Festivals of India: Lathmar Holi

Lathmar Holi or the Holi with sticks is a festival celebrated in the Baj regions of Uttar Pradesh in the twin towns of Barsana and Nandgaon, also known as the towns of Radha and Krishna respectively. Every year, during Holi, thousands of devotees and tourists visit these towns to celebrate the festival. The festivities usually last for more than a week and end on Rang Panchami or Holi. The festival is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil and is a time for people to come together, dance, sing, and throw coloured powders at each other, creating a vibrant and joyful atmosphere.

Associated with the legend that is linked to the divine couple Radha Krishna, the festival seeks to recreate it. According to the legend, Lord Krishna who was a resident of Nandgaon and is considered the son-in-law of Vrishabhanu wanted to spray the colours on his beloved Radha and her friends. But, as Krishna and his friends entered Barsana, they were playfully greeted with the sticks by Radha and her friends who drove them out of Barsana. Following the same trend, every year on the occasion of Holi, the men of Nandagaon who are treated as sons-in-law of Barsana visit Barsana and are greeted by women with colours and sticks or lathis. The celebration is enacted in perfect good humour by both sides, the men of Nandgaon and the women of Barsana.

The Lathmar Holi festival is a celebration of the power of women and is a unique expression of the region’s rich cultural heritage. During the festival, named after the lath, a wooden stick that is used by women to chase men. The festival is celebrated on the day before the Hindu festival of Holi and is an expression of the love between Radha and Krishna. The women from the town of Barsana chase men from the neighbouring town of Nandgaon with sticks as a symbolic representation of Radha’s playfulness and power. The men, in turn, sing and dance in a show of reverence to Radha.

One of the highlights of the Lathmar Holi festival is the Lathmar Holi Mela, which is a gathering of people from the surrounding towns and villages. The mela is a lively and colourful affair, with stalls selling food, drinks, and handmade goods. There is also a wide range of entertainment available, including music, dance, and theatre performances.

Another important aspect of the Lathmar Holi festival is the traditional dance and music. The Braj region has a rich tradition of music and dance, and the Lathmar Holi festival provides a platform for these traditions to be showcased. The dances performed during the festival are an expression of joy and happiness and are performed by both men and women. The music played during the festival is characterised by its use of traditional instruments such as the dhol, nagara, and manjira.

One of the most unique parts of the Lathmar Holi festival is the ‘Rang Panchami’ ritual. During this ritual, people come together to throw coloured powders at each other, creating a vibrant and joyful atmosphere. The ‘Rang Panchami’ ritual is an important part of the Lathmar Holi festival and is a time for people to come together and celebrate the arrival of spring.

The Lathmar Holi festival is also a time for love and courtship. During the festival, young men and women come together to meet and get to know each other. If two people are interested in each other, they can exchange gifts and formalise their relationship. This exchange of gifts is known as ‘Rasm-e-Holi’ and is an important part of the Lathmar Holi festival.

The Lathmar Holi festival is a celebration of life, love, and joy and a celebration of the rich and diverse culture of the Braj region. It celebrates the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil and is an important part of the cultural heritage of the region.

Travel Bucket List: India – Consolidated List of all States

As I started planning my travel, I started relying on my research for where to go and found it slightly ungainly to search through all the material I have to reach a specific destination. So here’s a consolidated list of all Indian states, in alphabetical order with the cities and towns next to each part which makes it easier to get to the place you are interested in.

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Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Part 1 – Introduction and Overview
Part 2 – Port Blair
Part 3 – Corbyn’s Cove Beach, Wandoor Beach, Viper Island, Ross Island, North Bay Island, Red Skin Island, Middle Andaman Island, Long Island, Baratang Island, Parrot Island, North Passage Island, Guitar Island
Part 4 – Aves Island, North Andaman Island, Diglipur, Stewart Island, Ross & Smith Island, Jolly Buoy Island, Havelock Island
Part 5 – Neil Island, South Andaman Island, Rutland Island, Little Andaman Island, Cinque Island, Barren Island, Narcondom Island, Kathchal Island, Campell Bay & Indira Point
Part 6 – Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Chidiya Tapu, The Chidiya Tapu Biological Park, Mount Harriet National Park, Saddle Peak National Park, Campbell Bay National Park, Galathea National Park, Middle Button Island National Park, North Button Island National Park, South Button Island National Park

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Andhra Pradesh
Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Vishakhapatnam
Part 2: Araku Valley, Vizianagaram, Annavaram, Samalkot, Kakinada, Rajahmundry
Part 3: Amaravathi, Vijayawada, Machilipatnam
Part 4: Guntur, Chirala, Nagarjunakonda, Srisailam, Cumbum, Nellore
Part 5: Kurnool, Mantralayam, Gandikota, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Puttaparthi
Part 6: Lepakshi, Horsley Hills, Chittoor, Srikalahasthi, Tirupati

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Arunachal Pradesh
Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Itanagar, Bhalukpong
Part 2: Bomdila, Tawang
Part 3: Ziro, Yinkiong, Mechuka, Roing, Tirap
Part 4: Khonsa, Changlang, Miao, Anini, Pasighat, Aalo, Daporijo, Anjaw, Tezu

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Guwahati, Dispur
Part 2: Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Goalpura, Barpeta, Nalbari, Hajo, Sualkuchi
Part 3: Darrang, Mayong and Morigaon, Nagaon, Tezpur, Jorhat
Part 4: Sivasagar, Majuli, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Digboi
Part 5: Sadiya, Haflong, Jatinga, Diphu, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Silchar
Part 6: Raimona National Park, Manas National Park, Orang National Park, Kaziranga National Park, Nameri National Park, Dibru Saikhowa National Park, Dihing Patkai National Park

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Patna
Part 3: Hajipur, Nalanda
Part 4: Rajgir, Sasaram, Kaimur
Part 5: Bodh Gaya, Vaishali
Part 6: Muzzafarpur, Sitamarhi, Madhubani, Lauriya Nandangarh, Bhagalpur, Valmiki National Park Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Raipur, Champaran
Part 2: Bhilai, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Chirmiri, Madku Dweep, Bhoramdeo Temple, Guru Ghasidas National Park
Part 3: Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, Bilaspur, Raigarh, Korba, Ambikapur, Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Mainpat, Malhar
Part 4: Mahasamund, Sirpur, Rajim, Jagdalpur, Dhamtari, Dhamtari, Dantewada, Kanger Ghati National Park

Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu
Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Daman
Part 2: Diu
Part 3: Dadra and Nagar Haveli

Part 1: Introduction and Overview, India Gate, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Jantar Mantar, Rajghat
Part 2: Iron Pillar, National War Memorial, Rajpath, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Agrasen Ki Baoli, Ghalib Ki Haveli, Alai Darwaza/Minar, Bhool Bhulaiya ka Mahal, Purana Qila,
Part 3: Tughlaqabad Fort. Siri Fort, Feroza Kotla Fort, Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, ISKON Mandir, Birla Temple, Chhatrapur Temple, Kalkaji Temple, Kali Bari Temple, Yogmaya Temple, Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, Lotus Temple
Part 4: Jama Masjid, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Fatehpuri Masjid, Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb, Nizamuddin Dargah, Humayun’s Tomb, Safdarjung’s Tomb, Isa Khan’s Tomb, Hijron ka Khanqah, Nicholson Cemetery
Part 5: Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Rakab Ganj Gurdwara, Sunder Nursery, Lodhi Gardens, Garden of Five Senses, National Rose Garden, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya, National Museum, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum, Indian War Memorial Museum, National Handicrafts Museum
Part 6: Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum, Sanskriti Museums, Charkha Museum, Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, Shankar’s International Dolls Museum, Museum of Archaeology, National Railway Museum, Museo Camera, National Gallery of Modern Art, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Museum of Illusions, National Zoological Park, National Bal Bhavan, Connaught Place, Chandni Chowk, Dilli Haat, Sarojini Market, Lajpat Nagar, Majnu ka Tila, Pragati Maidan

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: North Goa, Vagator Beach, Anjuna Beach, Calangute Beach, Sinquerim Beach, Candolim Beach, Arambol Beach, Mandrem Beach, Morjim Beach, Miramar Beach, Siridao Beach, Bogdeshwara Temple, Mangeshi Temple, Mahalaxmi Temple, Fort Aguada, Chapora Fort, Reis Magos Fort, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Chapel of St. Catherine, Church of Mae De Deus, Goa State Museum, Houses of Goa Museum, Museum of Christian Art, Casino Palms, Chorao Island, Harvalem Waterfalls
Part 3: South Goa, Butterfly Beach, Betalbatim Beach, Agonda Beach, Mobor Beach, Hollant Beach, Palolem Beach, Cansaulim Beach, Colva Beach, Talpona Beach, Kakolem Beach, Benaulim Beach, Our Lady of Remedios Church, Saviour of the World Church, St. Alex Church, Shantadurga Temple, Tambdi Surla Mahadev Temple, Chandreshwar Bhoothnath Temple, Naval Aviation Museum, Goa Chitra Museum, Big Foot Museum, The Grande Island, Pequeno Island, Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Dudhsagar Falls, Bamanbudo Waterfalls, Netravali Bubbling Lake, Cabo de Rama Fort, Chandor

Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Surat, Vapi, Udvada, Valsad, Bilimora, Navsari, Bharuch, Saputara
Part 3: Ahmedabad, Lothal, Vadodara, Anand
Part 4: Gandhinagar, Patan, Mehsana, Palanpur
Part 5: Rajkot, Jamnagar, Dwarka, Porbandar, Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Palitana,
Part 6: Kutch, Bhuj, Mandvi, Rann of Kutch, Anjar

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Gurugram, Manesar, Sohna
Part 2: Faridabad, Nuh, Murthal, Rohtak, Meham
Part 3: Hisar, Panipat, Karnal
Part 4: Kurukshetra, Ambala
Part 5: Panchkula, Morni Hills, Narnaul

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Himachal Pradesh
Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Shimla, Kufri, Fagu, Theog, Hatkoti Valley, Chanshal Valley
Part 2: Chail, Solan, Barog, Nahan, Sirmour, Paonta Sahib, Shoghi, Kasauli, Arki, Nalagarh, Dadasiba, Bilaspur, Dalhousie,
Part 3: Kangra, Khajjiar, Bharmour, Chamba, Tattapani, Jalori Pass, Jibhi, Mandi
Part 4: Trithan Valley, Bhuntar, Sainj Valley, Barot, Bir Billing, Palampur, Kasol, Nagar, Manikaran Sahib, Tosh, Parvati Valley
Part 5: Kullu, Manali, Dharamsala, McLeodganj
Part 6: Keylong, Pin Valley National Park, Spiti Valley, Narkanda, Mashroba, Kinnaur, Sarahan, Sangla Valley, Kalpa, Pangi Valley, Nako

Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh
Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Kashmir, Srinagar, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgam, Amarnath, Pulwama, Kupwara, Poonch, Anantnag, Baramulla, Dachigam National Park
Part 2: Jammu, Patnitop, Rajouri, Udhampur, Kathua, Katra, Vaishno Devi, Kishtwar
Part 3: Ladakh, Leh, Leh Palace, Thiksey Gompa, Pangong Lake, Magnetic Hill, Nubra Valley and Khardung La Pass, Kargil, Drass, Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary, Lamayuru, Lake Tso Moriri

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Ranchi
Part 2: Hazaribagh, Bokaro Steel City
Part 3: Jamshedpur, Neterhat
Part 4: Dhanbad, Shikarji, Deoghar, Dumka

Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Bengaluru
Part 3: Mysuru, Mangalore, Belgaum
Part 4: Hubli-Dharwad, Gulbarga, Bidar, Badami, Bijapur, Hassan, Shimoga, Hampi, Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarhole National Park, Bandipur National Park, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Jog Falls, Shivanasamudra Falls, Kodasalli Backwater
Part 5: Coorg, Chikmagalur, Sakleshpur, Kudremukh, Kemmanagundi, Kotagiri, Masinagudi, Devarayanadurga, Karwar, Devbagh, Kumta, Netrani Island, Murudeshwar, Maravanthe, St. Mary’s Island, Udipi
Part 6: Udipi, Kollur, Sringeri, Dharmasthala, Horanadu, Talakadu, Belur, Shravanbelagola, Gokarna, Murudeshwar, Koodli, Srirangapatna, Pattadakal, Aihole, Kalasa

Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode
Part 3: Wayanad, Mallapuram, Palakkad
Part 4: Thrissur, Ernakulam, Alappuzha
Part 5: Kottayam, Idukki, Patanamthitta
Part 6: Kollam, Tiruvanathapuram

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Lakshadweep Islands
Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Aminidivi, Cora Divh, Sesostris Bank, Bassas de Pedro, Cherbaniani Reef, North Islet, Byramgore Reef, Chetlat Island, Bitra Par, Kilthan Island, Kadmat Island, Kadmat Beach, Elikalpeni Bank, Perumal Par, Amini Island
Part 3: Laccadive, Amindivi, Agatti Island, Bangaram, Pakshipitti, Andrott Island, Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Suheli Par
Part 4: Minicoy, Maliku Atoll, Investigator Bank, Viringili

