Varanasi – City of Knowledge
What this tour is about:
For centuries Varanasi has been a great centre of learning. Revolutionary and conflicting schools of philosophy have jockeyed for acceptance here. Thinkers, poets and educationists have lived and worked here, making Varanasi the leading repository of Indian culture. It has always been well-understood that anyone wanting to achieve ideological legitimacy in India must establish a foothold in this holy city. The Mughals and the British were among many in a long line of rulers and thinkers, who tried to fashion Indian culture through interventions in Varanasi. During the Indian struggle for independence from the British, Varanasi became a hotbed of activity as new ideas and ideals sought to be established. In the years after Indian independence, the city continues to remain a major vibrant centre of intellectual and cultural activity.
We cannot attempt to cover the entire universe of Indian philosophy in one single tour. However, we have attempted to present to you some interesting places of learning in Varanasi.
How the tour works:
We will pick you up from your hotel by car for this excursion, and drop you back at the end. We will visit the following:
- The Sampurnanand Sanskrit University – Set up as a college in 1791 during the administration of the East India Company, this is today the country’s leading Sanskrit University with over 1200 affiliated colleges. Courses on the Vedas, Vedangas, literature, philosophy, ayurveda and linguistics are taught here. The Saraswati Bhavan library contains an excellent collection of manuscripts and research papers.
- The Benares Hindu University – This 100-year old university is currently the largest in Varanasi, with nearly twenty thousand students and research scholars (including 650 foreign students from 34 nations). Courses are offered in humanities, social science, technology, medicine, science, fine arts and the performing arts. Spread over 1300 acres, this campus is an academic township of its own, including an air-strip, hospital, playgrounds, auditorium, etc. There is an excellent museum of Indian history and a very popular Vishwanatha temple.
- The Panini Kanya Vidyalaya – This is a small school set up in 1971 for girls to learn Vedic scriptures traditionally forbidden to them. This allows them to train as priests, and conduct all religious ceremonies. Apart from the scriptures and rituals, they also learn martial arts, music and other disciplines.
- The Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth - Established in 1921 by Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagwan Das during India’s struggle for independence from the British, this university is famous for its Mother India Temple. Bengali writers in the late 1800s created the concept of “Bharatmata”, Mother India, and this temple attempted to visually personify and popularise this concept among the masses. It continues to be a much-admired temple, housing an elaborate giant marble carving of a relief map of India.
- Jnana Pravaha – This is cultural centre dedicated to study and research in Indian art, culture and spirituality. Located on a green campus on the banks of the Ganges, Jnana Pravaha is a non-profit foundation that promotes and preserves Indian culture through educational programs, research projects, seminars, and workshops. The campus has an atelier where traditional crafts are encouraged and preserved (products are offered for sale). There is an excellent private museum and a manuscript library. At the heart of the beautiful gardens is a yagna-shala, where the holy fire stays alight always and attempts to create an atmosphere harking back to Vedic times.
Duration, Cost and other information:
Total duration: 4-6 hours depending on your interests.
When: All days of the week, except Sundays. Starting at 9 am from your hotel.
Start Place: Your hotel
End Place: Your hotel
Rs 2900 per person for 2 persons
Rs 2200 per person for 3-4 persons
Rs 1800 per person for 5-6 persons
Rs 1500 per person for 7-8 persons
The price includes air-conditioned transport, a knowledgeable English-speaking guide, illustrated handouts, personalised tour, and all taxes.
Entrances to the sites are to be paid directly.
Tour Notes and Practicalities:
Photography is not allowed at Jnana Pravaha except in some parts. Ask your guide for details. There is a fair amount of walking so please wear sensible footwear.