Benares: The City of Varanasi
Benares is situated 25 degrees 21' north latitude and 82 degrees 40' east longitude. It is called Varanasi in Sanskrit from two small streams the Varana and the Asi, that empties themselves into the Ganges. This ancient celebrated city called the Kasi or the Splendid in the Ramayana lies in a plain and is built in a semicircle on the left bank of the Ganges at an elevation of sixty feet.
Benares (Denominated in Sanskrit Varanasi: a name derived from "Varana" commonly called "Berna" and "Asi" two rivulets or small stream flowing not far from the city) is situated upon the River Ganges about eight hundred miles from its mouth and is estimated to contain one thousand temples. In nearly all of these temples and in more than half of all the other temples of India the principal object of worship is Lord Shiva.
Benares (also known as Kashi or Banaras) is not only celebrated for the number of its temples and the benefits they are supposed to confer and for the learning and the sanctity of its people; for its schools of science and the arts and more especially for its great antiquity. It is thought to have been built by Shiva of pure gold but has long since degenerated into stone brick and clay in consequence of the sins of the people. It is visited by more pilgrims than any other place in India.
"Varanasi" the indestructible city of eternal salvation is the native land of science and intellect: hence one desirous of observing the precepts by which a continuance of family is cut off (bonds of family attachment), is solicitous to dwell there continually.
The principal mosque in Benares stands upon the place once occupied by a very large and splendid Hindu temple which contained an emblem of Shiva, said to have fallen on this spot from heaven. Soon after the commencement of the eighteenth century Aurungzeb, a Mogul conqueror demolished the temple and built a mosque. The Hindus say that the indignant idol to escape the impious hands of the Muslims while tearing down the temple threw itself into a neighboring well. This circumstance rendered the water very holy and purifying. The well is in a spacious and beautiful pavilion of stone consisting of a roof, supported by twenty four columns. On the left of the pavilion are three temples of a pyramidical form. The one in the centre is esteemed the most holy temple in Benares because it contains the celebrated idol which concealed itself in the well.
Getting to Varanasi
Air Connected with Delhi, Khauraho, Lucknow, Patna, Mumbai airports
Rail Ahmedabad, Cochin, Delhi, Gwalior, Kolkata, Madras, Mumbai, Tirupati, Puri, Patna
Road National Highway 2 from Calcutta-Delhi, and National Hightway 29 to Gorakhpur
Benares a city of above one and half a million of inhabitants pent up in narrow alleys through none of which a wheel carriage could pass may be regarded as the centre and the capital of the Hindu religion. The Ganges though everywhere revered as holy is yet deemed more holy at Benares than at any other portion of its course. Anyonewho dies in the sacred city and is cast into the sacred stream is sure of acceptance in high heaven. Here the temples are many and magnificent. From each of these discordant strains of music such as the Hindus love resound. The bulls devoted to Siva tame and familiar as mastiffs walk lazily up and down the narrow streets. The monkeys are numerous clinging to all the roofs and little projections of the temples thrusting as they chatter their heads and hands into every fruiterer's shop or snatching the food from the children at their meals.
Thy Gods have wrapt thee round as with a shroud, Saintly Benares, where from morn till night, From mosque-crowned street and temple-haunted height, Throb out the voiceful murmurs of the crowd, Over thy hallowed Ganges echoing loud;
While in the deep nook of each flower-clasped shrine, Ever the speechless Shape, in calm divine, Broods o'er the suppliant heads before him bowed. But the majestic River rolls beneath.
Serene, relentless, bearing toward the sea The dust of those, who, happy in their death, By her blest margin meet Eternity. Last, the clear sunset throws a golden wreath, And the sweet Night sinks down most silently.
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