Things to do with Kids in Varanasi
The significance of religion in India is well known all over the world. Within India, amongst the numerous religious places found, the river Ganga and the city of Varanasi clearly stands out as one of the most visited places. Since ancient times the city has been referred to as Banaras as well as Varanasi, though Varanasi is its official name. The name ‘Varanasi’, is a blend of the names of the two rivers, the Varuna river and the Assi river, that flow through the city, whereas ‘Banaras’ is from the Sanskrit word “Varanasi” meaning city between two rivers.
Varanasi is a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh which is in northern India and dates back to the 11th century B.C. The city is situated on the banks of the River Ganges, which is believed to be the holiest of all Indian rivers and is a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus who visit the city to bathe in the River Ganges and to perform various religious rituals.
Whether Banaras or Varanasi this city has tremendous cultural significance firstly as the main area for Hindu culture, learning and religion. Apart from being well known for its music, dance, and art, the city also houses the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva amongst other ancient temples. Locals refer to the city as Banaras and they are called Banarasi, as are the different items made in the city, not forgetting the beautiful Banarasi silk sarees.
Varanasi is predominantly a city of religious significance, it is easy to explore the city on foot and take in the various sights. However there are only a few activities that cater specifically to young children. We’ve compiled a list of must do activities and places to visit in Varanasi as a family to help make your trip a memorable one.
- Ganges River – Also known as the River Ganga is the most famous and holiest river in India, it is also one of the most visited places in Varanasi. The best way to truly experience the river is by a boat ride. With the early morning boat ride you can not only enjoy the beautiful sunrise but you also get to see a panoramic view of the region and get a sense of what the area has to offer.
- While on the boat ride you will get a sense of what the river means to different people, from sadhus and pilgrims taking a bath, performing various religious rituals in the mornings, to women lighting lotus flower candles and setting them adrift and very elaborate aarti done in the evenings. It is good for children and families to witness first-hand what they so often see in Indian programmes on TV.
- Dashashwamedh Ghat – This is one of the top places to visit in Varanasi as well as the oldest Ghats in the city and is situated on the banks of the River Ganga, close to the Vishwanath temple. The place is charged with tourists visiting this landmark site and with devotees who visit the Ganga on a daily basis to wash their sins away or to perform various rituals.
- Not to be missed is the evening aarti. This spectacular event takes place every evening, and lasts for about 45 minutes. Watch as the priests clothed in identical kurtas and dhotis perform the religious rituals, prayers and chants. The night sky is radiant with the flames from the large brass lamps used during this ceremony. You can also enjoy a different view if you make use of the evening boats.
Dashashwamedh Ghat is undoubtedly the most visited ghat but, there are other ghats in the area each with its own significance. Each of the ghats have their stairs reaching to the river Ganges and are used for different purposes like bathing, praying, cremation and so on. Some of the other popular ghats include-
- Manmandir Ghat- or Someshwara Ghat was built in the 16th Century by Raja Man Singh of Ajmer, its main attraction is the Jantar Mantar, a solar observatory at the roof of the palace which offers a mesmerising view of the River Ganga.
- Manikarnika Ghat- known as the Burning Ghat is an auspicious place for Hindu cremation.
- Lalita Ghat- built by the king of Nepal and is where the Keshav Temple is situated.
Assi Ghat, Raj Ghat, and Munshi Ghat are other well-known ghats to visit if time permits.
We’ve established that Varanasi is a place of immense religious significance, but did you know that Varanasi is also home to many places of worship for many religions. So no matter which religion you follow, there is something for everyone. Here are a few religious places to visit with your family –
- Kashi Vishwanath Temple – This is one of the most significant temples of our country and also one of the most visited places in Varanasi. It has a history that is over three thousand five hundred years old. Maharaja Ranjot Singh the then ruler of Punjab is responsible for covering the domes of the shrine in gold as is the Punjabi tradition seen also in the Golden temple. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas that are Shivalingas, considered the physical symbols of Lord Shiva.
- Alamgir mosque – This historical mosque was built by Emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century. It portrays a captivating Indo-Islamic style architecture with rustic interiors, minarets and high domes. The mosque is also called Benoi Madhav Ka Darera and has a beautiful view of the Ganga from the top.
