The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Often referred to as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together". Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown.
Ganges is said to have its origins in the tresses of Lord Shiva and in Varanasi, it expands to the mighty river that we know of. The city is a center of learning and civilization for over 3000 years. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10 km away, Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Also a pilgrimage place for Jains, Varanasi is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar.
Vaishnavism and Shaivism have co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously. With a number of temples, Mrs. Annie Besant chose Varanasi as the home for her 'Theosophical Society' and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, to institute 'Benares Hindu University, the biggest University in Asia. Ayurveda is said to be originated at Varanasi and is believed to be the basis of modern medical sciences such as Plastic surgery, Cataract and Calculus operations. Maharshi Patanjali, the preceptor of Ayurveda and Yoga, was also affiliated with Varanasi, the holy city.
Varanasi has also been a great center of learning for ages. Varanasi is associated with promotion of spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit, yoga and Hindi language and honored authors such as the ever-famous novelist Prem Chand and Tulsi Das, the famous saint-poet who wrote Ram Charit Manas. Many exponents of dance and music have come from Varanasi. Ravi Shankar, the internationally renowned Sitar maestro and Ustad Bismillah Khan, (the famous Shehnai player) are all sons of the blessed city or have lived here for major part of their lives.
The land of Moksh - Varanasi is popularly known as Kashi and Banaras. This one of the holiest cities of India is situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is said that it was founded by Lord Shiva about 5000 years ago and is positioned charmingly on the west bank of Holy Ganges River. It has got its name from two sacred rivers Varuna situated at the north and Assi situated at the south of the city. The city is mentioned in the sacred epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The significance of Varanasi lies in the faith of the people, those who die in Kashi will achieve salvation or Moksh. The city is crowded by numbers of Hindu devotees every day all round the year. It is a perfect place for those who are stirred by Hindu beliefs, traditions, cultures and notions. They can have genuine life experiences, of the Hindu lifestyle and faith here. Varanasi is also renowned as a hub of silk weaving. The Paan, a mixture of betel leaves, areca nut, tobacco and lime, is a common chewing addiction in India but in Benaras it reaches artistic levels. There are a number of enchanting temples in the city that showcases the customs and religious belief of the Hindus. The city is also a major hub of art, craft, education as well as culture.
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