Madhya Pradesh
Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Bhopal
Part 3: Indore, Ujjain, Alampur
Part 4: Maheshwar, Omkareshwar, Mandu, Burhanpur
Part 5: Chanderi, Shivpuri, Orchha, Khajurao
Part 6: Gwalior, Jabalpur, Bhedaghat, Panchmarhi, Amarkantak, Bandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National Park, Pench National Park

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Mumbai
Part 2: Pune
Part 3: Matheran, Lonavala, Khandala, Rajmachi, Lavasa, Kamshet, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Kaas Plateau, Maval, Bhandardara, Chikhaldara, Bhimashankar
Part 4: Amravati, Aurangabad, Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Lonar, Chiplun, Kolhapur, Nagpur, Nanded, Nashik, Triambakeshwar, Shirdi, Shani Shinganapur, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Satara
Part 5: Dahanu, Alibaug, Kashid, Diveagar, Harihareshwar, Murud, Karade, Ganpatipule, Tarkarli, Vengurla, Tadoba National Park, Bhamragarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Chandoli National Park, Gugumal National Park, Navegaon National Park, Malvan Marine Sanctuary, Rehekuri Blackbuck Sanctuary

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Imphal
Part 2: Moirang, Tamenglong, Thoubal
Part 3: Chandel, Tengnoupal, Moreh, Kaina, Ukhrul, Mount Koubru, Baruni Hill, Thangjing Hill, Sadu Chiru Waterfall

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Shillong
Part 3: Mawphlang, Cherrapunji, Nongpoh, Mawsynram
Part 4: Jowai, Mawlynnong, Dawki, Balpakram National Park, Williamnagar, Baghmara, Tura
Part 5: Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, Garo Hills

Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Aizwal, Falkawn Village
Part 2: Reiek, Hmuifang, Kolasib, Tamdil or Tam Lake, Mamit, Vantawng Falls, Serchhip
Part 3: Dampa Tiger Reserve, Lunglei, Champhai
Part 4: Murlen National Park, Phawngpui, Phawngpui National Park, Saiha,

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Dimapur
Part 2: Kohima
Part 3: Mokokchung, Tuensang, Phek, Mon, Pfutsero

Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Bhubaneshwar, Dhauli
Part 2: Cuttack, Rayagada, Daringbadi, Berhampur, Jeypore
Part 3: Puri, Baripada, Sambalpur, Rourkela
Part 4: Konark, Paradeep, Gopalpur, Chandipur
Part 5: Lake Chilika, Tikarpada Wildlife Sanctuary, Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Bhitarkanika National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary, Simlipal National Park, Duduma Waterfalls, Chandaka Forest, Kotgarh Elephant Reserve, Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Puducherry
Part 2: Karaikal, Mahé, Yanam

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Chandigarh, Sirhind
Part 3: Rupnagar, Patiala
Part 4: Ludhiana, Bhatinda
Part 5: Jalandhar, Kapurthala
Part 6: Pathankot, Amritsar

Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Jaipur, Udaipur
Part 2: Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Sawai Madhopur, Pushkar

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Gangtok
Part 3: Tinkitam Rayong, Namchi, Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, Kabi Longstok, Tendong Hill, Aritar, Zuluk, Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, Pelling, Yuksom, Ravangla
Part 4: Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, Geyzing, Yangtey, Borong, Mangan, Chopta Valley, Lachung, Lachen, Yumthang Valley, Thangu Valley, Gurudongmar Lake, Cholamu Lake, Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Khangchendzonga National Park, Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary, Goecha La

Tamil Nadu
Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Chennai
Part 2: Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli, Tiruppur, Tirunelveli
Part 3: Ooty, Kodaikanal, Yercaud, Coonoor, Yelagiri, Bellikkal
Part 4: Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Chidambaram, Vaitheeshwaran Kovil,
Part 5: Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, Swamimalai, Rameshwaram, Madurai
Part 6: Mahabalipuram, Kanyakumari, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Hogenakkal Falls, Kutralam Falls

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Hyderabad Part 1
Part 2: Hyderabad Part 2
Part 3: Secunderabad
Part 4: Warangal, Nizamabad
Part 5: Khammam, Karimnagar, Adilabad, Mahbubnagar, Medak
Part 6: Nalgonda, Bhadrachalam, Koti Linga, Somasila, Vemulawada

Part 1: Introduction and Overview
Part 2: Agartala
Part 3: Kailashahar, Unakoti, Udaipur, Ambassa, Pilak Archaeological Sites, Chabimura, Mahamuni Pagoda, Manubankul, Buddhist Stupa, Boxanagar
Part 4: Baramura Eco Park, Kalapania Nature Park, Tepania Eco Park, Khumulwang Eco Park, Jampui Hills, Dumboor Lake, Dhalai, Rudrasagar Lake, Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary & Clouded Leopard National Park, Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajbari National Park, Rowa Wildlife Sanctuary, Gomati Wildlife Sanctuary

Uttar Pradesh
Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Noida, Loni, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Muzzafarnagar
Part 2: Hastinapur, Vrindavan, Mathura
Part 3: Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Garhmukteshwar
Part 4: Aligarh, Firozabad, Jhansi, Piilbhit, Bithoor, Naimisharanya
Part 5: Kanpur, Lucknow
Part 6: Ayodhya, Sravasti, Prayagraj
Part 7: Chitrakoot, Vindhyachal, Varanasi, Sarnath, Kushinagar

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Dehradun
Part 2: Mussoorie, Dhanaulti
Part 3: Auli, Joshimath, Chopta, Tungnath, Ukhimath, Lansdowne, Nainital
Part 4: Sattal, Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal, Kausani, Ranikhet, Almora, Binsar, Jalna, Kasar Devi, Jageshwar, Champawat, Munsiyari, Pithorgarh
Part 5: Bageshwar, Chamoli, Mana, Badrinath, Pandukeshwar, Hemkund Sahib, Kedarnath, Gomukh, Madhyamaheshwar, Gangotri, Gauri Kund, Yamunotri
Part 6: Rudranath, Guptakashi, Nandprayag, Rudraprayag, Devprayag, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Roopkund Lake, Nelong Valley, Gangotri National Park, Kedarnath Wild Life Sanctuary, Valley of Flowers, Nanda Devi National Park, Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajaji National Park, Jim Corbett National Park

West Bengal
Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Kolkata
Part 2: Howrah, Barrackpore, Chandan Nagar, Chinsurah, Bardhaman, Haldia, Midnapore
Part 3: Shantiniketan, Durgapur, Jhargram, Asansol, Murshidabad, Mukutmanipur, Malda, Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Bagdogra
Part 4: Kurseong, Mirik, Darjeeling, Tinchuley, Dooars, Kalimpong
Part 5: Rishyap, Lava and Lolegaon, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Rajabhatkawa, Jaldapara National Park, Jaldhaka, Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, Gorumara National Park, Neora Valley National Park, Lataguri, Purulia, Sonajhuri Forest, Deulti, Sundarbans, Mayapur, Nabadwipa, Bakreswar
Part 6: Bankura, Bishnupur, Jayrambati, Kamarpukur, Tarapith, Falta, Raichak, Taki, Piyali Island, Machranga Dwip, Kakdwip, Mousuni Island, Bakkhali, Junput, Mandarmani, Tajpur, Shankarpur

Fabrics and Sarees of India Part 3

This last part showcases some more fabrics and sarees plus the different drapes to wear them.


Gadwal: The Gadwal saree is a handcrafted woven sari style in Gadwal of the Jogulamba Gadwal district and has been registered as one of the Geographical indicators of Telangana. The sarees, which consist of a cotton body with a silk pallu are most notable for the zari which is also given a new name as Sico saris. The weave is so light that the saree can be packed in a matchbox. The Brahmotsavas at the Tirupati temple begin with the deity’s idol being adorned with Gadwal Saree.

Mythology tells us that Gadwal weavers are the direct descendants of Jiveshwar Maharaj – the first weaver of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The sarees were originally popular as festive and religious wear, worn during pujas and other functions. The weavers of the sari were sent to Benares so that they could perfect the art of weaving but retained no influence from Uttar Pradesh, and instead relies on South Indian aesthetics. These sarees are woven traditionally according to the interlocked-weft technique or the Kuppadam or Tippadam or Kotakomma, also called Kumbam in terms of the border designs. Therefore, these are also known as Kotakomma or Kumbam saris. The most noteworthy feature remains the gold and silver zari work on the border of the sari, which is always made of silk.

Narayanpet: Dating to the 17th century when the Maratha King Shivaji visited the town of Narayanpet, it is believed some weavers came with the king and settled down here and continued the traditions of this saree, which is influenced by both Maharashtra and Telangana. Narayanpet sarees are made from cotton as well by mixing silk with cotton. Their borders and pallus are very traditional and come in contrasting colours with special pallus and simple borders. Regarded as the garment of the gods, Narayanpet saris have been used to drape the idols of deities and were worn exclusively by aristocrats.

A unique process is employed for the manufacture, where eight saris are made at one go on a loom. Hence, instead of seven yards of fabric being mounted on the loom, 56 yards of silk are mounted on the loom at a single time. One Narayanpet cotton sari takes a day or two to be made, while silks take longer depending upon the complexity of the design.

Pochampally: Created in the Bhoodan Pochampally, the Pochampally saree has traditional geometric patterns in the Paagadu Bandhu or Ikat style of dyeing. Pochampally Ikat’s uniqueness lies in the transfer of intricate design and colouring onto warp and weft threads first and then weaving them together globally known as double ikat textiles. The fabric is cotton, silk and sico, a mix of silk and cotton. Increasingly, the colours themselves are from natural sources and their blends. India’s flag carrier, Air India has its cabin crew wear specially designed Pochampally silk sarees. Pochampally fabrics has found a place in UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites as part of the iconic saree weaving clusters of India.

One of the most telling signs of a Pochampally silk saree is the intricate geometric design over the fabric. Another characteristic of Ikat textiles is an apparent blurriness to the design, a result of the extreme difficulty the weaver has in lining up the dyed yarns so that the pattern comes out perfectly in the finished cloth and is a feature that is almost prized by textile collectors. A standard saree takes a weaver family of four around ten days to make. The saree received the GI tag in 2005.

Uttar Pradesh

Banarasi: Known for their intricate artwork inspired by the Mughals with intertwining florals and foliate motifs, the Banarasi saree is synonymous with the city of Benaras or Varanasi. The sarees are among the finest in India and are known for their gold or silver brocade or zari, fine silk and opulent embroidery. The weaving process involves three people – the weaver, the person who revolves the ring to create bundles and the motif artist. It takes between two weeks to a month and even longer 15 days to six months to weave a Banarasi sari depending upon the complexity of the design and pattern. There is historical evidence of the existence of these fabrics since the Rig Vedic period which is between 1750 and 500 BCE and these fabrics are said to have gained immense popularity during the Mughal era.

In 2009, the Banarasi saree secured the Geographical Indication or GI rights for the Banaras Brocades and sarees. There are four main varieties of Banarasi saree, which include pure silk or Katan, Organza or Kora with zari and silk; Georgette, and Shattir, and according to the design process, they are divided into categories like Jangla, Tanchoi, Vaskat, Cutwork, Tissue and Butidar. Primary colours and bright jewel tones form the typical colour palette of this craft. With a focus on environmental sustainability, a new generation of Benarasi brocade weavers are starting to use vegetable-dyed yarn to attain the same effect.

Chikankari: Chikankari is an ancient form of white floral embroidery, intricately worked with needle and raw thread. Translated, the word means embroidery or thread or wire  and the embroidery is done on cotton, organdy, voile, silk, cambric, georgette, and terry cotton. The origins of Chikankari are shrouded in mystery and legend. Some historians say that it is a Persian craft, brought to the Mughal Court of Emperor Jahangir by his consort Mehrunissa or Noorjahan. Today, this delicate traditional craft is practised in and around the city of Lucknow. Chikankari has six basic stitches and over thirty-five other traditional stitches used in various combinations. The embroidery is Mughal-inspired and the motifs show a strong influence from the screens present in the Taj Mahal. The base fabric is usually in pastel colours and is lightweight which highlights the embroidery. Chikan began as a type of white-on-white or whitework embroidery. White thread is embroidered on cool, pastel shades of light muslin and cotton garments though today chikan embroidery is also done with coloured and silk threads in colours to meet fashion trends. The piece begins with one or more pattern blocks that are used to block-print a pattern on the ground fabric. The embroiderer stitches the pattern, and the finished piece is carefully washed to remove all traces of the printed pattern. Chikankari received the Geographical Indication status in December 2008.

