IRCTC launches tour package to holy cities of Varanasi, Ayodhya and Prayag

Varanasi | Rony Mathews

Indian Railways is planning an air tour from Kochi to Varanasi. The tour package includes Varanasi, Ayodhya and Prayag. The domestic air package with Ayodhya Darshan has been announced for four nights / five days. The tour package, which starts on December 2, costs Rs 28,755.

The first day's journey starts from Kochi to Varanasi. Check into the hotel in the afternoon. In the evening, you can spend the night in Varanasi by participating in the Ganga Aarti. Day 2: Varanasi City Tour After breakfast, go to Kashi Vishwanath Temple and Annapurna Temple. After lunch you can visit Sarnath and spend another night in Varanasi. The very next day, you can leave for Allahabad. Travelers arriving at the hotel in the morning can be a part of the Allahabad Tour which includes exploring the Allahabad Fort and the Patalpuri Temple. That day you will be put up at Allahabad.

Day 4: Allahabad-Ayodhya-Varanasi
The next morning, head out to Ayodhya to visit the major attractions of Ayodhya, including Ram Janmabhoomi, Laxman Ghat, Kala Ram Temple and Kanak Bhavan Temple. The journey ends on the fourth day at Varanasi only. On the fifth day, after breakfast, check out of your hotel in Varanasi and return to Kochi.

Tour package
The journey from Kochi to Varanasi will be in Indigo Airlines Economy Class. This package includes three nights hotel stay in Varanasi, breakfast, and dinner, one night stay in Allahabad, breakfast, and dinner. All taxes applicable to AC vehicles, IRCTC escort services, driver allowance, toll, and parking services for the journey after reaching the destination are covered within the prescribed package. All entry fees, tickets, boating charges, any increase in airfare, increase in fuel surcharge, any personal expenses including telephone charges, food and beverages, and tour guide services are excluded from this package.

Varanasi | Rony Mathews

15 things to do at Varanasi if you are a first-timer
Witness evening aarti ceremony: Watching the Evening Aarti Ceremony is certainly once in a lifetime experience. The spectacular event must be viewed from the Dasawamedh Ghat, where beautiful rituals unfold themselves in front of your eyes. Brass lamps of large sizes are used during this event, which is accompanied by chants and crowds of people waiting to pray. Visit at least an hour before the Aarti if you want to gather the experience at its best. At this time, you can witness how five elevated planks are placed at the edge of the steps of the Ghats and brass lamps are cleaned and readied for the occasion. It is also interesting to watch how priests don identical dhotis and kurta for prayer and the Aarti ceremony.

The Aarti ceremony is performed every night and a 45-minute ritual is held for the same. The usual time is 6: 45 in the evening.

Boat Ride in the Ganges River: The holy Ganges lends a spiritual charm to the city. And that’s exactly why you should opt for a boat ride in the Ganges. That is perhaps one of the best things to do in Varanasi. It takes one through different Ghats and former palaces situated close to the banks of the Ganges, giving a panoramic view of this River and the region. Observe the Hindu rituals. The best time to enjoy a boat ride on the Ganges River is the dawn hour as well as the dusk hour. Early morning from 5:30 AM to 8 AM is a good way to see the sunrise and the city engulf you in its charm. A sunset boat ride especially during the aarti is also spectacular.

Varanasi | Rony Mathews

Tour of the oldest temple: Kashi Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Siva, is one of the most popular and sacred Hindu Temples in the city. It stands on the western bank of the river Ganges. There are altogether 12 Jyotirlingas (Holiest Shiva Temples) in the globe and the sacred Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of them. Varanasi was once known as Kashi hence the name of the temple itself was inherited from there. Several visitors pay their tribute to Lord Shiva throughout the year and the place is often known to be extremely crowded. If Varanasi is a hub of temples then Kashi Vishwanath Temple must be the most visited temple of all.

Go to a Bhang Shop: Bhang is a legal preparation of edible cannabis which is available in government shops in several legalized areas, such as Varanasi. While technically illegal on a state level, the government realised the religious importance and significance of this ancient preparation, and as such made it available so no one may be persecuted for their religious beliefs. Be careful though, bhang is not to be taken lightly and will floor you if you’ve never partaken before. It’s prepared as lassi and takes around an hour to hit you, so make sure you’re somewhere familiar and close to where you’re staying when it does.

Take Bath in the Ganges: River Ganges is considered the holiest Hindu River. Legends suggest that taking a dip in the holy waters here will offer salvation of sins and purification of the soul. In fact, the religious texts of Hinduism widely suggest that one should get salvation by bathing in River Ganges to purify all sins accumulated in current or previous births. Taking a dip or bathing in the holy waters of the Ganges is one of the major things to do in Varanasi. The river’s personification is Ganga, the elder sister of Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. It is said that Ganga came to earth for giving salvation to 60000 ancestors. She came to earth as a human, but her falling force is said to be so enormous that Lord Shiva had to hold her in his matted hair, and he was the one who ultimately released her in the form of a river. The river, associated with Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh is therefore revered by Hindus. Varanasi has 84 Ghats, and their steps lead to the River Ganges. The Ghats can be accessed easily and used for dipping or taking bath in Ganga. To complement this, travellers are recommended to opt for boat rides, which will help you gain insight into the culture and historical significance of the mystical river.

Shopping in Varanasi: It is the best thing to do on a free afternoon or evening. The city is famous for its silk saris and ornate jewels. Visit the local market. The intricate pattern of floral designs and elaborate zari or thread work saris must be purchased from here. You will so find fine silk saris, shawls, carpets, stone inlay work, bangles, and idols of Hindu or Buddhist deities. The main shopping areas to explore in this city include Vishwanath Lane, Thateri Bazaar, Chowk, and Godowilia.

Eat the street food: If you are a foodie, relishing the local food on the streets is one of the best things to do in Varanasi. Here you can start with a sumptuous breakfast of Kachori Sabzi at Ram Bhandar or Thatheri Bazaar or relish a plate of Baati Chokha. If you are in a mood for snacking, Choora Matar and Meethe Gol Gappe will send you into a food coma. For your sweet tooth, there is the popular Makhan Malaiyoo or Nimish that is offered during the winter season in Varanasi.

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