INDIA  :   Getaways

Twin Treats of Uttar Pradesh

Saturday , 30 January 2016
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A few of the must-see attractions of Varanasi and Allahabad, the most famous cities in the Poorvanchal region of UP

From the ghats of Varanasi to the majestic monuments of Allahabad, let’s take a look at the historical sites of these two famous cities of Uttar Pradesh.

Varanasi

“Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old, as all of them put together,” wrote Mark Twain, when he visited the city in 1826.

Varanasi derives its name from the two rivers Varuna and Assi. The city that was once known as Kashi, is where these two rivers merge.

Watch the spectacular sunrise from the eastern banks of the Ganges, where there are vast stretches of sand. Alternatively, tourists prefer going on boat rides to enjoy the view and the best time to enjoy the morning view is from 5:30 to 7.30 AM.

The Ramnagar Fort, a 17th-century building, is best reached by boat. The massive structure is inclusive of the royal family’s residence, besides a museum that houses palanquins, American cars, an astrological clock and weaponry. The fort also offers sweeping views of the setting sun.

This ancient city is renowned for having more than 80 ghats, or flights of steps that lead to the river. Raj Ghat lies to the extreme north, where the 200-year-old temple of Adi Keshava is located. Visitors can take a boat ride from here to Panchganga Ghat, to see the Dharahara, or Alamgir Mosque, commissioned by Aurangzeb in 1669. Tourists marvel at the carved pillars, domes and turrets of this magnificent structure.

The Bindu Madhav Temple is best approached from the Panchganga Ghat, where the Sufi saint Kabir was initiated. The unusual sight of a partially sunken Shiva Temple at Scindia Ghat attracts hordes of visitors, while the Lalita Ghat is famous for its pagoda-like Pashupatinath Temple. The palace observatory at Manmandir Ghat is open to visitors from sunrise to sunset.

The evening Ganga aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat is simply, not to be missed. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple nearby was built by Ahilyabai of the Holkar dynasty around 250 years ago. Adjacent to it is the Gyanvapi Mosque, built by Aurangzeb. Also, visit Chet Singh Ghat for the fort and Tulsi Ghat to visit the 16th-century saint Tulsidas’ home and temple. Assi is the southernmost ghat of the city.

Don’t miss the Bharat Kala Bhawan Museum inside the Banaras Hindu University. At the Gowri Mata (or Cowrie Mata) temple, en route to the museum, cowrie shells are offered to the presiding goddess. No visit to Varanasi is considered complete, without a visit to this famous temple. The Bharat Mata Temple and Visalakshi Temple are also worth a visit.

Allahabad

Allahabad is spread along the banks of the Sangam, or confluence, of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Also known as Prayag, this city is famous for hosting the Maha Kumbh Mela, which is also the world’s largest religious gathering that occurs every 12 years. Tourists prefer taking a boat ride to the confluence – this is where the brown Ganges merges with the greenish Yamuna. It is located about 7 km away from the Civil Lines.

Located along the banks of the Yamuna, 2 km west of the confluence, is the Mankameshwar Temple. Madhaveshwari Temple is also an important site of Hindu pilgrimage. The evening aartis at the Saraswati Ghat and Nehru Ghat make for a beautiful sight, when scores of lighted earthen lamps are set afloat on the waters.

Khusrau Bagh is situated south of the railway station. The walled garden encloses five tombs, including that of Prince Khusrau, Jahangir’s eldest son, who died at the hands of Shah Jahan, while making an unsuccessful bid for the throne. What once used to be Jahangir’s pleasure garden, is now famous for its guava orchard and rose nursery.

Remember to enjoy the serenity of Chandra Shekhar Azad Park, or spend time leafing through the pages from history at the Gothic-style Public Library (timings, 9.30 AM to 6.30 PM). The Allahabad Museum houses an impressive collection of terracotta artefacts, paintings, stuffed animals and photographs, documenting India’s freedom struggle.

East of the Saraswati Ghat is Akbar’s Fort. Built in 1583, it makes for an impressive sight (timings, 6 AM to 5 PM). Although most of it is occupied by the Indian Army and is closed for tourists, the Patalpuri Temple, Bade Hanumanji Temple and the Ashokan Pillar, remain popular with visitors.

The Victorian-style Anand Bhawan with its Indo-Saracenic accents, is the ancestral home of the Nehru family. It is now maintained as a museum and there is also a planetarium within its elegant and sprawling grounds.

The Gothic All Saints’ Cathedral, with its stained glass and the flamboyant St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, are also worth a visit by the tourist.

 

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