West Bengal

Baluchari: A fabric worn by women in West Bengal and Bangladesh, Baluchari is known for its depictions of mythological scenes from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana on the pallu of the saree. During the Mughal and British eras, they had a square design in the pallu with paisley motifs in them and depicted scenes from the lives of the Nawab of Bengal. During the Mughal and British eras, they had a square design in the pallu with paisley motifs and depicted scenes from the lives of the Nawab of Bengal. The main material used is silk and the sari is polished after weaving. It used to be produced in Murshidabad but presently Bishnupur and its surrounding areas of West Bengal are the only places where authentic Baluchari sarees are produced. It takes approximately one week to produce one such sari. In 2011, the Baluchari saree was granted the status of Geographical Indication for West Bengal.

Two hundred years ago Baluchari was produced in a small village called Baluchar in Murshidabad district, from where it got its name. In the 18th century, Murshidkuli Khan, the Nawab of Bengal patronised its rich weaving tradition and brought the craft of making this sari from Dhaka to the Baluchar village in Murshidabad and encouraged the industry to flourish. After a flood of the Ganges River and the subsequent submerging of the village, the industry moved to Bishnupur village. The Baluchari saree is made of tussar silk but started dying during the British colonial rule as most of the weavers were compelled to give up the profession. In the first half of the 20th century, the rich tradition of the Baluchari craft was revived. The colours used in Baluchari sarees are bright and cheerful.

Garad Silk: Woven in the Mushirabad district, Garad or Gorod means white refers to undyed silk. The silk is pure, very light and paper-like. Garad silk sarees are thus, characterised by a plain white or off-white body, an unornamental coloured border and a striped pallu. The most traditional of Garad sarees have a white body and red border and pallu. They are also called Garad – Korial Sarees where korial also means plain, which are white or off-white plain sarees. The whiteness and blankness represents purity and these sarees are generally worn during festivals. For example, during Durga puja, Bengali women can be seen offering their prayers to the Goddess draped in one of them.


Kantha: Originating from Bolpur in the Birhum district, Kantha is an embroidery style which was traditionally used in adorning quilts, but today is popular on sarees and other fabrics. Sarees with Kantha embroidery are typically made of pure silk, tussar silk or cotton. Each saree takes weeks or sometimes even months to prepare.

Also spelt Kanta, and Qanta, the Kantha embroidery is practised in Bangladesh and eastern regions of India, particularly West Bengal, Tripura and Odisha and is often practised by rural women. Kantha embroidery derives its name from the same word with two different meanings. Kantha means rag in Sanskrit, which reflects the fact that Kantha embroidery is made up of discarded garments. The word also means throat and was named due to its association with Shiva. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done with soft dhotis and saris, with a simple running stitch along the edges. Depending on the use of the finished product they were known as Lepkantha or Sujni Kantha.

The motifs traditionally designed on clothes and bedspreads were of birds, animals, fish, folk scenes and imagery that depicted different livelihoods in Bengal.


Tant: A traditional Bengali saree, the typical Tant saree is characterised by a thick border and a decorative pallu, woven using a variety of floral, paisley, and other artistic motifs. The traditional art of weaving jamdani, considered the best variety of tant, has been showcased by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Tant sarees are woven from cotton threads and distinguished by their lightness and transparency.

Tant and especially Jamdani and Muslin became famous in and around Dacca, now Dhaka in Bangladesh and Murshidabad in West Bengal during the Mughal era. The British colonial government tried to destroy this art to protect the textile industry of Manchester, but the tant culture managed to survive. With the division of the Bengal province during the partition of 1947, some of the weavers migrated to West Bengal and continued their craftsmanship there. Thus the tant weavers are now seen in both parts of Bengal.

The process of weaving Tant saris is elaborate and requires planning. First, the cotton threads are washed, bleached, re-washed, sun-dried and then dyed to achieve the desired colour. They are then starched and processed to make the yarns finer. To weave it, the patterns of the border, pallu and body are sketched out on cardboard and perforated to suspend from the loom to guide the weaving process. A few years before India’s independence, the jacquard loom was introduced into the Bangalar Tant technique and was so well-accepted that it is preferred even today.

Jamdani: Originally known as Dhakai or Daccai, an ancient textile weaving centre, after the city of Dhaka in Bangladesh today, Jamdani is a Persian term that came into popular usage during the Mughal rule of Bengal. An early reference to the Indian origins of muslin is found in the book of Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and the accounts of Arab, Chinese and Italian travellers and traders. The name Jamdani, is of Persian origin and comes from the word jam which means flower and dani meaning vase. The name is suggestive of the beautiful floral motifs on these saris. Jamdani is a hand loom woven fabric made of cotton, which was historically referred to as muslin. The Jamdani weaving tradition is one of the most time and labour-intensive forms of handloom weaving and is considered one of the finest varieties of muslin. Traditionally woven around Dhaka and created on the loom brocade, jamdani is rich in motifs.

Whether figured or flowered, jamdani is a woven fabric in cotton. This is a supplementary weft technique of weaving, where the artistic motifs are produced by a non-structural weft, in addition to the standard weft that holds the warp threads together. The standard weft creates a fine, sheer fabric while the supplementary weft with thicker threads adds intricate patterns to it. Each supplementary weft motif is added separately by hand by interlacing the weft threads into the warp with fine bamboo sticks using individual spools of thread. The result is a complex mix of different patterns that appear to float on a shimmering surface. The pattern is not sketched or outlined on the fabric but is drawn on graph paper and placed underneath the warp. Decorative motifs are typically in grey and white and often a mixture of cotton and gold thread was used. Patterns are usually of geometric, plant, and floral designs.

Tangail: A light superfine and beautiful fabric and saree from the Tangail district, today in Bangladesh, the Tangail saree is also known as Begum Bahar, a name suggestive of royalty and spring. Tangail is a weavers’ village in Bangladesh famous for its handloom industry and its trademark Tangail sarees. This thousand-year culture has been passed on from generation to generation and has evolved into an income-generating cottage industry today. Tangail weavers are direct descendants of the famous Muslin weaver community. So naturally, the fine art of their weaving is inimitable and unique. During the partition of Bengal in 1942, a dozen families of the Basak community from Nowakhali and Tangail came and settled in and around the Bardhaman or Burdwan district in West Bengal. With them, came their looms and their specialised weaving of Tangail sarees with finer counts of yarn.

A Tangail saree was originally woven on a pit loom and shuttle with a silk warp and cotton-weft or fillers. It was light, soft, and comfortable. The silk was later replaced by local cotton yarn owing to the scarcity of silk yarn and the infamous partition. The early weaving process was very complicated where the yarn was spun with a takli or spindle instead of a spinning wheel. Over time, new-age techniques, processes, and materials have evolved and today, pure cotton, khadi cotton, linen, tussar silk, matka silk, resham silk, rayon, blended silk, and zari are used to weave a Tangail saree. The Tangail saree is woven in two styles: Jacquard and Nokhshi Buti. For the Jacquard, the desired pattern is fed in the loom itself. When the entire yardage is ready, the loose threads are cut off to give it a smooth and clean finish. As opposed to this, in Nokshi Buti, everything including the fabric, motifs, and the border is worked on entirely by hand. That is why no two sarees come out the same.

The Tangail is a close cousin of the Jamdani and shares its technique of drawing and weaving wherein an extra weft is woven in for patterns. The only difference is two plain picks for the Tangail instead of one for the Jamdani are inserted after each extra weft. A sizing mixture or Kali which is made with rice and lime is applied by hand during the weaving process. As soon as a meter of cloth is woven, this mixture is rubbed on by hand to give the fabric a bit of body and crispness. This is repeated meter after meter till the entire saree is coated and becomes stiff like paper. It is then folded in a particular manner and tied with a piece of cloth.

Saree Draping Styles

There are more than 80 recorded ways to wear a saree, with the most common style being where the saree is wrapped around the waist, with the loose end of the drape worn over the left shoulder, baring the midriff. However, the sarei can be draped in several different styles, though some styles do require a sari of a particular length or form. Ṛta Kapur Chishti, a sari historian and recognised textile scholar, has documented 108 ways of wearing a sari in her book, ‘Saris: Tradition and Beyond’ which documents the saree drapes across the fourteen states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. The French cultural anthropologist and saree researcher Chantal Boulanger categorised sari drapes in the following families:

Nivi Style: This style was originally worn in Deccan region and besides the modern nivi, there is also the kaccha nivi, where the pleats are passed through the legs and tucked into at the back. This allows free movement while covering the legs.

Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarati, Rajasthani Styles: In these states, the saree is worn similar to the nivi style but with the loose end of saree pallu placed in the front, therefore this style is known as sidha anchal or sidha pallu. After tucking in the pleats similar to the nivi style, the loose end is taken from the back, draped across the right shoulder, and pulled across to be secured in the back. This style is also worn by Punjabi and Sindhi Hindus.

Bengali and Odia Style: In this style, the saree is worn with a single box-pleat. Traditionally the Bengali style is worn with a single box pleat where the sari is wrapped around in an anti-clockwise direction around the waist and then a second time from the other direction. The loose end is a lot longer and goes around the body over the left shoulder. There is enough cloth left to cover the head as well.

Himalayan Style: The Kulluvi Pattu is the traditional form of woollen saree worn in Himachal Pradesh, a similar variation is also worn in Uttarakhand.

Nepali: Nepal has many different varieties of draping the saree, today the most common is the Nivi drape. The traditional Newari sari drape is, folding the sari till it is below knee length and then wearing it like a nivi sari but the pallu is not worn across the chest and instead is tied around the waist and leaving it so it drops from waist to the knee, instead the pallu or a shawl is tied across the chest, by wrapping it from the right hip and back and is thrown over the shoulders. Saris are worn with blouses that are thicker and are tied several times across the front. The Bhojpuri and Awadhi-speaking community wears the sari sedha pallu like the Gujrati drape. The Mithila community has its traditional Maithili drapes like the Madhubani and Purnia drapes but today those are rare and most saree is worn with the pallu in the front or the nivi style. The women of the Rajbanshi communities traditionally wear their sari with no choli and tied below the neck like a towel but today only old women wear it in that style and the nivi and the Bengali drapes are more popular today. The Nivi drape was popularized in Nepal by the Shah royals and the Ranas.

Nauvari: This drape is very similar to that of the male Maharashtrian dhoti, though there are many regional and societal variations. The style worn by Brahmin women differs from that of the Marathas. The style also differs from community to community. This style is popular in Maharashtra and Goa. Nowadays this style has become very famous in Indian cinema and is trending in Maharashtrian weddings.

Madisar: This drape is typical of the Iyengar and Iyer Brahmin ladies from Tamil Nadu. The traditional Madisar is worn using 9 yards saree. The saree and the tying style date back to ancient India, at least as far back as the period between 2nd century BC to 1st century AD when the antariya and uttariya garments were merged to make a single garment. Tamil Brahmin women are required to use this style after their marriage. The Iyer and Iyengar styles are slightly different and today this style is hardly worn, except on festive occasions, weddings and religious ceremonies.

Kodagu Style: This drape is confined to ladies hailing from the Kodagu district of Karnataka. In this style, the pleats are created in the rear, instead of the front. The loose end of the sari is draped back-to-front over the right shoulder and is pinned to the rest of the sari.

Karnataka Styles: In Karnataka, apart from traditional Nivi sari, the saree is also worn in the Karnataka Kacche drape, which shows the nivi drape in front and kacche at the back, there are four Kacche styles, Hora Kacche, Melgacche, Vala Kacche or Olagacche and Hale Kacche.

Kerala Style: The two-piece sari, or Mundum Neryathum is worn in Kerala. Usually made of unbleached cotton and decorated with gold or coloured stripes and/or borders.

Kunbi or Denthli Style: The Goan Kunbis and Gauda, use this way of draping sari or kappad. This form of draping is created by tying a knot in the fabric below the shoulder and a strip of cloth which crossed the left shoulder was fastened on the back.

Riha-Mekhela, Kokalmora, Chador/Murot and Mora Gamusa Style: This style worn in Assam is a wrap-around style cloth similar to other wrap-around from other parts of Southeast Asia and is very different in origin from the mainland Indian saree. It is originally a four-set of separate garments and quite dissimilar to the saree as it is a single cloth known Riha-Mekhela, Kokalmora, Chador/Murot Mora Gamusa. The bottom portion draped from the waist downwards is called Mekhela. The Riha or Methoni is wrapped and often secured by tying them firmly across the chest, covering the breasts originally but now it is sometimes replaced by the influence of immigrant mainland Indian styles which is traditionally incorrect. The Kokalmora was used originally to tie the Mekhela around the waist and keep it firm.

Innaphi and Phanek Style: This style of clothing worn in Manipur is also worn with a three-set garment known as Innaphi Viel, Phanek which is the lower wrap and a long-sleeved blouse. It is somewhat similar to the style of clothing worn in Assam.

Jainsem Style: A Khasi style of clothing worn in Meghalaya is made up of several pieces of cloth, giving the body a cylindrical shape.

