Located on the banks of Ganga, Varanasi is said to be one of the oldest cities in the world and is regarded as the spiritual capital of India.
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, the renowned Indophile in 1897
The temple city attracts lakhs of visitors every year and is a favourite haunt and muse of writers, photographers and movie makers.
Here are some of the most interesting facts about Varanasi, everybody should know-
1. Located on the banks of River Ganga
The city is said to be built in 11th century BC making it the world’s oldest inhabited city.
2. The city is famously known as Kashi
The city in medieval times was known as Kashi. It was later renamed to Benaras and is now called Varanasi. The word Kashi and Benaras means light and the city was called ‘city of light’.
3. The meaning of Varanasi
The word Varanasi was formed using two words, Varuna and Asi. Varuna is a minor tributary of Ganga, which originates in Bhadohi while Asi is a small stream.
4. The abode of Lord Shiv and Goddess Parvati
People say that apart from Kailash, Varanasi was the abode of Lord Shiv and Goddess Parvati. Pilgrims from across the world visit the ancient Kashi Viswanath Temple.
5. Banaras Hindu University
Besides being a spiritually important city, Varanasi is also home to Asia’s largest residential University, with more than 20,000 students. It spreads over 1300 acres and was founded in 1916.
6. The origin of Ayurveda and Yoga
The city is also linked to the origin of healing science of Ayurveda and Yoga. Maharasi Patanjali, who is believed to have instrumental in spreading both had a strong connection with Varanasi.
7. Wash away your sins
People come here to wash away their sins in the river Ganga and to cremate their loved ones. It is said that if one breathes his or her last in Varanasi, he or she will attain mukti, irrespective of his or her past.
8. 84 Ghats and 23,000 temples
The city is home to more than 23,000 temples amongst them, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the most popular. Famous for its Ghats, Varanasi has around 84 ghats, of which, Assi Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat and Manikarnika Ghat are the most famous.
9. Dev Deepawali
In terms of festivals, more than Diwali and Holi, Kashities wait for Dev Deepawali. This festival is celebrated during Kartik Poornima.
To sum up
All action is prayer. All trees are desire-fulfilling. All water is the Ganga. All land is Varanasi. Love everything – Neem Karoli Baba
Cover picture by Shaad Midhat