Varanasi, or Benaras, (also known as Kashi) is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi`s Prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrevealed. Mark Twain, the English author and literature, who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Benaras, once wrote : “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together. ”
Varanasi Railway Station, Uttar Pradesh.
The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. 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 in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals.
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. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts have all flourished here for centuries. 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 is also famous for its trade and commerce, especially for the finest silks and gold and silver brocades, since the early days.
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. Aptly called as the cultural capital of India, Varanasi has provided the right platform for all cultural activities to flourish. 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.
Kashi Vishvanath Temple,varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
Varanasi is the site of three public universities:
Banaras Hindu University was founded in 1916 by Madan Mohan Malaviya with the cooperation of Annie Besant. Its 1350 acre (5.5 km²) campus was built on land donated by the Kashi Naresh. The University includes Institute of Technology and Institute of Medical Sciences and is among the top three largest residential universities in the world, having more than 128 independent teaching departments.
Sampurnanand Sanskrit University: Governor General Lord Cornwallis established the Sanskrit College (1791), which was the first college in Varanasi. The first principal of Sanskrit College was Sanskrit professor J. Myor, ICS followed by J.R. Ballentien, RTH Griffith, Dr. G. Thevo, Dr. Aurthor Venice, Dr. Ganganath Jha, and Gopinath Kaviraj among others. After India achieved independence, this college became Sampurnanand Sanskrit University.
Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth is a deemed and chartered university that is named for Gandhi and follows the principles of Gandhism.
Varanasi has several small cottage industries, including Banarasi Silk sari making, the production of textiles such as hand-woven carpets, and handicrafts. Banarasi paan (betel leaf) and khoa (a milk product) are popular, and the related small-scale industries employ many people. Varanasi is a centre of Child labour.
Banarasi Silk is known all over the world for its finery and softness. Banarasi Sarees are adorned with intricate designs and zari embellishments making it popular during traditional functions and weddings. Earlier, the embroidery on sarees were often done with threads of pure gold.
Indian Railways runs a major diesel locomotive factory in Varanasi, Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW). The first Indian business house of Varanasi and Kanpur was the firm NihalChand KishoriLal established in the year 1857 which set up the fourth Oxygen plant in the country here by the name of Indian Air Gases Ltd.
According to Macaulay, Varanasi was the “city which, in wealth, population, dignity and sanctity was among the foremost in Asia”. He described the commercial importance saying “from the looms of Benaras went forth the most delicate silks that adorned the halls of St. James and of Versailles.”
Banaras Hindu University, Uttar Pradesh.
- Importance of Banaras in India and especially for Hindus; various aspects of Banaras, its many names and what makes it the cultural capital of India.
- Archaeology, Mythology, Geography, and History of Banaras- its unique situation on Ganges, and its journey through the history of India, and quest to know what makes it oldest living city.
- Religious Varanasi- Many religions, place and types of worship, a religious place and institutions. You will find that even Primitive worship cults are still practiced in this city. Discover the city of Buddha, Jain Tirthankars, Shaiva and Vaishnava saints or Devoted saints like Kabir and Tulsi.
- Arts, Crafts and Architecture of Banaras: You will be amused to see that Varanasi is a Museum architectural designs. It presents changing patterns and movements in course of history. It has a rich and original variety of paintings and sculptor styles and equally rich treasures of folk art. During the ages Varanasi has produced master craftsmen and Varanasi has earned name and fame for its Sarees, handicrafts, textiles, Toys, ornaments, metal work, clay and wood work, leaf and fibre crafts. With ancient crafts, Banaras has not lagged behind in Modern Industries.
- Discover Ganga- the holiest of the holy river- its mythology, geography, socio- economic aspects, its monumental ghats and their story and the present condition of pollution.
- The Capital of all knowledge- Discover the most ancient seat of education in India World the famous scholars and their `Shastrarthas’, the great scholars, universities, college, schools, Madarsas and Pathshalas and Guru Shishya traditions, the epics, famous literary works, languages and dialects, journalistic traditions- newspapers and magazine, and famous libraries.
- Discover the social and cultural fabric- Organisation of sacred complex and social spaces, the cultural pluristic, linguistic and ethnic groups. Discover the city of affluence, intellectuals, oral traditions, castes and customs, personalities, professions, communal harmony . Discover the rural Varanasi. And finally (and with deep insight) peep into, the pleasure of Pans, Thandai, Gamcha, Bahri Alang and Mauj Masti.
- The City of Music and Drama and Entertainment: Banaras has been famous for its Music both vocal instrumental, it has its own dance tradition. Add to this a very rich stock of folk Music and drama (esp. Ramlila), the tradition Musical soirees, fairs and festival the rich tradition of Akharas, games and sports. Add to this classical Banaras Transport vehicles like Ekka and Modern Traffic Jam.
- Industrial City: Discover the fast developing city of heavy, light and cottage industries, local handicrafts and other small scale industrial units. ( DLW, BHEL, Electric, Cycle,Pumps, Paper, Glass, Fertilizer etc.)
- Medical World of Varanasi: Discover the ancient College of Plastic Surgery, Sushruta, Dhanvantri (God of Medicine), Divodas, and practice of all the ancient and modern systems of medicine in action.
- The Unseen Banaras: Discover the spots around Varanasi, instituions, story of freedom struggle and the martyrs, history of Kashiraj, history of Sarnath, history of Bhadohi (Carpet town), of Mirzapur, of Ghazipur, know about the famous travellers and tourists, of the `Nijam’. And finally having seen the Panorama of Banaras, its continuity of culture, discover the identity of Banaras.