Allahabad tour / tourism / travel / attractions

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Varanasi is probably the holiest of cities for the Hindus in India and it is, no doubt, one of the most important destinations for tourists visiting India. The narrow, winding lanes leading to the temple of Lord Viswanath, the ghats on the Ganges - where people bathe to wash away their sins and dying people are left by their relatives to die there so that they can straight go to Heaven, where the cremation pyres burn the bodies of the dead 24 hours a day in front of hundreds of tourists - all of these make Varanasi (Banaras) or Kashi so unique, so special. Whether you like it or not, you will remember the place for the rest of your life. So make it a point to visit Varanasi if you ever go to India.

The stamp below shows the famous ghats of Varanasi as seen from a boat on the river. Do not forget to include a boat ride on the river Ganges when you visit Varanasi. (All stamp images on this page are clickable).

View of Varanasi ghats as seen from the river Ganges
View of Varanasi ghats as
seen from the river Ganges

Only about 10 or so kilometers away from Varanasi, is Sarnath where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon to five monks in the Deer Park after he attained Nirvana (enlightenment) in Bodh Gaya. It is from Sarnath that Buddhism spread all over the world. Sarnath is a very important place for the Buddhists, and even if you are not a Buddhist, you should visit Sarnath as it is an amazing place of history fairly well preserved.

Sarnath have five stupas, the most important of them being the Dhamek Stupa. It is still standing there today after about 2,500 years!

Since Buddha taught the principles of Buddhism for the first time in Sarnath, Ashoka the Great (304BC - 232BC), the greatest of the Maurya emperors, erected one of his famous pillars there with four lions atop the pillar, to mark this auspicous place. The pillar broke off over time, but the original pillar top with the four lions on it can still be seen in Sarnath museum. Those four lions atop the Ashokan Pillar is India's National Emblem today.

Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath
Dhamek Stupa
Sarnath
Top of the Ashokan pillar at Sarnath
Top of the Ashokan
pillar at Sarnath

About 80 miles from Varanasi, is Allahabad or Prayag - another very holy city for the Hindus. It is here that the two great Indian rivers, the Ganga (Ganges) and the Yamuna meet. At the confluence of these two rivers (known as Sangam), a great religious fair called "Purn Kumbh" takes place every 14 years. Literally millions of Hindu devotees come to attend this fair from all corners of the country. The Sangam is also the site for annual "Magh Mela", and "Ardh Kumbh". Ardh Kumbh happens every 7 years. Take a dip at the confluence of these two rivers at any time, and you are assured of a place in Heaven!!

On the bank of the Yamuna river, near the confluence site or the Sangam, is a massive fort that was built by Emperor Akbar in 1583 A.D. The fort walls are still perfectly preserved. The fort is now used by the Indian Army, and except for a small area inside, it is out of bounds for public.

Allahabad University is one of the oldest universities of the country, and in the past, it was regarded as one of the best educational institutions of India. The university buildings are extra-ordinary from an architectural point of view. The following stamp was issued in 1987 to commemorate the centenary of the university.

Allahabad University
Allahabad University
(Muir Central College)

If you go to Varanasi and/or Allahabad, consider going to the close by city of Lucknow also. It is a beautiful city having many historic buildings of Islamic style of architecture of the yesteryears. (In the past, Lucknow had many Muslim rulers called Nawabs and these buildings are from their time). In Lucknow all tourists love to get lost in the famous "Bhulbhulaiya" or a labyrinthine maze within the Bada Imambada. The city is also a place to enjoy the Kathak style of classical Indian dance show. Lucknow is also the gateway to tourist destinations like Corbett National Park, Kausani, Nainital, Bhimtal, Almora, Ranikhet etc. Unfortunately, I cannot think of any Indian stamp showing anything related to Lucknow directly.

Here are some links to sites related to tourism in Varanasi, Sarnath, and Allahabad:

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