Varanasi

Benares 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  also known as Benares or Kashi is a city on the banks of the Ganges(Ganga ) in the Uttar Pradesh state of North India, 320 kilometres south-east of the state capital, Lucknow, and 121 kilometres east of Allahabad. A major religious hub in India, 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. Varanasi lies along National Highway 2, which connects it to Kolkata, Kanpur, Agra, and Delhi, and is served by Varanasi Junction railway station and Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport.

it is one of the oldest cities in the world, which have been constantly inhabited. If we look at the archaeological evidences, remains from the year 1200 BC have been found here. While there are also indications that this city could be living since 3000 BC, or even older.

Legend

According to legend, Varanasi was founded by the god Shiva. There happened a fight between the two supreme gods, Brahma and Shiva, and the succeeding combat resulted in one of the five heads of Brahma being torn off by Shiva. It was a custom of the time that the victor carried the slain adversary’s head in his hand and let it hang down from his hand as an act of ignominy and a sign of his own bravery. A bridle was also put into the mouth. Shiva thus dishonored Brahma’s head, and kept it with him at all times. When he came to the city of Varanasi in this state, the hanging head of Brahma dropped from Shiva’s hand and disappeared in the ground. The land of Varanasi is therefore considered an extremely holy religious site.

The Pandavas, the protagonists of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, are said to have visited the city in search of Shiva to atone for their sin of fratricide and Brāhmanahatya that they had committed during the climactic Kurukshetra War. It is regarded as one of seven holy cities (Sapta Puri) which can provide Moksha; Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Kashi, Kanchi, Avanti, and Dvārakā are the seven cities known as the givers of liberation.

Importance of Varnasi 

Varanasi has been a cultural centre of North India for several thousand years, and is closely associated with the Ganges. Hindus believe that death in the city will bring salvation, making it a major centre for pilgrimage. The city is known worldwide for its many ghats, embankments made in steps of stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions. Of particular note are the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the Panchganga Ghat, the Manikarnika Ghat and the Harishchandra Ghat, the last two being where Hindus cremate their dead and the Hindu genealogy registers at Varanasi are kept here.

Varanasi grew as an important industrial centre, famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BCE when he gave his first sermon, “The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma”, at nearby Sarnath. The city’s religious importance continued to grow in the 8th century, when Adi Shankara established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi. During the Muslim rule through Middle Ages, the city continued as an important centre of Hindu devotion, pilgrimage, mysticism and poetry which further contributed to its reputation as a centre of cultural importance and religious education. Tulsidas wrote his epic poem on Rama’s life called Ram Charit Manas in Varanasi. Several other major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including Kabir and Ravidas. Guru Nanak visited Varanasi for Maha Shivaratri in 1507, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism.

I visited this city in last couple of months and have tried to capture the essence of the city in the following photographs …. let the pictures speak….

Offerings to river Ganga 

 

 

Ganga Aaarti ( Salutations to River Ganga )

Life on the Banks of Ganga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarnath ( Holiest Buddist Site )

 

Conclusion

Couple of visits to this city does not do justice to this place … for me personally it attracts me like a magnet and the city has something to offer…

 

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