The Sari Series, a non-profit project created in 2017 by Border&Fall is a digital anthology documenting India’s regional sari drapes providing over 80 short films on how to drape the various styles. The series was created with two objectives, the first to create an accessible and comprehensive cultural documentation of India’s saree drapes through short films and the second to address a needed perception shift of the garment.

Travel Bucket List: India – Uttar Pradesh Part 7



About 114 km southwest of Prayagraj lies the small town of Chitrakoot. Called the Place of many Wonders, Chitrakoot is situated in the north Vindhyan range and holds great importance according to Hindu mythology and the Ramayana. Legend has it that Chitrakoot was the place where Lord Rama, his wife Goddess Sita and his brother Lord Lakshmana stayed for eleven and half of their fourteen years of exile making it a revered pilgrimage site. According to the Ramayana, Chitrakoot was where Bharata, brother of Lord Rama came to visit him and ask him to come back to Ayodhya and rule. It is also believed that the Trinity of Gods, Lords Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva took incarnations here. The Chitrakoot mountain range has numerous places of great religious importance like the Bharat Milap Temple, the Hanuman Dhara, Janki Kund and more. Chitrakoot is also where Goswami Tulsidas, author of the Ramcharitmanas, spent many years. And Chitrakoot is also home to the only university in the world specially made for the differently-abled, the Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University.

Kamadgiri is a forested hill with the base surrounded by temples on all sides and is considered to be the heart of Chitrakoot. Pilgrims perform a Parikrama or a circumbulation around the hill with the belief that their sorrows will end and wishes come true. Kamadgiri is derived from Kamadnathji, another name for Lord Rama and it means a fulfiller of wishes. There are several temples on the 5 km path of the parikrama, with the most famous being the Bharat Milaap temple, where Bharat met Lord Ram and convinced him to come back to his kingdom. Some parts of Kamadgiri Mountain falls in Uttar Pradesh, while the others in Madhya Pradesh. The mountain sees a throng of devotees during the Chaitra month, the first month of the Hindu calendar, about mid-march to mid-April due to the Ram Navami festival and during Diwali. There is a grand fair held every month on the full moon day or Amavasya. The best time to visit is during the winter months as during summer, the red stones become too hot to walk around for the parikrama.

Hanuman Dhara is the name of the spring which sprouted from a rock when Lord Rama shot an arrow into it to calm down and enraged Lord Hanuman when he came to this place to extinguish the fire that was caught in his tail after he returned from burning Lanka. There is statue of Lord Hanuman here and the stream of water falls on the statue releasing in a kund or pond. There also also langurs in the area, mammals associated with Lord Hanuman, the monkey God.

The Sati Anusuya temple is dedicated to Anusuya where legend says that she sprinkled some special water over the holy trinity Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar and this led to their incarnations. It is also said that Anusuya was dedicated in praising the Gods to end a famine in the area and thus the town was blessed with the river Mandakini.

Sphatik Shila has two massive rocks believed to have the footprints of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita. Sphatik Shila which means a crystal rock is located amidst dense forests, close to Janki Kund on the banks of the river Mandakini. It is said that Goddess Sita and Lord Rama were relaxing here and a crow pecked the feet of goddess Sita which agitated Lord Rama and he took off the eyes of the crow, But the crow was actually a form of Jayant, the son of Lord Indra.

Believed to the place of the meeting of the four brothers during Lord Rama’s period of exile, the Bharat Milaap Temple is very important temple in Chitrakoot. Located along the parikrama of Kamadgiri, a visit to this temple is a must where one can see the footprints of Lord Rama and his family. A small temple along with a well, Bharat Kup is located few km from Chitrakoot and it is believed that it was here that Bharat stored water from all pilgrimage places in India.


The Gupt Godavari is a pair of caves in which there is a tiny entrance, through which one can barely pass. Water trickles down in streams through the other cave, which can rise up to the length of the knees. It is said that Lord Rama and Lord Lakshman once held their secret meetings here, which is validated apparently by the throne like structures present in the cave. Marpha located 4 km from the Gupt Godavari caves is famous for its natural beauty, temples and the ruins of a Chandel fort.

Rajapur is a small town about 40 km from Chitrakoot and is famous because it is the birthplace of Goswami Tulsidas, the author of the Sri Ramcharit Manas and the Hanuman Chalisa. A small temple dedicated to Tulsidas on the banks of the Yamuna river is present here and is the main attraction of this place. At the temple, one can still see many scriptures in the handwriting of the author and excerpts of the Ramcharit Manas are present here.

Located just 11 km on the Karvi-Devangana Road, the Ganesh Bagh is an architecturally beautiful temple where a baoli or well with seven storeys and ruins of a palace exist. The whole complex was built by Peshwa Vinayak Rao in the 1880s as a summer retreat and is also known locally as mini-Khajuraho.

Ram Ghat is a serene ghat on the banks of the Mandakini River where Lord Rama, Goddess Sita and Lord Lakshman appeared in front of the famous poet Tulsidas and where he sat on the riverside and write the Ramcharitra Manas. Ram Ghat is the centre of all religious activities in the town and the most popular bathing ghat where it is believed that taking a dip here would absolve a person of all sins. One can go for a boat ride in the river and watch the aarti which takes place at 6:30 pm every day. The ideal cost of a boat ride is around INR 150-200 and so visitors commanded by touts demanding more should be more aware.


Janki Kund is situated along the banks of the Mandakini river and it is believed to be where Goddess Sita used to bathe during the period of exile. One can also see some footprints by the riverside which many believe are hers.



Vindhyachal is a Hindu pilgrimage site on the banks of the river Ganga. The town is famous for the temple of Vindhyavasini, the daughter of Yashoda and Nanda, who according to the Markandeya Purana had incarnated to kill the demon Mahishasura. The Indian Standard Time (IST) line passes through the Vindhyachal railway station. Located about 172 km east of Chitrakoot and 64 km west of Varanasi, the temple is a shakti peeth and town are visited in large numbers of devotees daily.

There are several temples of other deities in the vicinity, the most famous ones being the Ashtabhuja Devi Temple and the Kalikhoh Temple. There is a parikrama or circumambulation which forms a Trikona Parikrama or a triangular circumambulation which is a common ritual here. The temples are the Maa Vindhyavasini Devi Temple, dedicated to Goddess Durga, the Kali Khoh temple, dedicated to Goddess Maha Kali and the Ashtabhuja temple, dedicated to Goddess Maha Saraswati.


The Vindhyavasini Devi Temple is what makes Vindhyachal famous is situated on the banks of the river Ganga. Goddess Vindhyavasini is believed to be an instant bestower of benediction and is one of the most revered Siddha Peeths of the presiding deity, Vindhyavasini Devi. The temple is visited by large number of people daily with large congregations held during Navratras in the month of Chaitra in April and Ashwin in October. Kajali competitions are held in the month of Jyestha or June.

Kali Khoh temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali and is in the form of a cave. Goddess Kali is believed to be incarnated to kill the demon Raktabeej who had a boon that every droplet of his blood will give birth to another Raktabeej right away. This made killing the demon extremely difficult. It is believed that Ma Kali stretched her tongue all over the ground and licked all the blood and swallowed all his duplicates. This temple is just 2 km from the Vindhyavasini Devi temple.

The Ashtabhuja Temple is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati who is associated with literature and knowledge or vidya. Ashtabhuja who is Lord Krishna’s sister, had been escaping king Kansa’s trap who tried to kill her and finally found shelter here.


The Kankali Devi temple gets its name from Kankal which means a skeleton and Maa Kali. It is said that when Asuri sena or demon army attacked Maa Durga known for her calm and smiling face, she turned into Ma Kali due to fury and agitation and held their heads. Her anger was so extreme that the whole body dried up and only the skeleton remained.

Sita Kund is where, according to legend, is where Lord Lakshmana pierced an arrow in the ground to draw water in the form of a fountain for Goddess Sits when she was thirsty.

Ram Gaya Ghat which is at a distance of about 2 km from Vindhyachal is believed to be where Lord Ram offered prayers for the attainment of peace for his dead fathers soul.


Varanasi on the banks of the river Ganges is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Also known as Benares, it lies about 64 km east of Vidhyachal and about 322 km south of Lucknow. A major religious hub in India, it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism and Ravidassia. Varanasi grew as an important industrial centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BC when he gave his first sermon, The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma, at nearby Sarnath. The city’s religious importance continued to grow in the 8th century, when Adi Shankara established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi. During the Muslim rule through the Middle Ages, the city continued as an important centre of Hindu devotion, pilgrimage, mysticism and poetry which further contributed to its reputation as a centre of cultural importance and religious education. Tulsidas wrote his epic poem on Rama’s life called Ram Charit Manas in Varanasi. Several other major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including Kabir and Ravidas. The Sikh guru, Guru Nanak visited Varanasi for Maha Shivaratri in 1507, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism.

Chandradeva, founder of the Gahadavala dynasty made Banaras a second capital in 1090 and after fall of the Pala Empire, the Chero dynasty ruled Varanasi till the Mughal rule. In the 16th century, Varanasi had a cultural revival under the Mughal emperor Akbar who patronised the city, and built two large temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. In 1656, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of many temples and the building of mosques, causing the city to experience a temporary setback. However, after Aurangzeb’s death, most of India was ruled by a confederacy of pro-Hindu kings and much of modern Varanasi was built during this time, especially during the 18th century by the Maratha and Bhumihar Brahmin rulers. The kings governing Varanasi continued to wield power and importance through much of the British Raj period right up to India’s independence in 1947 when the kingdom of Benaras was ceded to the Union of India.

Traditional etymology links Varanasi to the names of the two Ganges tributaries forming the city’s borders: Varuna, still flowing in northern Varanasi, and Assi, today a small stream in the southern part of the city, near the Assi Ghat. The old city is located on the north shores of the Ganges, bounded by Varuna and Assi. In the Rigveda, the city is referred to as Kasi or Kashi from the Sanskrit verbal root kas which means to shine, making it known as the City of Light. The name was also used by pilgrims dating from the Buddha’s days. According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi was founded by Lord Shiva. During a fight between Brahma and Shiva, one of Brahma’s five heads was torn off by Shiva and as was the custom, the victor carried the slain adversary’s head in his hand and let it hang down from his hand as an act of ignominy, and a sign of his own bravery and also put a bridle into the mouth, dishonouring Lord Brahma’s head, and kept it with him at all times. When he came to the city of Varanasi in this state, the hanging head of Lord Brahma dropped from Lord Shiva’s hand and disappeared in the ground. Varanasi is therefore considered an extremely holy site.

Closely associated with the Ganges, Hindus believe that dying here and getting cremated along the banks of the holy Ganges allows one to break the cycle of rebirth and attain salvation. Kashi Naresh or the King of Kashi is the chief cultural patron of Varanasi, and an essential part of all religious celebrations. Varanasi was also where the Benares gharana form of Hindustani classical music was developed and it is also home to one of Asia’s largest residential universities, Banaras Hindu University or BHU. Excavations in 2014 led to the discovery of artefacts dating back to 800 BC with further excavations at Aktha and Ramnagar unearthing artefacts dating back to 1800 BC, supporting the view that the area was inhabited by that time.

Situated on the western bank of the Ganga, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas or temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The main deity of Kashi Vishwanath Temple is Lord Shiva, also known as Vishwanatha or Vishweshwarar meaning the ruler of the universe. The temple has 800 kg of gold plating on its tower. The very first mention of the temple can be found in the Puranas including the Kashi Khanda section of the Skanda Purana. The temple has seen complete annihilation and rebuilding many times with the first time in 1194 by Qutb-ud-din Aibak’s army when he defeated the King of Kannauj. The temple was rebuilt during the rule of Delhi’s Iltutmish and was demolished again during Sikander Lodhi’s time. Raja Man Singh rebuilt the temple during Mughal Emperor Akbar’s rule and in 1669, Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple and built the Gyanvapi Mosque in its place.  The temple was finally rebuilt in 1780 by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore and comprises of two domes covered in gold donated by the Sikh King Ranjit Singh, while the Bhosales of Nagpur donated silver to the temple.

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is a collection of smaller shrines that are located in the temple complex with the main temple constructed in the form of a quadrangle and surrounded by the shrines dedicated to other deities. Made out of black stone, the main Shivalinga is 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference and is enshrined in a silver altar. A holy well, Gyaan Vapi here is believed to be where the Shivalinga was hidden to protect it from foreign invaders. This well is only accessible to Hindus. The structure of the temple is composed of three parts with the first part a spire, the second, a golden dome and the third a gold spire atop the temple carrying a flag and a trident. On the outside, the temple is adorned with intricate carvings. It is widely believed that a visit to the temple followed by a dip in the Ganges is the way to attain liberation or moksha and another belief states that Lord Shiva himself whispers the mantras of salvation into the ears of the people who die naturally at the temple.

