Vindhyachal for the serious traveller
Famous neighbours: Varanasi and Sarnath
Vindhyachal on the banks of River Ganga in Eastern Uttar Pradesh may not be as famous as neighbouring Varanasi and Sarnath, but is a traveller's delight, nonetheless.
Districts Mirzapur, Sonbhadra and Chandauli cover Vindhyachal and offer a world of unimagined experiences. Brace up…
Getting to know Mirzapur
Related: Discover Vindhyachal in Eastern Uttar Pradesh
Vindhyachal is on the banks of River Ganga. The temple of Vindhyavasini is an ancient Shaktipeeth. Vindhyavasini, Kali-Khoh and Ashtabhuja temples are the three main Shakti temples here. Vindhyachal is in District Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh. It is accessible by train, and the closest airports are at Varanasi and Patna.
Bhairav temples abound in the Vindhya-circuit.
8 km from the town of Mirzapur, stands the axis of Vindhyachal, an ancient Shaktipeeth, Ma Vindhyavasini's temple atop Vindhya Hill. It honours God incarnate as Mother. Vindhyachal is encircled by magnificence of nature. Verdant vegetation and fresh water springs that gurgle down to meet the racing river Ganga sparkling at the foot of the hill.
The scripture Durga Saptashati says that feminine divinity incarnated as daughter of Nand and Yashoda, Krishna's foster parents. She warned Kansa, the evil ruler of Mathura of the birth of Krishna, the eliminator of evil. During biennial 9 day Navratri celebrations after Holi in March-April and before Dushehra in October-November, Ma Vindhyavasini's temple is a colourful display of mini-India. Winding lanes decorated with stalls from far and wide amidst music of the classical, folk and Jagran (night-long worship through music) variety exposes visitors to melody and devotional feelings intertwined most beautifully.
Kajli, a local genre of music is dedicated to Ma Vindhyavasini. Through June to October, the Indian monsoon brings Kajli singers from the whole of North India. The hillside resonates with their musical offerings to the presiding deity, while daily worship at the temple through Arti-puja four times a day round the year, offers spiritual communication with God amidst sacred conch, bells and drum sounds. Vindhyachal worships the divine trinity as Ma Laxmi, Ma Kali and Ma Saraswati.
Kalikhoh temple at the base of Vindhya Hill is an ancient cave site where Ma Kali rejuvenates the devoted souls' innate good qualities to surpass negative traits. God is worshipped as Ma Kali here, one who dispels darkness of thought, action and character. Kalikhoh is forested. Black-faced langoor monkeys hang around in groups, sun themselves, nibble shoots and socialize graciously. Visitors love their trust in human company and indulge them with jaggery, fruit and peanuts. They add another dimension to the already teeming hillside!
Behind the Kalikhoh temple is Bhairo temple; from where steps lead to a trekking route to Ashtabhuja temple, the third tangent of the expression of feminine divinity in Vindhyachal.
Ashtabhuja Mandir is recorded in the ancient Purana scriptures as a cave in the Vindhyachal Hill. Her temple entrance here is low, so that devotees bend in surrender and devotion when they enter, and the exit is high, so that they leave with their heads held high reassured by the eight armed Ashtabhuja Devi's loving care and protection…as an infant is fearless in his mother's care. The cave is 12 ft in diameter and Ma Saraswati is worshipped here. There are 222 steps to the temple. Nagara drums played in the temple premises echo through the hillside to lead visitors.
The road to Ashtabhuja is as engrossing as the temple and the meeting with divinity therein. It offers a panoramic view of the hillside accompanied by stunning River Ganga at its base. Bharat kund and Sita Kund near Ashtabhuja temple bubble with sweet spring water and tempt even adults to play in water as joyously as children.
A visit to the three temples on Vindhya Hill is a pilgrim's Maha Trikon Parikrama - circumambulation of the divine triangle.
Ramgaya Ghat and Taradevi temple, 2 km west of Vindhyachal, near Shivpur's Ganga Ghat is of Pauranic importance. Lord Ram offered prayers here for peace for his demised father. There is a pret-shila here. Rameshwaram Mahadev temple here is also a legacy of Ram. Taradevi temple is an important center for Tantric learning, in holy company of Ganga.
Navratri, Shivratri and Kajli festivals are the best time to visit Vindhyachal.
Akrodh Rishi who had won over anger thanks to divine grace established Akori temple west of Vindhyachal. Ma Ashtabhuja's statue here is par-excellence.
Bhairav temples abound in the Vindhya-circuit. They are guards of the divine Mother. Kal Bhairav and Lal Bhairav temples on Mirzapur-Vindhyachal road near Kantit village are worth dropping in on the way back. As tradition honours, Bhairav temples are visited only after worshipping the divine mother.
Vaman Dev temple on the meeting point of river Ojhla and Ganga hosts a colourful fair on Vaman Ekadshi, incarnation day of Vishnu as Vaman Dev. Vaman came to take away Bali's arrogance as ruler of the world.
