Kashi is located in north India in the state of Uttar Pradesh on the west bank of river Ganges. Since it is sandwiched between the rivers Varuna and Ashi, it is also called as Varanasi. The British called it Benaras.
The waters of Ganges flow from the slopes of the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. During the long journey, the waters of Ganges flow by Kashi city which is five centuries older than Christ. It is the oldest living city in the world as it was founded even before Rome. It was a center where trade was flourishing when Buddha preached his first sermon in Sarnath (10 km away) in 500 BC. This “City of Temples” has attracted pilgrims from all over the world for nearly 2,500 years. Being mentioned as the “Cosmic Center of Universe”, American novelist Mark Twain wrote about this city as, “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”
Kashi has been a renowned center of learning for ages. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, and devotion to gods, Indian arts and crafts has flourished in Kashi through the centuries. This “Holy City of India” promoted spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit, yoga and Hindi language. Ayurveda is said to have originated in this “Religious Capital of India”. It is the birthplace of many exponents of dance and music like Pandit Ravi Shankar (Sitar Maestro) and Ustad Bismillah Khan (Shehnai artiste).
Nearly 2000 temples are located in Kashi. Among which the Kashi Vishwanath temple is very famous. It is known as the ‘Golden temple’ and it is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is the place where Lord Shiva manifested the first Joytirling to show his supremacy over other Gods. This Shiv Ling is the main devotional attraction of the city. Hindus believe that one who worships at the Kashi Vishwanath temple will attain salvation and will never get into the birth recycle. It is the last pilgrimage spot in many a Hindu’s life.
The Durga temple which was built in 18th century with red stone is a fine example of Nagara art. It is located in the main route between the railway station and Benares Hindu University (BHU).This temple houses Durga Devi, the goddess of power. The ruling family of Varanasi constructed the Tulsi Manas temple which houses Lord Rama. It is located at a place where the saint-poet Tulsidas lived. Verses from Tulsidas’ epic, “Shri Ramcharitmanas” are inscribed on the walls of this temple. About 300 m from Tulsi Manas temple, travelers can worship Lord Hanuman at the Sankatmochan temple. This ancient temple was built by Tulsidas himself. The New Vishwanath temple which was built by Birlas lies within the premises of BHU. This temple was planned by Pandit Malviya and it is open to all irrespective of caste and creed. The Alamgir Mosque is an amalgamation of Hindu- Muslim sentiments. The entire lower portion of the mosque is retained as a Hindu temple. A temple for a famous Jain saint Shvetambar is located on the way from railway station to BHU, just before Bhelupur street.
The Benares Hindu University (BHU) was established in 1916 by the special efforts of nationalist Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. It is one of the famous universities in India. The Bharat Kala Bhawan is famous for its unique collection of paintings, from Rajasthani paintings to paintings of contemporary artists. It was started in 1950. Maharaja Banaras Vidya Mandir Museum is located in Ramnagar Fort. This fort was built by Maharaja Balwant Singh (AD 1740-1770). It has a unique collection of textiles, decorative art pieces, arms and armours, utilitarian objects, means of old transports like buggies, palkis etc. Tourists should never miss out the archaeological museum in Sampurnanand University. A center which provides alternate arrangement from the British way of education was set up in 1920 and it was called Kashi Vidya Peeth. Now it has become the center of national education with Hindi as the medium of instruction. The river fronts (GHATS) are a spectacular sight. Tourists can enjoy the panoramic view of the river and ghats during dawn and dusk. Thousands of pilgrims bathe and perform rituals at these ghats. Tourists can approach the ghats by the boats which are available on hire in Dashashwamedha Ghat.
Nature lovers can visit Kusumi Forest (8 km) and Rajdari and Deodari falls in the Chandra Prabha forests (70 km). Kashi is also famous for Benarasi silk dresses, Benarasi sweets and Benarasi Paan (Betel Leaf).
Kashi is well connected to major parts of India through air. Also it has two railway junctions namely Varanasi and Kashi junctions. It also has well laid roads.