In ancient times, on special occasions, the King of Kashi or Kashi Naresh used to pray first when the temple was closed to devotees who could only enter the temple after the king had finished his prayers. Today, devotees must follow a strict dress code of sarees for women and a dhoti and kurta for men, especially if they want to pray within the sanctum sanctorum. Devotees dressed otherwise will be allowed to worship the deity outside the sanctum sanctorum. Cameras, mobile phones and other electronic devices are not allowed inside and must be deposited in lockers outside. Foreigners can enter from Gate number 2 from where they can walk past. The temple’s Mangala Aarti takes place between 3 – 4 am and there are other aartis throughout the day with the last one, the Shayana Aarti taking place between 10:30 to 11 pm.

The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is situated by the Assi river and was built in the 1900s by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and is dedicated to Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman. Everyone visiting the city does not fail to visit this temple. The laddoo offered at this temple as an offering is amous among the locals and one needs to be aware of the monkeys who throng the temple premises and try to steal away the offerings, but are said to be harmless.

The New Vishwanath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva on the premises of the Banaras Hindu University. The temple also consists of nine other temples within it incorporating elements from the Hindu cosmos. The foundation of the temple was laid down in 1931 and the temple was completed in 1966. The path leading to the temple is lined with dense trees and offers marvellous views of the architecture with each part of the temple designed intricately including the balconies, pavilions and spires. Several sculptures of various animals like the bull, crocodile, lion and are dotted in the area of the temple. The richly decorated hall has pillars and is mostly made of lambent marble and stands at 77 meters high. Its tower, the shikhara, are said to the tallest in the world with the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures, are engraved in the marble walls and the idol of Lord Shiva rests on the upper floor in a marble room with the balcony on the upper floor offering a beautiful view. The temple opens early at 2:30 am for the Mangala Aarti and devotees with tickets can pray between 3 and 4 am and then open to the general public from 4 to 11 am and then again between 12 noon and 7 pm and again at 9 pm when the lord can only be viewed from the outside. The last aarti is the Shayana Aarti which starts at 10:30 pm and then the temple is closed at 11 pm. 

Constructed in 1964, the Tulsi Manasa Temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and is named after the saint poet Tulsidas. It displays the Shikhara style of architecture and exhibits various inscriptions from the Ram Charit Manas on the walls of the temple. Various episodes of Ramayana have also been depicted on the upper storey of the temple in the form of carvings. The temple is a must visit during the months of Saawan which happens in July – August when it opens up a special display of puppets, related to the Ramayana, and is a wonderful experience.

Located near the Durga Ghat on the banks of the Ganga, the Durga Temple was built in the 18th century and houses an imposing idol of Goddess Durga and is one of the main temples in Varanasi.

One of the oldest temples in the city, the Nepali Temple is a 19th century shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was established by the King of Nepal and is a spitting image of the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. The architecture of the temple is traditional and is made of stone, terracotta and wood carvings.


Famous for being a place of worship for the aghoris and tantriks, the Batuk Bhairav Mandir is dedicated to Batuk Bhairav, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. An interesting feature of the temple is the sacred Akhand Deep which is believed to be burning for ages with the oil from this lamp said to have healing powers.

The Bharat Mata Mandir is a unique shrine dedicated to the country in the incarnation of Mother India. The temple does not have any deity, but a relief map of the country carved in marble. The brainchild of Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta, a freedom fighter, the temple was built in 1936 and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi and is the only one dedicated to a country in the world.

The Ganga Aarti is an important ritual held every morning and evening on the banks of the Ganga. priests perform the Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat and the entire ghat is illuminated. The ritual involves huge brass lamps lit with oil with the priests chanting holy mantras.

The Gyan Vapi Well is a sacred well located inside the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The water of the well was considered to be holier than the water of the River Ganga before it was polluted by offerings made by pilgrims. It is said that when Emperor Aurangzeb attacked the old temple, the temple priest threw the Shivalinga into the well and jumped inside to protect it.

Alamgir Mosque is a 17th century structure built by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, on land which once had a Shiva Temple and was demolished by him. The mosque is an architecturally stunning building built according to the Indo-Islamic style of architecture with beautiful minarets and high domes.

St. Mary’s Church is 200 years old, the oldest church in the town and the oldest standing garrison church in South Asia. Established in 1810 by Reverend George Weatly, the church was an important part of the European and British community in Varanasi.

It is believed that the Dashashwamedh Ghat was where Lord Brahma performed the Dasa Ashwamedha sacrifice. A visit during Kartik Purnima, about November/December, is when the Ghat is lit up for the Dev Diwali festivities. The Ghat is famous for the Ganga Aarti conducted every evening, with thousands visiting it daily.

The Assi Ghat is located at the confluence of the Rivers Assi and Ganga and is famous for the large Shiva Lingam installed under a peepal or sacred fig tree. It has immense religious importance and has been mentioned in the Puranas and various legends. The ghat is the heart of Varanasi and has amazing views of the sunset and sunrise over the Ganges. The Ghat has started a morning aarti which is a must watch. According to an ancient legend, Assi Ghat came about when Goddess Durga threw her sword in the river after killing a demon and the spot where she stood became the ghat. Subah-e-Benaras is a unique programme started on 24 November 2014 where people gather at Assi Ghat early in the morning to witness the sunrise and a boat ride tour. In the summer months, this programme takes place from 5 to 7 am and during winters, from 5:40 to 7:30 am. At the ghat, Mahashivatri is celebrated in a grand scale when thousands gather to perform a pooja and take a dip in the Ganga. The Ganga Mahotsav is organised in the Ghat from Prabodhni Ekadashi till Dev Deepawali, a mega three-day celebration with pujas and rituals and classical music performances. On the day of Ganga Dussehra, celebrated on the tenth day of Jayeshtha, which is peak summer, so about May, when devotees observe a fast, perform rituals and pujas at the ghat and the take a dip in the Ganges. The ghat is lit up with fairs, people singing devotional songs and floating lamps in the river. On Dev Deepawali, on all the ghats, lit clay lamps are flated in the river.

Kedar Ghat is one of the oldest ghats in Varanasi and is considered cleaner for bathing and offering prayers to Lord Shiva at the Kedareshwar Temple.  The Shivala Ghat has a number of historic monuments around. The mansion of the King of Nepal, is located next to the Ghat, also is the Chet Singh Fortress with stunning views of the river from the ghat. Built by Maharaja Mann Singh of Jaipur in the early 17th century, the Manmandir Ghat is famous for the palace built by him and an observatory built in 1710 by Savai Jaisingh II. On the northern side of the Ghat is a stone balcony from where visitors can get a beautiful view of River Ganga. Manikarnika Ghat is considered as a gateway to the next  and it is believed that spending the last few days of life at the ghat and completing the rituals of cremation here will ensure a painless passing and also a way to attain freedom from the endless cycle of birth and death.

Vindham Waterfalls is a gorgeous waterfall in Mirzapur about 90 kms from Varanasi close to the Tanda fountains, caves and temples and is local favourite picnic spot. The Lakhaniya Dari Waterfall is situated around 48 kms from Varanasi in Latifpur and are a hidden gem from the din and chaos of the city. It is especially popular among trekkers and adventure enthusiasts with the falls reached through a small trek in the hills. The Rajdari Waterfalls are located in Chandauli, 60 kms from Varanasi. The beautiful waterfalls are a popular picnic spot and the huge waterfall gushing down the cliffs are a visual delight with the top of the falls offering beautiful views of the valley below. The Devdari Waterfall located about 65 kms from Varanasi is a beautiful spot with cascading silvery water amidst lush green surroundings. Falling down a height of 58 metres, the waterfalls are a popular tourist spot. The Mukkha Falls are situated 60 kms from Varanasi and are in close proximity to the Lakhaniya Cave Paintings and look their best during the monsoon. Tanda Falls, 80 km from Varanasi comes alive during the monsoons when the gushing waterfalls is sparkling and in full glory.

Located on the eastern banks of the river Ganga, opposite Tulsi Ghat, Ramnagar Fort is a stunning 18th century historical monument built by Raja Balwant Singh in 1750 according to the Mughal style of architecture. The current King of Benaras, currently resides in the Fort. The fort features carved balconies, open courtyards, and scenic pavilions.

Chunar Fort is an 11th century fort with a part extending on the rocky and uneven banks of the River Ganga. The fort is a stunning structure to explore with an aesthetic appeal that draws in tourists.

Located about 44 km from Varanasi, Sita Samahit Sthal is a temple and popular pilgrimage spot. Dedicated to Goddess Sita, the temple is said to hold mythical as well as historical importance. It is believed that the temple is where Goddess Sita descended into the earth. The temple premises also houses a 110 feet high statue of Lord Hanuman as well as a quaint pond surrounding the temple. It is believed that the present-day temple is built at the spot where Sita spent her exile with Sage Valmiki in the forest and where she gave birth to her twin sons, Luv and Kush.

Established by Madan Mohan Malviya in 1916, Banaras Hindu University is a 5.3 sq. km campus with about 30,000 students residing in campus and is the largest residential university on the continent. With many notable alumni, the Indo-Gothic architecture and sprawling lawns add to the beauty of the place.


An archaeological and art museum, the Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum exhibits a beautiful collection of over 100,000 sculptures, artefacts, paintings, jewellery, pottery, miniature paintings, manuscripts and textiles ranging from the 1st to the 15th centuries.

The Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Chandraprabha, is located about 70 km south of Varanasi and is filled with beautiful picnic spots, dense forests, and scenic waterfalls. Spread over an area of 78 sq km and lying on the Naugarh and Vijaigarh hillocks on the north slope of the Kaimur Range, with the Karamnasha River, a tributary of the Ganges, and the Chandraprabha River, a tributary of the Karamnasha flowing through the sanctuary, the area was made a hunting preserve for the rulers of Benares in the second half of the 18th century and the wildlife sanctuary was established in May 1957. Asiatic lions were introduced at Chandra Prabha in 1958 with the numbers increasing from three to eleven by 1969. However, the following year the lions were found missing. A variety of wild animals are found here including blackbucks, chital, sambar, nilgai, wild boar, porcupine and chinkara. The park is a bird watcher’s paradise, as one can see around 150 species of birds.


Located 10 km north-east of Varanasi, near the confluence of the Ganga and the Varuna rivers, Sarnath was variously known as as Mrigadava, Migadāya, Rishipattana and Isipatana throughout its history. The Deer Park in Sarnath is where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna. Singhpur, a village approximately one km from Sarnath, was the birthplace of Shreyansanath, the eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism with a temple dedicated to him an important pilgrimage site. As Isipatana, Sarnath is mentioned by the Buddha as one of the four places of pilgrimage his devout followers should visit. It was also the site of the Buddha’s Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which was his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, in which he explained the four noble truths and the teachings associated with them.

According to legend, when the Buddha-to-be was born, some devas came down to announce it to 500 rishis. Another explanation for the name is that Isipatana was named because, sages, on their way from the Himalayas through the air, alight here or start from here on their aerial flight. Pacceka Buddhas, having spent seven days in contemplation in the Gandhamādana, bathe in the Anotatta Lake and come to the habitations of men through the air, in search of alms. Sarnath derives from the Sanskrit Saranganatha, which means the Lord of the Deer, and relates to another old Buddhist story in which the Bodhisattva is a deer and offers his life to a king instead of the doe the latter is planning to kill. The king is so moved that he creates the park as a sanctuary for deer. That park is still in use today.

Revered for being spot or Rishipattana where Lord Buddha revealed his first eightfold path sermon, the Dhamek Stupa is the main stupa in Sarnath. King Ashoka renovated the existing pre-Buddhism structure in the 3rd century BC and the cylindrical stupa is made entirely out of bricks with a diameter of 28 metres. Elaborate murals, wall carvings and a small museum after the entrance provide insights into the monument’s details and the Buddha’s teachings. Halfway across Dhamek Stupa, there are arched niches and dilapidated statues of the. There is a daily light and sound show at 6 pm. Entry tickets to the stupa are INR 20 for Indians and INR 100 for foreigners and the stupa is open from 6 am to 5 pm daily.

The Sarnath Archaeological Site is where the Buddha began to preach his sermons and is built around the main Dhamek Stupa and its gardens. It is also home to the legendary lion memorial pillar built by King Ashoka, the current Indian national emblem, both of which are maintained by the ASI as well as the Sarnath Museum across the road. Over the centuries, various Buddhist kings have added small and large temples built with exceptionally well-preserved Chunar sandstone. Buddhist monks would worship the exquisite statue of the seated Buddha, the first idol ever built. When villagers started stealing bricks and stones from this seemingly endless source, British officials protected the area in 1904. The Archaeological Site is open from 8 am to 6 pm daily and has an entry fee of INR 20 for Indians and INR 100 for foreigners.