Age-old yet beautiful sculptures dot the Budhe Nath temple in the heart of dense populace in Mirzapur. It equates with Vishwanath Kashi in prestige.
Panchmukhi Mahadev temple also in the heart of Mirzapur was built in 18th century by a Nepali trader. A grand Dushehra mela pronounces it as an important cultural seat.
Tarkeshwar Mahadev temple near the court in Mirzapur is an ancient temple site. Laxmiji meditated on Shivji here after listening to relevance of Tarkeshwar Mahadev from Lord Vishnu. A fair on Mondays in Savan/July-August and Shivratri in February is a crowd-puller.
A shrine dedicated to Ram-devotee Hanuman, Lohndi Mahabir is 3 km south of Mirzapur. Biennial fairs add colour to the ancient shrine. There are four wells here deserving special attention.
Pushtimarg Baithak ji
Vithalnathji ka sthan at Chunar is the 16th century birthplace of Vaishnav saint Vithal Nathji, son of Vaishnav Acharya Sri Vallabhacharya.
Close to Robertsganj
Reverred as a second Varanasi by locals, Shiv Dwar is 46 km from the town of Robertsganj down south. The deities Shiv-Parvati here are supreme. Barkandahara, 3 km from Robertsganj houses a treasure of excavated statues of Sri Vishnu and Ma Kali. They are wonderful pieces of ancient artistry.
Ancient temples are spangled all over Vindhyachal as stars are spangled in the night sky. Temples and sacred sites hidden in every hillside in Vindhyachal, charm visitors be they local or first-timers. Durga temple near Chunar, Narad Ghat, Gerua talab, Motiya Talab, Ekdant Ganesh, Sapta Sarovar, Sakshi Gopal temple, Goraksha-kund, Matsyendra kund, Bhairav kund and Lorika Pathar are some sacred spots. Ovara, 40 kms from Robertsganj is a chief industrial town, yet its caves in hills harbour countless ancient temples of gods and goddesses.
Offering spiritual solace as grandiose as Rishikesh, the Ashrams on the banks of Ganga in and around Mirzapur are an experience beyond words. A plethora of religious faiths have ashrams here as seats of learning in the Guru-shishya tradition.
Kantit Sharif is a favoured pilgrim spot on Thursdays. It is the tomb of Hazrat Alaul Haq Chishti, known by locals as Ghode Shahid Baba.
Around Chunar in district Mirzapur blessings of great Sufi saints are sought at Dargah Sharif, the mausoleum of Sufi saint Kasim Sulemani; and Iftekhar Khan's mausoleum. These places fine tune the sufiyana kalam and qawali, legacies in Indo-Islamic music.
The missionary trail
There are three old churches in Mirzapur. The Protestant Church built in English style is eye-catching. The Mission Compound Church, at Ghantghar and the Roman Catholic Curch at Pili Kothi are living in history.
Opposite the Mirzapur Railway station is an ancient Gurdwara where Guru Teg Bahadurji gave a discourse on his travels in this part of India.
25 km from Chunar, Chota Mirzapur is revered because Guru Teg Bahadurji and Guru Govind Singh ji had stayed here for some time.
There is a Shwetambar Jain temple near Shastri pul in Mirzapur.
Lifeline on the river Ganga: Ghats of Mirzapur
Ghats of Mirzapur host many a fairs and welcome daily visitors to its temples, bathing and boating retinue. Locals love to sit and chat here while feeding fish or just enjoying a quiet moment with the breeze from the riverfront.
The cave-paintings, forts and temples being the oldest architectural features of Vindhyachal are a statement in time. The latter day development of the area was by way of flourishing trade and commerce in the 19th century. The Ojhla Pul, an architectural legacy on river Ojhla on the Mirzapur-Vindhyachal road is a multi-storeyed delight even today.
Ghats on the riverfront were built by traders, and many of them have survived the blows of time. Company ghat, Fateha ghat, Kutchehary ghat and Oliyar ghat echo of the bygone Imperial rule.
Pakka ghat built in 1885 by Set Bhagwan Das is the pride of Mirzapur. It strikes a chord with Varanasi, as lanes leading to it are studded with jewellery and trinket shops for women. It is a bathing ghat for women.
Chaube ghat is the cremation ghat with Shamshan Bhairav's temple. It is to Mirzapur what Manikarnika ghat is to Varanasi.
Babaji ghat, Bariya ghat, Badali ghat, Sundar ghat, Dauji ghat and Trilochan ghat are some of the ghats of Mirzapur lining the river Ganga.
The ghats of Vindhyachal are many, and significantly popular amongst visiting devotees who bathe here before visiting shrines.
Ram gaya ghat, pakka ghat, sidhpeeth ghat, Vamanji ghat, Gaziaghat, Kantit ghat, Baswariya ghat, Bhairav ghat, Varadari ghat, Imli ghat, Gudara ghat and Malliha Ghat are the focus of life at the waterfront in Vindhyachal.