- Bharat Mata Temple – This temple was built in 1936 and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. This temple with its distinctive name does not house any deity but is dedicated to our motherland India. The temple is situated in the Kashi Vidyapeeth campus and has a relief map of our country made to scale carved out of Makrana marble. The temple is built on 5 pillars representing water, sky, earth, fire and wind which are the elements of nature.
- Mary’s Church – This 200 yr old Church is the oldest church in the city. Originally established in 1810 by Reverend George Weatly, it was an important place of worship for the British and Europeans staying at Varanasi at the time. The Church is well visited on the weekends and during Christian festivals when it is beautifully adorned.
- Tibetan Temple is a popular place to visit in Varanasi, where one can witness genuine Tibetan architecture as well as view the serene inner sanctum and a prayer wheel that has been decorated with Thangka paintings.
- Sarnath – this is one of the well-known Buddhists sites where you can come in close proximity to the remains of the Dhamek Stupa. Sarnath is the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon about life and death. For those keen on history there is an excavation site close by along with a museum which houses artefacts from Sarnath itself.
There are so many more religious sites each with its own unique story, like Durga Temple dedicated to Goddess Durga the temple is a symbol of female divinity, the new Vishwanath temple commissioned by the Birla family boasts of seven temples in one huge religious complex, the Nepali Temple – This temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva, built in the 19th century and is a look alike to the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. There is the Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple, the Tulsi Manasa temple, the Batuk Bahram Mandir and so many more.
If the sites mentioned above haven’t caught your interest as yet, here are a few more top places to visit in this great city of Varanasi.
- Ramnagar Fort – This formidable structure made of sandstone was built by the king of Varanasi Raja Balwant Singh in the 18th century. The fort displays classic Mughal style architecture with a massive Durbar hall, a reception room, open courtyards, pavilions and carved balconies. Within the fort you’ll find a Veda Vyasa temple, the Dakshin Mukhi Hanuman temple, a big astronomical clock and a museum called Saraswati Bhawan.
- Gyan Vapi Well – literally translates as ‘well of Wisdom’. The belief is that the water from this well possesses wisdom and the people who consume this water will benefit from it. The story goes that when Aurangzeb invaded the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the head priest at the time hid the Shivalinga in the well to protect it. The well is situated in the middle between the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the GyanVapi Mosque.
- Sarai Mohana – also called weaver’s village. This place can be visited for a slightly offbeat experience. Children and adults may enjoy first hand observing how sarees are made on a loom by the locals, each saree taking anything between 15 days to a few months for completion.
- Banaras Hindu University – This is one of the biggest residential institutions in the world with over 30,000 students on campus. The university played a role in the independence movement and has evolved into one of the greatest learning centres. The beautiful buildings and vast lawns are bound to tug at your heart strings.
- Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum – Another must visit place for history lovers, with over 1 lakh artefacts on display, the museum also has a popular collection of miniature manuscripts and paintings.
For the food enthusiasts, the street food of Varanasi won’t disappoint. You can begin your day with local delicacies like ‘Kachori Sabji’ or even a plate of ‘Baati Choka’, or snack on ‘Choora Matar’ or ‘Meethe GolGappe’. For those who have a sweet tooth the’ Malhan Malaiyoo’ or ‘Nimish’ is a must try. Don’t forget to visit the Blue Lassi Cafe and try out their infused lassi with an assortment of toppings.
We have to admit that no holiday is complete without a visit to the local markets. Varanasi is famous for its silk sarees also known as Banarasi Silk sarees. The sarees have intricate and elaborate floral designs of zari or thread work, it is worth buying one of these to add to your collection. Apart from gorgeous sarees you’ll find ornate jewellery, shawls, carpets, stone inlay work, and loads more including Hindu and Buddhist deities. Visit Vishwanath Gali for your gifts and souvenirs requirements.
Unlike popular tourist destinations, the city of Varanasi portrays a very concentrated essence of what India is. Religions and beliefs to education, art and craft to food, traditions to modernisms, this fascinating city has it all for children and families to experience together and truly get a feel of how great our country is filled with a culture that spans centuries.
EuroKids uses every opportunity possible to help our children understand and keep in touch with our Indian traditions. The school day begins with a prayer and the children are taught the National Anthem, they are encouraged to celebrate a variety of festivals, children get to see the traditional flower torans, rangolis and diyas on display as well as the aarti performed on auspicious occasions. By doing these at school, the team at EuroKids is helping young children understand, appreciate our unique culture. Click here to find a centre closest to you and enrol your child today!