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Varanasi, Banaras or Kashi: History of The Oldest Living Inhibitions of The World is Sacred and Serene

Varanasi or Benaras is known as one of the oldest living inhabitations of the world, which nestles on the banks of the holy Ganges river. Believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva, Varanasi is among the seven sacred cities in the country which has been attracting pilgrims for centuries. 

Celebrated author Mark Twain, who visited India in the last decade of the 19th century, described the city as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend.”

The spectacular ghats speak the stories of history, art and tradition and allows travellers soaks into the divine spirituality. 


Celestial Ganga and Varanasi connect!

Legend has it that Lord Shiva channelled the celestial Ganga on earth, and that is why the river is considered holy. Thousands of devotees from all over the country come to bathe in its waters as it is believed that taking a dip in the holy Ganges absolves one of their sins. It is also believed that those cremated here achieve moksha (salvation). For many, the sacred Kashi Yatra (pilgrimage to Kashi, as Varanasi was earlier called) is one of the most important rituals to undertake during their lifetime.

In recent years, the city has turned into a purveyor of philosophy, yoga, the ancient medicinal science of Ayurveda, and astrology.

Varanasi and Buddhism and Jainism connect
Varanasi is also one of the holiest sites of Buddhism, as it was in Sarnath, which is located merely 12 km away, that Lord Buddha preached his first sermon. Jain literature, too, refers to Kashi as a holy city, as it is the birthplace of four Jain tirthankaras (saints). It is said that Kabir, a 15th-century mystic poet and saint, was also born in this city.


Varanasi finds mention in Upanishads too
The city, believed to date back to 1400 BC, finds mention in the Upanishads (holy Hindu scriptures) as Benaras and is said to have been an important centre of trade and education. It eventually acquired the name Varanasi and came to occupy a special place in the Indian consciousness, especially as a bridge to the old world. 

A platform for silk weaving

Famous for silk weaving, the city offers brocade sarees that are a must in most Indian brides’ trousseau. The city is also famous for copper ware, brassware, wooden and clay toys, and jewellery.

Renowned musicians’ birth place
Famous melody-makers, from Mughal court musicians to present-day personages like iconic sitar player Ravi Shankar, shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan and late vocalist Girija Devi have called Varanasi home. Their influence on classical and contemporary music is so strong that Varanasi also features among the ‘Cities of Music’, which has been established by UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

Sitar Player Ravi Shankar

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