Wells and pokharas/ponds of Vindhyachal
Wells and pokharas/ponds in Vindhachal area boast of a well-managed water network. Kajarwa ka Pokhara in Mirzapur hosts an annual fair in August from Nag Panchami to Kajli. It is a special tradition akin to Durga Puja in Navratri.
Near Ashtabhuja, Nrusingh ka Pokhra is visited the year round. Motiya Talab offers a unique 5-day stage performance about the legend attached to its name. Pyarelal Pokhra, 5 kms from Mirzapur on Rewa Road has an exquisite Kite-fair in November. Purani Dashmi ka Pokhara has a history of 200years in staging the Ramlila here. The pond itself plays the role of the sea surrounding Lanka. It does a good job of it!
A natural spring source is known as kund in the local dialect. Visitors to Vindhyavasini temple visit these kunds to drink, bathe and splurge! They remember to take home holy spring-water in jars as ambrosia for those back home. This to be sure is pristine, spring water with minerals and medicinal properties.
Ram kund and Sita kund near Ashtabhuja temple being hugely popular, along with Bhairo kund, Machendranath kund and Kali kund on the Vindhya hillside.
Folk music of Eastern UP: Kajli, Birha, Chaiti, Holi, Alha...
Kajli being the ruling flavour in vocal music here, Belvariya, Viraha, Chaiti, Holi-geet, Gatha-geet, Bhardhari, Lorki, Shobha-Nayaka, Banjarwa and Alha offer mellifluous expression of the fabric of local lore.
Karma, Chaalar, Devi-nritya, Dharkari, Kol-Dhaki and Natua are the dances of this part of India. Tribal fairs are flamboyant occasions where the Nakkara, Tasha, Khanjari and Madal, tribal drums provide the rhythm to which spirited folk dance to make merry, or worship the gods.
The Vindhyavasini temple is a hot spot for observing the Mundan, Yagyopaveet or wedding rituals, prescribed in the Indian scriptures.
From Kartik Purnima in November to Makar Sankranti on 14th January a local ritual of Bulbul fighting is prevalent in Mirzapur since medieval times. It is like the Murgbazi of Lucknow. These birds are trained in homes, and every Sunday a competition is staged. The grand finale takes place on Makar Sankranti.
Local handicrafts: Bhadoi carpets
The caress of carpets at Mirzapur ensnares the connoisseur. A fine blend of tradition and innovation makes these handicrafts hugely popular in the national and International circuit. Varanasi, Bhadoi and Mirzapur are the carpet soup bowl/heartland of India.
In the 17th century, Akbar the Mughal monarch called artisans from Persia to add regal airs to his monumental love, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri at Agra. Some of these craftsmen settled near Mirzapur and gave birth to a new genre in artistry.
Each carpet costs as per its intricacy in weaving style, and knots per square inch. Each knot is tied and groomed separately, and as much an inch square can have 100 to 1460 knots! Tapeted carpets and Durries are less troublesome in making. Hand-woven or woven on a hand-loom, these carpets honour the earnest hard-work that goes into its making!
Mirzapur is a vibrant spread of colour, design, wool, silk and nimble fingers weaving magic. Scores of generations in families have been faithful to this royal craft. Kids take to this weave-craft and earn. The government and NGOs are steering these kids towards a formal education to give them a wider canvas to work on as they grow up. As sun rays dance passionately on bales of wool in natural dyes, artisans chalk out intricate floral, geometrical or art noveau' patterns and deft fingers take these patterns to fruition, the dream-carpets are born.
The brassware of Mirzapur and surrounding areas is also famous. Artifacts and items of daily use - tables, stools, utensils, idols of gods and goddesses, in all sizes make for an awesome display in shops here.
In the third century BC during Ashokan rule, Chunar was where Ashokan pillars were manufactured along with stone-slabs with Buddhist inscriptions. Buddhism, the first missionary religion was nurtured in the pristine environs of Chunar. Chunar pottery and stone sculptures are cute take-aways as mementoes from the historic land. Hand-carved wooden toys painted in flashy colours are a hallmark of Mirzapur and Vindhyachal. Local fairs display these and much more by way of tribal artifacts and jewellery in iron, thread and silver.
Kurari is 14km from Agori across River Son
Shiv Dwar is 46 km from Robertsganj.
Agori is 35 km from Robertganj.
Salkhan Fossil Park is 15 km from Robertsganj-Renukoot Road.
Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary is 3 km from Robertsganj.
Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary is 70 km from Varanasi.
Varanasi-Vindhyachal: 80 km
Allahabad-Vindhyachal: 95 km
Varanasi-Chunar: 40 km
Chunar-Shakteshgarh fort: 25 km
Varanasi-Vijaigarh fort: 70 km
Robertsganj-Vijaigarh fort: 20 km
Robertsganj-Agori fort: 35 km