or Kashi is an Indian city on the banks of the Ganges(Ganga) in Uttar Pradesh, 320 kilometres (200 mi) southeast of the state capital Lucknow. It is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism. Some Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation. Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi`s Prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrivalled. Mark Twain, the English author and literateur, who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Banaras, once wrote : "Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together". According to the ‘Vamana Purana’, the Varuna and Assi rivers originated from the body of the primordial Person at the beginning of time itself. The tract of land lying between them is believed to be ‘Varanasi’, the holiest of all pilgrimages.
Varanasi also known as Benaras is one of the holiest pilgrimage
sites in India.Situated on the banks of sacred river Ganges, Varanasi has
been a centre of learning and civilisation for over 2000 years.Besides being a pilgrimage centre,it is considered as an auspicious place to die, ensuring an instant route to Heaven Apart from Hinduism it is also an important pilgrimage centre for Buddhists as it was at Sarnath (10 km from Varanasi),
Lord Buddha gave his Ist sermon after enlightment. It is the only city in Asia
with three Universities.
Varanasi is solace. Varanasi is peace. Varanasi is serene. Varanasi is everything a troubled heart seeks for and much more. Nobody knows when was this city established, leave alone who established it. Hindus maintain that the city is outside the earth and is situated on the 'Trident' of Lord Shiva. This might feel like a bit to cocky but everybody maintain, including non-Hindus that Banaras is simply out of this world. By the way Varanasi has been named after the two tributaries of Ganges that flows through the city named Varuna and Assi rivers. It was later changed to Benaras and re-christened Varanasi.
According to legend, Varanasi was founded by the god Shiva. The Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahabharata
are also stated to have visited the city in search of Shiva to atone for their sins of fratricide and Brahmanhatya that they had committed during the climactic Kurukshetra war. It is regarded as one of seven holy cities which can provide Moksha::
The city is known as the cultural capital of India; a sobriquet it truly deserves. The city has been the seat of learning since time immemorial. Various scholarly books have been written on the serene environment of this place. Tulsi Das composed Ram Charit Manas in this city only. A temple named Tulsi Manas Mandir marks this place. Even today, the city boasts off as many as 6 different universities within its fold, a feat almost unmatchable in India.
Banaras Hindu University, popularly called BHU, is the largest residential University in Asia. The city is also famous for its var4ious temples. Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is considered the most important Jyotirlinga in India. This temple has been constructed and razed to ground numerous times in the course of History. Equally important are Sankat Mochan and Durga temple. While the former is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, a Bengali Maharani built the later in the 18th century in order to appease goddess Durga. Bharat Mata Mandir is unique in its own.
The temple is dedicated to the human manifestation of India called Bharat Mata. The temple doesn't have any statue; instead it has a relief map of India carved out of Marble. Any discussion on Varanasi is incomplete without mentioning its Ghats. There are more than 80 different ghats in Varanasi but the most notable among them are Dasaswamedh, Assi and Manikarnika ghats. The last one is renowned all over the world for cremation.
Varanasi grew as an important industrial centre, famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautama Buddha (born circa 567 BC), Varanasi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kashi. The city is also famous for its silk embroidery work and has a specialty in Sarees. The city is also renowned for its musical instruments such as Sitar, Tabla and Shehnai. And yes, last but not the least any discussion on Banaras can be sealed without mentioning the mouth-watering Paan. Do take a mouthful before you say adieu to the city.