Varanasi also known as Banaras/Benaras or Kashi, a city situated on the bank of the River Ganga, in the Indian State of U.P. Varanasi is the oldest city of the world as well as in India too.
"Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together!" - Mark Twain
“Varanasi was famous before Rome was known”. The chief cultural patron of Varanasi is “The Kashi Naresh”. The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganga. Varanasi is the Oxford and Mecca for Hindu Civilization for several thousand of years. The “Benaras Gharana” which is the kind of “Indian Classical Music” was developed in Varanasi itself. Varanasi is the origin of great poets, writers, philosophers who had contributed their efforts to enrich the Indian Civilization. People like Saint KabirDas, Satguru Ravidas, Trailanga Swami, Munshi Prem Chand, Bhartendu HarishChand, Ravi Shankar, Girija Devi, Bismillah Khan(Honoured by Bharat Ratna) and many more are from the soul of Varanasi. Even TulsiDas wrote Ram CharitManas in Varanasi itself. Varanasi is not the holiest place for Hindu people but even for Buddha people too. Gautam Buddha gave his sermon at Sarnath located near to Varanasi.
Varanasi is famous for its ghats and temples. In Varanasi itself around 100 ghats are there. Most of these ghats are bathing ghats while some of them are used for cremation sites. In Garuda Purana seven cities are mentioned as as giver of Moksha or Salvation. These cities are:
Varanasi has the holy shrine of Kashi Vishwanath and is also known as one of the 12th Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. In Hindu Civilization it is believed that if some one take bath in holy River Ganga he/ she will be free from its all sins. It is said that if someone dies in Varanasi that person’s soul is release from the cycle of its transmigrations. Hindu regard Kashi/Varanasi as a Shakti Peeth coz Goddess Sati’s earring fallen here. Even Ganga itself regarded as Goddess Of Shakti in Hindu Civilazation.
Varanasi is famous for its temples. It’s also known as “City Of Temples”. Varanasi is also mentioned as “Religious Capital of India”. 12th Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva i.e Kashi Vishwanath is situated on the bank of River Ganga. The famous Hanuman Temple i.e Sankat Mochan is also in Varanasi itself. The famous temples in Varanasi are:
3.Durga Kund(Durga Temple)
6.Kal Bhairav Temple
In Varanasi there is around totall 2000 temples.
Varanasi means in hindi :“Varuna+ Asi”
Varanasi is located between Varuna and Asi River. The place in between these two river is known as Varanasi. In north of Varanasi there is “Varuna” river and in the south of the Varanasi its Asi. In epics of Indian culture Varanasi is known as “Avimuktaka, Anandakanna, Mahasmasana,Surandhana, Brahma Vardha, Sudarsana, Ramya and Kasi/Kashi”.
In RigVeda (One of the Veda in Hindu Civilization) Varanasi was mentioned as Kashi/Kasi. In one the of verse from Skanda Purana Lord Shiva says :
“The three world from one city of mine, and Kashi is my Royal Palace therein”.
As per Hindu Legends Varanasi was founded by Hindu Deity Lord Shiva. It is assumed that Varanasi stands on the weapon of Lord Shiva i.e. “Trishul”. It is one the seven scared cities of Hindu Civilization. Varanasi was mentioned in “RigVeda, SkandPurana, Ramayan and even in Mahabharat.”
As per legends the first Shiva Jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light, came through the earth here and flared into the sky. Therefore Varanasi is also called Kashi, "the City of Light."
Not only for Hindu Civilization but for other too Varanasi is a pilgrim place. Varanasi gave birth to lot of religions. Even Gautam Buddha gave his first semon here in Sarnathnear to Varanasi. Islam came to Varanasi in 12th Centuary during the time of Mughal Period. Varanasi is the birth of “Suparshvanath”, “Shreyansantha”, and “Parshva” who respectively the seventh, eleventh and twenty third Jain Tirthankars. Shree Parshvanath Digambar Jain Tirth Kshetra (Digambar Jain Temple) is situated in Bhelupur, Varanasi. So Varanasi is also a holy city for Jains. Even Guru Nanak Dev came to Varanasi in 1507 on the eve of Shivratri.
Even Chinese travellor Xuanzang said that “Varanasi was a center of religious and artistic activities”.
Varanasi is not the pilgrimage site for Hindu Civilization but it is a place where Islam, Jains, Boddha and even Sikh culture brought and born. Varanasi shows the glimpse of Diversity of India at the mean time it shows that Varanasi is still united. In Rig Veda a lovely line is mentioned in Sanskrit as:
“Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti”
Truth is one, though the sages know it as many. God is one, though different religions approach Him differently.