The Chaukhandi Stupa is regarded as one of the most important monuments of Buddhism. Built where the Buddha first met his five ascetics, to whom he later went on to preach his first teachings, the stupa is an evolution over burial mounds and serves as a shrine. It is widely believed that during the Gupta Period between the 4th and 6th centuries, the Chaukhandi Stupa was actually built as a terraced temple and most historians believe that Emperor Ashoka built this square edifice. Later, Prince Govardhan, the son of the then reigning king, erected an octagonal Mughal tower surrounding the square edifice of the stupa to its present form in honour of a visit of Emperor Humayun. But historians argue it was, in fact, Emperor Akbar who built the octagonal tower in 1585 to commemorate Emperor Humayun’s visit to the shrine. The Chaukhandi Stupa is mainly built of brick and is quite fragile and is now in the hands of the Archaeological Survey of India. Named after its shape, the stupa is a square edifice which stands on a basement that consists of three terraces, each 12 feet broad and 12 feet high. The overall height of the structure is about 200 feet with the core of the structure made of solid brickwork in clay mortar, and the terraces supported on rows of hollow cells, standing on a rectangular plinth and surrounded by a mighty octagonal tower. The Chaukhandi Stupa is open from 6 am to 5 pm with Indians paying INR 5 and foreigners INR 100. Children below the age of 15 can enter free.

The Mahabodhi Society Temple is an ancient temple, built in the Gupta period entirely out of bricks. It is said that this is where the Buddha attained enlightenment. When the monk, Dharmapala from Sri Lanka encountered the dilapidated condition of the temple, he campaigned to collect funds and revive the temple which was built next to the archaeological site, a replica of the original shrine. Japanese artists were hired to paint the walls and frescoes and Dharmapala collected some ashes of the Buddha, preserved in Myanmar, and stored it at the temple. Propagated from Gaya to Sri Lanka and back to Sarnath, the Mahabodhi tree at this temple is revered as a relic of the Buddha himself.

The national emblem of India and a mark of Emperor Ashoka’s visit to Sarnath, the Ashoka Pillar is an impressive structure with four lions at the top. This 50 m long pillar along with the Dhamek Stupa, are Emperor Ashoka’s gifts with the complex filled with lush greenery. India’s oldest archaeological museum has been built at the periphery of the complex. A bull, a lion, an elephant and a horse are depicted on the base of the Ashoka Pillar which symbolises the four different phases of Gautam Buddha’s life. There are also prayer wheels in the compound with beautiful carvings of Om Mani Padme Hum in Sanskrit. The graphic representation of the Ashoka Pillar and the words ‘Satyamev Jayate’ written below in Devanagari have been adopted as the official Emblem of India. The Ashoka Pillar is only a part of the Ashokan Pillar which comprises of three parts with four lions sitting on the top of Ashoka Chakra. The Ashoka Chakra, the wheel of which is also a part of the national flag of India contains four wheels on different directions with four different animals between them. The Ashoka Chakra rests on an inverted lotus which is the second part of the pillar. These two are collectively known as the Ashoka’s Lion Capital or more commonly as The Capital. The Capital of the Ashokan Pillar at Sarnath is broken but is one the displays at the Archaeological Museum. The drum on which four animals are carved represent the four cardinal directions with the horse representing the west, the ox, the east, the elephant, the south, and the lion, north. The animals following one another signify the wheel of existence with the lotus, also the base, is a symbol of Buddhism. The Pillar is open from 10 am to 5 pm on all days except Fridays when it is closed. Entry fee is INR 5 for adults.


The Thai Temple displays the That style of architecture and is is set amongst beautiful gardens and managed by Thai Buddhist monks. The Tibetan Temple has been decorated with Thangkas, Tibetan Buddhist paintings and features a statue of Shakyamuni, the Buddha. The Prayer Wheels seen outside, which on being rotated clockwise, release paper scrolls with prayers written on them. The temple was where Lord Buddha taught his disciples the four truths of life. The Chinese Temple is a colourful shrine dedicated to Lord Buddha and built according to the Chinese and Buddhist architectural style. The temple has a spacious meditation hall where visitors can meditate in silence.


Established in 1910, the Archaeological Museum displays a small collection of artefacts ranging from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD. The museum at Sarnath is the oldest museum under Archeological Survey of India. With more than six thousand sculptures and artworks, the museum was completed in 1910. Similar to a monastery in structure, the massive complex has five different galleries showcasing artefacts from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD. The Lion Capital of Ashoka is displayed right at the centre of the entrance hall and is also called the Shakyasimha gallery. A huge Bodhisattva built of red sandstone and several portraits of Lord Buddha are on display. The entrance south to the Shakyasimha gallery is the Triratna exhibiting several associated objects with Lord Buddha ranging from images of Stupas to intricate inscriptions. The Tathagata Gallery has Lord Buddha in his different moods and attitudes and the caricature of Lord Shiva with a cup of poison beside him. The Trimurti gallery is named after the three supreme gods, Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and houses images of them along with figures of birds and heads of males and females. There are two verandahs in the south and north side of the museum with architectural pieces on display. The northern verandah has carvings of fauna and flora with sculptures of Gods and Goddesses while the south verandah has stones, lintels, pedestals, and faces on display.


An important Buddhist pilgrimage site and an international Buddhist pilgrimage centre, Kushinagar is where Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana after his death. Located about 230 km northeast of Sarnath and 55 km west of Gorakhpur, Kushinagar was the capital of the Kosala Kingdom according to one theory and according to the Ramayana was built by King Kush, the son of Lord Rama. According to Buddhist tradition Kushavati was named prior to the King Kush and is supposed to be due to an abundance of the Kush grass found in this region. The present day Kushinagar is identified with Kusavati in the pre-Buddha period and Kushinara in the post-Buddha period. Kushinara was the capital of Mallas, one of the sixteen mahajanpads of the 6th century BC. Since then, it remained an integral part of the erstwhile empires of Maurya, Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, Harsha, and Pala dynasties. In the medieval period, Kushinagar passed under the suzerainty of the Kultury kings and continued to be a living city till the 12th century, after which it was lost into oblivion. Modern Kushinagar came into prominence in the 19th century with archaeological excavations carried out which exposed the main stupa and also discovered a 6.10 meters long statue of the reclining Buddha in 1876. Excavations continued in the early 20th century, uncovering a wealth of Buddhist materials. Chandra Swami, a Burmese monk, came to India in 1903 and made the Mahaparinirvana Temple into a living shrine. It is believed that Lord Buddha died in Kushinagar after which Emperor Ashoka built a stupa here to mark the parinirvana site. The stupa houses the reclining nirvana statue of Buddha which depicts the “dying Buddha” reclining of the right side. Other places of prominence here include Nirvana Chaitya, Rambhar Stupa, and Matha Kuar Shrine apart from some tiny temples.

The reclining Nirvana statue of the Buddha is inside the Parinirvana Stupa. The statue is 6.10 metres long and is made of monolith red sandstone. It represents the Dying Buddha reclining on his right side with his face towards the west. It is placed on a large brick pedestal with stone-posts at the corners. The Nirvana Chaitya or Main Stupa is located just behind the Main Parinirvana Temple. It was excavated by Carlleyle in 1876 and during excavations, a copper plate was found, which contained the text of the Nidana-Sutra which concluded the statement that plate had been deposited in the Nirvana-Chaitya by one Haribala, who also installed the great Nirvana Statue of Buddha in the temple front. The Ramabhar Stupa, also called a Mukutbandhan-Chaitya, is the cremation place of Buddha, 1.5 km east of the main Nirvana Temple. The Matha Kuar Shrine has a colossal statue of Buddha installed, carved out of single block which represents Buddha seated under the Bodhi Tree in a pose known as Bhumi Sparsh Mudra or the earth touching attitude. The inscription at the base of statue is dated to the 10th or 11th century. The Wat Thai Temple is also known as the Wat Thai Kushinara Chalermaraj Temple and is a place of worship established by the Thai Buddhist community with a distinct architecture. This unique temple features a beautiful garden, a fully functioning school, an extensive library and a monastery. Other major places include the Indo-Japan-Sri Lanka Temple which is a marvel of Buddhist architecture, the Meditation Park, located close to the Nirvana Temple with lush greenery and flowers to create a peaceful environment, several museums, meditation parks and temples based on the architecture of various countries as well as ruins and brick structures located around the main Nirvana Temple and Main Stupa which are the remains of various monasteries of different sizes constructed when the town was thriving.

This ends the series on Uttar Pradesh, one of the longest I’ve done. But the state is filled with so much to offer visitors that it is definitely one of the places I want to visit.

Travel Bucket List: India – Uttar Pradesh Part 6

135 km east of Lucknow lies our next destination, the holy town of Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama. The city is identified by some with the legendary city of Ayodhya, and the birthplace of Lord Rama and the setting of the epic Ramayana. Modern scholars variously believe that the present-day Ayodhya is same as the legendary Ayodhya, or that the legendary city is a mythical place that came to be identified with the present-day Ayodhya only during the Gupta period around the 4th and 5th centuries. The present-day city is identified as the location of Saketa, an important city of the Kosala mahajanapada in the first millennium BC, and later served as its capital. Early Buddhist and Jain canonical texts mention that the religious leaders Gautama Buddha and Mahavira visited and lived in the city. Jain texts also describe it as the birthplace of five tirthankaras namely, Rishabhanatha, Ajitanatha, Abhinandananatha, Sumatinath and Anantnath, and associate it with the legendary chakravartins. From the Gupta period onwards, several sources mention Ayodhya and Saketa as the name of the same city.

Because it is believed as the birthplace of Lord Rama, Ayodhya has been regarded as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites or Saptapuri for Hindus. It is believed that the birth spot of Rama was marked by a temple, which is said to have been demolished by the orders of the Mughal emperor Babur and a disputed mosque erected in its place. In 1992, it led to the demolition of the Babri mosque by Hindu mobs with the aim to replace it with a temple of Lord Rama. Ayodhya is a derivation of the Sanskrit verb yudh, which means to fight or to wage a war with yodhya meaning to be fought. The initial A is the negative prefix and so Ayodhya therefore means not to be fought or, more idiomatically in English, Invincible. In the Atharvaveda, it is used to mean the unconquerable city of gods.

Saketa is the older name for the city, attested in Sanskrit, Jain, Sanskrit, Buddhist, Greek and Chinese sources and the word is derived from the Sanskrit words Saha meaning with and Aketen which means houses or buildings. The older name in English was Oudh or Oude, and the princely state it was the capital of until 1856 is still known as Oudh State. Ayodhya was stated to be the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom in the Ramayana and was also referred to as Kosala.

According to one theory, the legendary Ayodhya is the same as the historical city of Saketa and the present-day Ayodhya. According to another theory, the legendary Ayodhya is a mythical city, and the name Ayodhya came to be used for the Saketa which is present-day Ayodhya only around the fourth century, when a Gupta emperor, probably Skandagupta moved his capital to Saketa, and renamed it to Ayodhya after the legendary city. Alternative, but less likely, theories state that Saketa and Ayodhya were two adjoining cities, or that Ayodhya was a locality within the Saketa city.

In 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India or ASI carried out an excavation at the mosque site to determine if it was built over the ruins of a temple. The excavation uncovered pillar bases indicating a temple had been in existence under the mosque. Besides Hindus, the Buddhist and Jain representatives claimed that their temples existed at the excavated site.

Some South Koreans have identified the Ayuta mentioned in their ancient Samgungnyusa legend with Ayodhya. According to this legend, the ancient Korean princess Heo Hwang-ok came from Ayuta. In the 2000s, the local government of Ayodhya and South Korea acknowledged the connection and held a ceremony to raise a statue of the princess. The cities of Ayutthaya in Thailand, and Yogyakarta in Indonesia, are named after Ayodhya.

Translating to Ram’s Birthplace, the Ram Janmabhoomi is believed to have been the birthplace of Lord Ram. According to the Ramayana, Lord Ram, Lord Vishnu’s seventh manifestation, is said to have grown up along Ayodhya’s river Sarayu. After being a conflicted site for decades, the land was handed over to a trust by the Supreme Court of India to build the Ram Temple. The temple site is where the Babri Masjid once stood. It is believed that the Mughals demolished a Hindu shrine to build the mosque at the birthplace of Lord Ram. In 1992, a group of Hindu nationalists tore down the Babri Masjid which led to a series of violent riots across India. In October 2019, a bench of five judges of the Supreme Court ordered the land to be handed over to a trust to build the Ram Temple with an alternate piece of land of 5 acres given to the Sunni Waqf Board to build a mosque.

Hanuman Garhi is a 10th century temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman and is one of the most important temples in Ayodhya as it is customary to visit the Hanuman Garhi temple before visiting the Ram Temple. It is believed that Lord Hanuman lived at the site of the temple guarding Ayodhya. To reach the hilltop temple one needs to climb a staircase with 76 steps which is located at the entrance. Housed within is a 6-inch-tall idol of Hanuman. The main temple has an interior cave adorned with numerous statues of Lord Hanuman along with his mother, Maa Anjani. The festivals of Rama Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, which celebrate the birth of Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman respectively, attract thousands of devotees to the Hanuman Garhi. The temple is open between 5 am and 11 pm daily.

