Go to an akhara, a traditional wrestling gym limited to men only. They are so popular today that most men in Varanasi still visit an akhara rather than a modern gym.
See Indian fine art at the Bharat Kala Bhavan, an art and architecture museum located in Banara Hindu University. Established in 1920, the museum houses a collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures and paintings and other archaeological artifacts.
Late October is the best time to go to Varanasi as this is when Diwali, the “Festival of Light,” occurs. Celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, Diwali marks the victory of good over evil and the return of good will and faith.
Experience dawn on the Ganges, an unforgettable sight. Take a private boat from Dashashvamedha ghat, one of the most spectacular of these famous stairs that lead to the river’s edge, to Manikarnika ghat. Hindu lore tells that Vishwanath Temple, located at Dashashvamedha ghat, was created by Lord Brahma in order to welcome Lord Shiva.
Visit Jnana-Pravaha, a cultural institute based in Varanasi which houses Indian scion Suresh Neotia’s collection of Indian fine art. Jnana-Pravaha aims to promote and disseminate information on Indian culture through academic workshops, lectures and the presentation of varied forms of visual and performing arts.
Drive to a scenic ghat on the Ganges and witness a puja at dusk. A puja is a religious rite performed by Hindus, although it is also common in Buddhism and Jainism. The ritual is a daily reminder of the link between the earthly and celestial worlds.
Visit Ramnagar Fort, a red standstone structure built in the 18th century, for a spectacular staging of the Ramayana, the Hindu epic centered around the avatar Rama, his lover Seeta, the faithful monkey-god Hanuman, and the evil king Ravana. Meet the actors of this well-known story, and watch them get into costume and make up for tonight’s performance.
The Fort also has a temple and a museum within the grounds. The museum displays include vintage cars, an armory of swords and old guns, ivory work and antique clocks.
Visit Sarnath, a holy place where Buddha first taught the dharma, the Hindu term meaning one’s righteous duty, to five disciples over 2,500 years ago. The 143-foot (44 meters) high, 5th-century Dhamekh Stupa is supposedly built exactly where Buddha delivered this sermon.
Visit HM Textiles located near Dulli Gaddi near the Yamuna Talkies, and Silkways located behind Hotel Clarks, to buy some locally spun silk. Supposedly even Buddha was covered in silk from Varanasi (then called Benares) when he attained nirvana. Some of the stores even have silk looms in the back where you can see cloth being made via an antiquated punch-card system.
Explore Vishwanath Gali, a triangular labyrinth of shops and religious sites in the center of Varanasi. Backpackers and long-term Varanasi residents alike wander through here, eating at chaat, or snack stands, and buying bangles, toys, trinkets, pieces for altars in the home, and other sundries.