Also known as Beni Madhav Ka Darera, this mosque was originally built in the Vishnu architectural style but now displays Hindu and Mughal architectural influences. Perhaps best seen from a boat, the mosque sits picturesquely on the banks of the Rover Ganges.
Bharat Mata Temple
Unusual for its absence of images of gods and goddesses, this temple is dedicated to ‘Mother India’ and instead contains a relief of a map of India. A fairly recent construction when compared to other temples in the city, the building was sponsored by Shiv Prashad Gupt, completed in 1936, and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. One of the most interesting facets of the temple is that it is open to people of all creeds.
Ghats in Varanasi
With over 100 ghats to explore, it is unlikely any visitor will have time to see them all. Each of the primary ghats (steps leading down to the river) are indicated by a lingam, or a phallic symbol of lord Shiva. Many of the ghats double as morning bathing spots for pilgrims, an amazing sight at dawn. The ghats are also a popular hang out for religious men, some of which spend their time practicing yoga or smoking ganja for religious purposes. These colourful characters are often willing to engage in conversation with visitors and are even willing to be photographed for a small donation. Highlights include Manikarnika and Harishchandra ghats, which are commonly referred to as ‘burning ghats’ for their function as the site of Hindu cremations. Visitors can pause to take in this sight, but are not encouraged to linger for long or to take photographs. One of the most relaxing ways to take in the ghats from a distance is to hire a boat for a trip along the river.
Government Museum Mathura
One of Varanasi’s museum highlights is this interesting collection of antiques, largely gathered by archaeologists Cunnigham, Growse, and Fuhrer. Of great importance is the museum’s collection of pieces that are associated with the Mathura School of Sculptures and dating from the 3rd to the 12th century. Other works include paintings, clay objects, pottery and bronze items.
Great Mosque of Aurangzeb
The last Mughal ruler, Aurangzeb, is well known for his destruction of temples and their replacement with mosques during his 48-year rule over Hindustan. The Bineswar Temple in Varanasi did not escape this same fate and was replaced by the Great Mosque of Aurangzeb in the second half of the 17th century. Nestled on the banks of the Ganges, its minarets are 71 metres high and can be see from afar.
Pandit Malaviya Temple
Unique in that it is open to people of all castes and religions, the Pandit Malaviya Temple was inspired by the man of the same name, who wanted to see Hinduism eliminate caste distinctions. The interior is said to be a reconstruction of the now destroyed Vishwanath Temple, which was toppled by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb in the 17th century.
Ram Nagar Fort and Museum
Formerly the residence of Maharaja of Benaras, this 17th century stronghold is best seen from the river. Reached via a dilapidated bridge or by ferry during the monsoon season, the fort also contains an interesting museum that contains some elaborate relics. Expect to see everything from gruesome elephant traps to astrological clocks and razor-sharp swords.