Established towards the northeastern corner of the Ram Janmabhoomi, Kanak Bhawan was constructed in 1891. Also known as Sone-ka-Ghar, the temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and his wife, Goddess Sita. Kanak Bhawan, which means a Golden Palace, has three golden-crowned idols of the Lord Rama and Goddess Sita under a silver roof in the sanctum sanctorum or the garbha griha. It is believed that this shrine was gifted to Rama and Sita by the former’s stepmother, Kaikeyi. Renovated during King Vikramaditya’s reign, the present site was further entirely revamped by Vrish Bhanu Kunwari. This Bundela-styled temple is currently managed by the Sri Vrishbhan Dharma Setu Trust and is open between 8 and 11 am and then again between 4:30 and 9 pm. Aarti timings in summer are between 8 and 9 am and between 7 and 8 pm and during winters from 8:30 to 9:30 am and 6:30 to 7:30 pm.

Established in the name of the local deity, Lord Nageshwarnath, the Nageshwarnath Temple is located adjacent to Theri Bazaar and is believed to have been set up by Kush or Kusha, Lord Rama’s son. In good condition since 750 AD, the current temple is said to have been reconstructed in 1750 by Safar Jung’s minister, Naval Rai. Legend has it that Kush came across a Shiva devotee called Naga Kanya when he happened to lose his arm ring in the local bath. Upon learning that the latter had fallen in love with him, he raised this Shiva temple for the Naga Kanya. The Nageshwarnath Temple attracts numerous devotees during Mahashivaratri and Trayodashi, also known as Pradosh Vrat. The Shiva Barat or the procession of Lord Shiva is a significant attraction here. The temple is open from 5 am to 8 pm and aartis take place between 5 and 6 am and 8 and 8:30 am.


Situated along the Naya Ghat, the Treta Ke Thakur Temple houses numerous idols including that of Lord Ram, Goddess Sita, Lord Lakshman, Lord Hanuman, Bharat and Sugreev. These statues are said to have been sculpted out of a single black sandstone. The temple is believed to have been constructed 300 years ago by a local king named Kullu and is said is to stand where the famous Ashwamedha Yagna performed by Lord Rama took place. The temple was renovated in the 1700s by the Maratha queen, Ahilyabai Holkar. It is open to the public only once a year on a day marked as Prabodhini Ekadashi which is eleventh lunar day in the bright fornight of the month of Karthika and corresponds to roughly October/November. On this day colourful celebrations with traditional customs are carried out. On this day the temple is open for 24 hours.

Situated on the north-western side of the Ram Janmanhoomi, Sita ki Rasoi is believed to be an ancient kitchen used by Goddess Sita. Built quite close to the Ram Janmabhoomi, this site is now a temple housing some utensils. One among the two kitchens in Goddess Sita’s name, this is a basement kitchen. The other end of the temple has richly clothed and embellished idols of Lord Ram, Lord Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughana and their wives Goddess Sita, Urmila, Mandavi and Srutakirti. Worshipped as the Goddess of Food, Sita is also known as Goddess Annapurna and so the temple follows this tradition by offering free food to all those who visit. Visitors can also donate any amount of money for charity here. The temple is open between 8 am and 6 pm daily.

Located on the banks of river Sarayu in Ayodhya’s twin city Faizabad, Raja Mandir has been associated with numerous mythological stories time and again. The temple houses stunningly carved idols of many Hindu Gods and Goddess, which are clad in silken fabrics and rich jewellery. Once known for its association with Lord Sri Rama, the shrine is now a regular temple. From the temple, the reflection of the shrine on the water is beautiful. The temple is open between sunrise and sunset.

Located in the heart of the town, Dashrath Bhavan is the residence of King Dashrath, father to Lord Sri Ram. Popularly known as Bada Asthan or Badi Jagah, Dashrath Mahal houses magnificent shrines of King Ram. Believed to have housed Lord Rama’s childhood and King Dasharath’s capital, this palace hosts a decorated and ornamented entrance with beautiful paintings. Within the palace, there are saffron-clad monks chanting mantras, singing and dancing. Although relatively smaller than what one would imagine a palace to be, Dashrath Bhavan is lit up during festivities like the Ram Vivah, Karthik Mela, Diwali, Ram Navami and Shravan Mela. It is open from 8 am to 12 noon and then between 4 to 10 pm.

Mani Parbat is a tiny hillock situated about 65 feet above sea level. Besides being a great viewpoint, the hillock also houses a stupa built by Emperor Ashoka and a Buddhist monastery. Housing a line of religious shrines, Mani Parbat is located quite close to another hilly mound called the Sugriv Parbat. There is also an Islamic mausoleum at the foothills of the hillock. Legend says that Mani Parbat is said to have fallen into Ayodhya when Lord Hanuman pulled out a mountain while searching for the herb Sanjeevani which was used to treat Lakshman’s fatal wound during the Lanka war. It is also said that this was where from which Lord Rama gave his grand speech of Dharma. Mani Parbat is open from sunrise to sunset.

Also known as Valmiki Bhawan or Maniramdas Chawni, Choti Chawni is a magnificent structure completely crafted out of white marble. There are 34 heritage caves here, with 12 to the south which are Buddhist, 17 in the centre are Hindu and 5 in the north are Jain along with the Kailasha Temple in the caves.

Situated on the banks of river Sarayu, also known as Ghaggar, Guptar Ghat is located in Faizabad near Ayodhya. With a flight of steps leading to the river, this ghat was once the neighbour of the colonial Company Gardens, which is now known as the Gupta Ghat Van. This place is said to be where Lord Rama meditated and undertook the Jal Samadhi in the river, after he attained Baikuntha and descended into heaven as an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Among the several temples situated here, the Sita-Ram temple, the Chakrahari shrine and the Narsingh temple are popular. Revamped in the 1800s and constantly improvised by the government, the Guptar Ghat is currently equipped with modern amenities as well.

Located in Faizabad, the Bahu Begum ka Makbara is popularly known as the Taj Mahal of the East. The mausoleum dedicated to the Queen Bride Begum Unmatuzzohra Bano, wife and queen of Nawab Shuja- ud- Daula and is the tallest monument in Faizabad and is famous for its non-Mughal architectural style. An example of Awadhi architecture, the Bahu Begum ka Makbara has three domes, intricately designed interiors and marvellously done walls and ceilings. Built in 1816, in the memory of the queen where she was buried after death, today the premises are a protected site under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The gardens in front of the complex have been beautifully done, and has a magnificent bird’s eye view of the entire city from the top of the tomb. It is open from 7 am 4 pm.

Also known as the Garden of Roses, the Gulab Bari is the tomb of the third Nawab of Awadh, Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula and his parents. The 18th century structure is constructed in the Nawab style architecture alongside a vast array of rose species in addition to fountains and lush greenery. Listed under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, Gulab Bari is currently preserved as a part of national heritage. The tomb of his wife, Bahu Begum and her house, popularly known as Moti Mahal are some of the remnants. Erected right at the centre of the Charbagh Garden, this two-storied tombstone is bracketed by endless lines of colourful roses. The garden is open between 4 am and 7 pm.

Popularly known as the Pearl Palace, Moti Mahal is located a few km from Ayodhya in Faizabad. Built in 1743, the palace was a residence of the Queen Begum Unmatuzzohra Banu, wife of the then Nawab Shuja-ud- Daulah and is a fine example of Mughal architecture. It is closed on Saturdays and on Mondays to Fridays, it is open between 12 noon to 11 pm and from 5:30 pm to 11 pm on Sundays.

Established in the memory of the 16th century saint-poet Goswami Tulsidas, the Tulsi Smarak Bhawan is believed to have been where Tulsidas composed the Ramcharita. Located on the eastern end of the National Highway at Rajgang near Ayodhya, the Smarak was built in 1969. In addition to the massive library, a storehouse of rich literature, the Smarak also houses a research centre called the Ayodhya Research Sansthan and exhibits Ramayana art and craft and has a daily recitation of the Ramkatha. In 1988, the Ram Katha Sanghralaya was added here which is a museum and a repository of facts, data and antiques related to the life and times of Lord Sri Ram. Besides the regular prayers, devotional songs and sermons, Tulsi Jayanti is celebrated with much pomp and show on every 7th of the Shravan month. The museum is open from 10 am to 9 pm with a Ramleela performance between 6 to 9 pm. The library is open between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm with the office open between 10 am and 5 pm. It is closed on Mondays and the second Sunday of every month and has no entrance fee.

About 100 km north of Ayodhya lies Shravasti, a city of ancient India and one of the six largest cities in India during Gautama Buddha’s lifetime. Located near the west Rapti river and closely associated with the life of Gautama Buddha passed the greater part of his monastic life here and is believed to have spent 24 Chaturmases or 24 monsoon seasons. There are age-old stupas, majestic viharas and several temples near the village of Sahet-Mahet which establish Buddha’s association with Shravasti. It is said that the Vedic period king, Shravasta, founded this town. Shravasti was the capital of the Kosala Kingdom during the 6th century BC to the 6th century AD. This prosperous trading centre was well known for its religious associations. The Sobhanath temple is believed to be the birthplace of the Tirthankara Sambhavanath in Jainism, making Shravasti an important center for Jains as well. According to Nagarjuna, the city had a population of 900,000 in the 5th century BC and it even overshadowed Magadha’s capital, Rajgir. It is also mentioned that a vast fort covered this city in which there were many temples with idols of Devkulikas. Today a great rampart of earth and brick surrounds this city. During excavation in Sahet-Mahet near Shravasti, many ancient idols and inscriptions were found, now kept in museums in Mathura and Lucknow. The Jetavana monastery was a famous monastery close to Shravasti, also known as the main temple of Gautama Buddha.

According to the Mahabharata, Shravasti is named after the legendary king Shrawasta. According to Buddhist tradition, the city was called Savatthi because the sage Savattha lived there. As per the Ramayana, the king of Kosala, Rama, installed his son Lava at Shrawasti and Kusha at Kushavati. The ruins at Saheth and Maheth on the boundaries of the Gonda and Bahraich districts are believed to be the site of ancient Shravasti. Maheth was the city-proper while the Jetavana monastery was at Saheth. Of the ancient Shravasti, the city walls are still standing. Within these, the remains of three ancient buildings can be visited: Angulimala’s stupa, Anathapindika’s stupa, and an old temple dedicated to a Jain Tirthankara Sambhavanatha.

Outside of Shravasti is located the stupa where the Twin Miracle took place. The site of Jetavana monastery is the main pilgrim destination, with meditation and chanting mainly done at the Gandhakuti or the Buddha’s hut and the Anandabodhi tree. Buddhist monasteries from the many countries have been constructed at here including Thailand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Tibet, and China. Visitors should also plan a visit to Balrampur,at a distance of 17 km from Sravasti which is famous for its shrines and contemporary architectural styles. The Suhaildev Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over an area of 452 sq km and was established in 1988 close to the India-Nepal border. The sanctuary houses the rare Grey Francolin. Another unique feature of the sanctuary is the presence of the Tharu Tribe, who with mongoloid features have been residents of this area for centuries and are wholly dependent on the forest land for their survival and livelihood.

277 km south of Shravasti and 168 km south of Ayodhya lies the city of Prayagraj. Previously known as Allahabad, Prayagraj is the most populous district in the state and the 13th most populous district in India. The city is the judicial capital of the state with the Allahabad High Court being the highest judicial body in the state. Lying close to the Triveni Sangam, the three-river confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Sarasvati rivers, the city plays a central role in Hindu scriptures and finds its earliest reference as one of the world’s oldest known cities in Hindu texts and has been venerated as the holy city of Prayaga in the ancient Vedas.

Prayagraj was also known as Kosambi in the late Vedic period, named by the Kuru rulers of Hastinapur, who developed it as their capital and was one of the greatest cities in India from the late Vedic period until the end of the Maurya Empire, with occupation continuing until the Gupta Empire. Since then, the city has been a political, cultural and administrative centre of the Doab region and was the provincial capital of the Mughal Empire in the early 17th century under the reign of Emperor Jahangir. In 1833 it became the seat of the Ceded and Conquered Provinces region before its capital was moved to Agra in 1835 and became the capital of the North-Western Provinces in 1858 and was even the capital of India for a day. The city was the capital of the United Provinces from 1902 to 1920 and remained at the forefront of national importance during the struggle for Indian independence.

The location at the confluence of Ganges and Yamuna rivers has been known in ancient times as Prayaga, which means a place of a sacrifice in Sanskrit as it was believed that Lord Brahma performed the very first sacrifice or yagna here. The word prayaga has traditionally used to mean a confluence of rivers and here it means the physical meeting point of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna while an ancient tradition has it that a third river, the invisible Sarasvati, also meets there with the two. Today, Triveni Sangam, or simply Sangam is a more frequently used name for the confluence. The city plays host to the one of the largest Hindu gathering on the banks of the Sangam, the Maha Kumbh Mela, which takes place once every 12 years to celebrate a revolution of the planet Jupiter or Brihaspati.

It is said that the Mughal emperor Akbar visited the region in 1575 and was so impressed by the strategic location of the site that he ordered a fort be constructed. The fort was constructed by 1584 and called Ilahabas or the Abode of God, which later changed to Allahabad under Emperor Shah Jahan. Speculations regarding its name however, exist with some believing that it was named by Emperor Jahangir after he failed to destroy the Akshayavat tree. After being called Allahabad for centuries, it was finally renamed Prayagraj in October 2018.

One of the holiest places in north India, the Triveni Sangam is located about 7 km Prayagraj and is the meeting point of three rivers, the Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythical underground river Saraswati, supposed to have dried up more than 4,000 years ago. It is also where the Kumbh Mela is held once every 12 years. According to Hindu mythology, taking a bath in the Triveni Sangam is supposed to remove all sins and free the person from the cycle of rebirth. The brownish Ganga meeting the slightly greenish Yamuna and a boat ride at this point will show the differences in the colours of the rivers. There are makeshift wooden banks which can be used for bathing. Triveni Sangam is mentioned in the sacred texts multiple times and it is said that during the battle between the Gods and the demons, drops of nectar, which can turn one immortal, fell here which makes Prayagraj Tirthraja or The King of Holy Places, which is why the Kumbh Mela is organised here. According to other legends, the Prakrista Yajna was also performed by Lord Brahma here and that Lord Rama visited the city when he was in exile. The confluence offers breath-taking views not only of the merging waters but also of Allahabad Fort constructed by Emperor Akbar, the New Yamuna Bridge and white birds floating on the water.

Colloquially known as the Bade Hanuman Mandir, the Lete Hue Hanuman Temple, the Hanuman Temple just outside Allahabad Fort and near the Triveni Sangam. It is constructed underground, with Lord Hanuman in a leaning posture which is 20-feet long and 8-feet wide, a one-of-a-kind temple. A popular temple in the city, the temple is especially busy on Tuesdays and Saturdays. One part of the temple is always submerged, with rising water levels coming only up to Hanuman’s feet. The temple would typically require a 10-stair pathway to reach the idol beneath ground level. The temple is open between 5 am and 2 pm and then between 5 to 8 pm.


Located at Alopibagh, near the Triveni Sangam, the Alopi Devi Mandir is an unconventional temple which does not have any presiding deity but a wooden chariot called a dolie which is worshipped by the devotees of Lord Shiva. Housing the last of Goddess Sati’s body parts, the Alopi Devi Mandir is a Shakti Peetha with Tuesdays the busiest day and Navratri celebrated with much pomp. There are two famous myths behind the existence of the temple. One says that the temple houses the last part of Goddess Sati’s body that was shattered into pieces by Vishnu’s Sudarshan Chakra. The other story is that of a vanishing bride. It is said that some thieves and dacoits attacked a wedding procession that was passing through the woods. After robbing everyone and killing most of them, the thieves came to the bride’s chariot to take her away, only to see that she was missing which is unsolved till today. The place was thus called the Virgin Goddess Who Disappeared translating to Alopi Devi. The temple is open from 6 am to 8 pm.

Situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, near the Saraswati Ghat, the Mankameshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of a shivalinga. The temple is crowded on Mondays as the Shiva Pooja is conducted on that day with the Pradusha Pooja carried out every Saturday. The temple is open from 6 am to 10 pm daily.

Located inside the Allahabad Fort complex in the Patalpuri Temple, the Akshaya Vat or Akshayvat is an ancient fig tree. After 2011, this tree can only be visited after the permission of the Commandant of Allahabad Fort’s Ordnance Depot. Only on a single day during the Kumbh Mela festival is this sacred site open to the public. The legend behind this tree is woven in Hindu mythology and it is believed that Lord Narayana submerged the entire earth for a brief moment when the sage Markandaya asked him to show his divine strength. Upon the flooding, it was only the Akshayavat Tree that stayed afloat and so it is believed to be immortal and holy. Some believe that Lord Rama, Lord Laksmana and Goddess Sita rested under this tree during their exile with another popular local story being that Emperor Akbar tried to burn down the tree during the construction of the fort, but was unsuccessful, which is why the tree is standing inside the fort. For a long time, people also used to commit suicide by jumping from this tree into the water, believing that they will attain salvation by doing this. It is said that the British hid certain parts the tree from the public, for security and so there is an underground temple found inside Allahabad Fort.

Organised every year in Prayagraj, the Magh Mela is the mini version of the famous Kumbh Mela and takes place at the confluence of the three rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati at the Triveni Sangam. This festival is held in the Hindu month of Magh which comes in January/February and attracts a large number of tourists and pilgrims at the mela, spread over 45 days starting on Makar Sankranti. The Mela gets its name because it takes place in the Hindu month of Magh, the whole period which is called Kalpvas, and the pilgrims known as Kalpavis.

Built in the late 19th century, the All Saints Cathedral or Patthar Girja is a spectacular Anglican Christian Church and is also known as the Church of Stone. Founded in 1871 by Lady Muir Elizabeth Huntly Wemyss and was consecrated in 1887 and finished in 1891. Constructed in the Gothic style of architecture, the church has carved glass panels and marble-finished sanctuaries and is one of the significant remnants of colonial design in the country. This church also houses the iconic jaali work throughout its arched windows. The light sandalwood tinted walls of the church was built with Sandstone from Chunar. The church is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm

Allahabad Fort was built during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1583 and is located on the banks of the confluence of the Rivers Ganga and Yamuna and is the largest fort built by Akbar. However, access to the fort is generally closed to the public and tourists are allowed inside only during the Kumbh Mela, once every 12 years. The fort is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India and is well known for its Akshayavat Tree which can be seen using a small gate as the point of entry. Allahabad Fort is also home to the Patalpuri Temple, which is said to be home all the gates of hell. The best way to explore the fort from the outside on a boat ride in the river either during sunrise or sunset. The fort consists of massive walls, towers, a temple and a large palace. There are three gateways to enter and exit the fort. The interior of the palace has been decorated with Hindu and Muslim influences. The temple inside the fort premise is an underground temple that can be accessed by a small entry in the eastern wall of the fort with the Akshayavat tree near the Patalpuri Temple. There is also a 10-metre-tall Ashoka Pillar that was installed in 232 BC that has the inscription of Emperor Jahangir.

A significant remnant of the Gupta era, the Allahabad Pillar is one of the many pillars set up by the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka. This polished sandstone spire has inscriptions from the Samudragupta and Jahangir era; the 4th century BC and the 17th century respectively. The pillar was shifted from its original spot to Akbar’s Allahabad Fort and because the fort is now property of the Indian army, permission is needed to visit the pillar. Established during Emperor Ashoka’s rule during the 3rd century BC, the Allahabad Pillar is also known as an Ashoka Stambha and some historians saying that the pillar was originally located in Kaushambi, about 50 km from the present site, but some say it was never moved. Divided into three sections, the pillar has messages in stone from the Ashoka, Samudragupta and Jahangir eras with the inscriptions playing a crucial role in decoding the Brahmi Script. The last section of the pillar inscriptions are from the Mughal era and are inscribed by Mir Abdullah Mushkin Qalam.

A stunning remnant of Mughal architecture, Khusro Bagh houses three sandstone tombs of the Emperor Jehangir’s family, his wife Shah Begum, his oldest son, Khusrau Mirza and his daughter, Sultan Nithar Begum. Landscaped amid an elaborately beautiful garden of guava trees and roses, the Bagh has intricate carvings and inscriptions on each of the mausoleums. The elaborately decorated gates give way to beautifully designed balconies and the entire structure contains only two tombs and one empty mausoleum, which is that of the daughter, Nithar’s. Located next to her mother, Sultan Begum’s tomb, Nithar’s is said to be the most gorgeous of all three tombs. Sultan Begum’s tomb is roofed with a chhatri which is a prominent dome-like structure while Nithar’s mausoleum has starry painted ceilings and extensive floral and motif designs and Khuro’s tomb which was the last piece is not much of an architectural stand-out and the walled bracketing are stunning. Entry is free the garden is open from 7 am to 7 pm.

Originally known as the Alfred Park during the British colonial times, the Chandrashekhar Azad Park is better known as the Company Garden and was established in 1870 to mark the arrival of Prince Alfred. It was renamed in 1931 as Chandrashekar Azad Park after he died as a martyr here. The biggest local park, it is a 133-acred green space housing massive statues of King George V and Queen Victoria in the centre of the garden. The park also is host to the Chandrashekar Azad Memorial, the Thornhill Mayne Memorial, the Allahabad Museum, the Madan Mohan Malviya Stadium and the musical training organisation of Prayag Sangeeth Samiti. Built in 1906, the Italian limestone canopy-structure of the Victoria Memorial is also a part of the park which is a canopy used to roof a large idol of Queen Victoria.

Constructed along the banks of the river Yamuna, Minto Park is a lush green park formerly known as Madan Mohan Malviya Park. The four lion sculptures in white stone, established by the Earl of Minto in 1910 is a highlight and the park which is relatively much smaller, hosts lush greenery alongside seating facilities. It was here in 1858 that Earl Canning read out the declaration of Queen Victoria’s Proclamation which resulted in the complete transfer of control over India from The East India Company to the government of Britain. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event Earl of Minto installed a proclamation pillar in 1908. The marble pillar was topped with busts of Queen Victoria and Edward VII. In 1910 the park was named as Minto Park and after independence the marble busts atop the pillar were replaced by the Ashokan Lion and the renamed as Madan Mohan Malaviya Park. The park is open from 5 am to 7:30 pm.

Established in 2004, the cable-stayed New Yamuna Bridge over the river Yamuna was built to minimise traffic flow on the Old Naini Bridge. Also known as the Naini Bridge, it runs from northern to southern Allahabad. Over 1510 metres long, the bridge is supported by cables to its deck. For the best views, one must visit the New Yamuna Bridge during dusk when it is lit up and at dawn, one can get sweeping views of the Sangam.

Anand Bhawan is the former residence of the Nehru family which has now been transformed into a museum showcasing various artefacts and articles of the Independence movement. The double-storey mansion was personally designed by Motilal Nehru who designed this house after the old Nehru residence, Swaraj Bhavan was used as an office of the Indian National Congress. The house is beautifully adorned with the wooden furniture imported from China and Europe and various artefacts from all around the world. In 1970, Anand Bhavan was donated to the Indian government by Indira Gandhi, to convert it into a national museum.

Built in 1979 and situated beside Anand Bhavan, the Jawahar Planetarium has a capacity of over 80 people and organises space and celestial shows. It also holds an annual Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture on November 14th, his birth date. There are shows in both Hindi and English with engaging science models and activities for kids here.

Situated inside the Chandrashekar Azad Park, the Allahabad Museum is a national-level museum which gives an insight into the history, culture, heritage and independence movement of India. The main highlights of the museum are the rock sculptures, the miniature paintings from Rajasthan, terracotta from Kaushambi and literary and artwork from Bengal School of Art. From the Harappan civilisation to the medieval period and the carvings from the Gupta period and Khajuraho, to India’s Independence struggle, the museum is a treasure of Indian history. A new rock gallery was inaugurated which showcases pre-historic rock art as well as a gallery for the Allahabad Museum Green Project. The museum also houses a large collection of Bengal School of Art and Modern Painting of Anagarika Govind, Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich. The museum was first set up as a public library and a small museum by Sir William Muir and the Maharaja of Vijaynagar in 1878 with the help of the donations from the Province British government. The museum is divided into sixteen galleries, each one displaying a different sect of historic and art collections. Closed on Mondays, the museum is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm on Tuesdays to Sundays. Entry fee is INR 50 for Indians and INR 500 for foreigners while a photography fee of INR 500 is levied for photography enthusiasts.

Located inside the Company Gardens, the Allahabad Public Library was formerly known as the Thornhill Mayne Memorial and is the largest and among the oldest buildings in the state, constructed in 1864. Built in the Indo-Gothic architectural style, the library is designed with typical granite and sandstone turrets and a tall spire and has enclosed green spaces alongside colourful polychromatic structures. The library served as the house of the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces when Allahabad was the colonial capital. Today, the library has a massive collection of about 125,000 books, 40 types of magazines and 28 newspapers in English, Hindi, Urdu and Bengali as well as 21 Arabic manuscripts. The library is open from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm.

In the next part, the last part of the series, we visit the world’s oldest continously inhabited city, and some historical and religious relevant towns and cities.