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वाराणसी وارانسی

वाराणसी وارانسی
 -  District(s)
Uttar Pradesh
 -  Varanasi
Coordinates 25.36° N 83.13° E
 -  Elevation
1550  km²
 - 80.71 m
Time zone IST ( UTC+5:30)
Population ( 2001)
 -  Density
 - ?/km²
Mayor  ?
 -  Postal
 - Telephone
 -  Vehicle
 - 221 001
 - +0542
 - UP-65

Vārāṇasī pronunciation  (Hindī: वाराणसी, Urdū: وارانسی, IPA: [vɑːrɑːɳəsiː]), also known as Benares, Banaras, or Benaras (Hindī: बनारस, Urdū: بنارس, Banāras; IPA: [bənɑːrəs]), or Kashi or Kasi (काशी کاشی Kāśī), is a famous Hindu holy city situated on the banks of the river Ganges (Ganga) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, dating back thousands of years and being contemporaneous with Sumer. In Rig-Veda, early periods mentioning Mandals like 6,3,7,Early I mentions Kasi. It is often also referred to as city of temples and learning".

The culture of Varanasi is deeply associated with the river Ganga and its religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in northern India for thousands of years. Varanasi has its own style of classical Hindustani music, and has produced prominent musicians, philosophers, poets, and writers in Indian history, including Kabir, Munshi Premchand, Jaishankar Prasad, Pandit Ravi Shankar, and Ustad Bismillah Khan. The city has its own dialect of Hindi. Varanasi is also the home of Banaras Hindu University.


The official name of Varanasi is not a modern name. It is possibly based on the fact that it lies between where the Varuna River, to the north, and the river Assi, to the south, flow into the river Ganga . The name Varanasi was spelt Baranasi in Pali, which ultimately gave birth to the name Banaras. The different spellings such as Benares and Benaras were in active use during the British regime in India, but these forms of the name are now lost. The name Banaras is still widely used.

Another theory about the origin of the name suggests that the river Varuna itself was called Varanasi in the old times, thus the name of the city. This is generally disregarded by historians though there may be some earlier texts suggesting it to be so.

In literature and scripture, the city is often referred to poetically as Kashi, "the luminous"; an allusion to the city's historical status as a centre of learning, literature, and culture.

The city is very commonly referred to as "city of temples," "holy city of India," "religious capital of India," and "city of learning." It is also called "cultural capital of India."


The information as to how and from whom the city was founded is still unknown. According to the myth, the city was founded by Hindu deity Shiva, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. In fact, it is one of the eight sacred cities of Hindus.

Many references to the city of Varanasi are found in many ancient texts, leading to more mystery. It has been suggested that the city is as old as 5000 years old, though other claims may push the date further into history. Some believe that Varanasi is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.

Varanasi was a commercial and industrial centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautama Buddha ( born circa 567 BCE), Varanasi was the capital of the kingdom of Kashi. Buddha gave his first sermon at the nearby town of Sarnath. The city remained a centre of religious, educational, and artistic activities as attested by the celebrated Chinese traveler Xuanzang, who also said that the city extended for about 5 km along the western bank of the Ganges.

After the Muslim occupation, Varanasi subsequently declined during the following centuries. A symbol of Hinduism, the city was pillaged and destroyed several times by the Muslims, first by the hordes of Mahmud of Ghazni in 1033 CE, all Hindu temples being destroyed. The material was used to build mosques. Although some relief was brought by Mughal emperor Akbar in the start of 16th century CE, another destruction was led by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in end of the 16th century CE, who renamed the city Mohammadâbâd. In these years of Muslim rule, learned scholars fled to other parts of the country. Later the Marathas came to rescue the city.

Varanasi (Benares) in 1922.
Varanasi (Benares) in 1922.

Varanasi became an independent kingdom in the 18th century CE, and under subsequent British rule it remained a commercial and religious centre. In 1910 CE the British made Varanasi a new Indian state, with Ramnagar as headquarters but with no jurisdiction over the city of Varanasi. Kashi Naresh (Maharaja of Kashi) still resides in the fort of Ramnagar.

It is also said that Ayurveda was originated at Varanasi. References to Varanasi can be found in age-old Indian scriptures and hymns. One such reference is found in one of the hymns written by Sri Veda Vyasa:

Gauri-nirantara-vibhushita- vaamabhaagam.
Varanasi -pura-patim bhaja Vishwanatham.

Famous American writer Mark Twain once wrote, "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together!"


The city of Varanasi is located in the middle Ganga valley of North India, in the Eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, along the left crescent-shaped bank of the Ganga river. The Varanasi City is the district headquarters of the Varanasi district. The "Varanasi Urban Agglomeration" — an agglomeration of seven urban sub-units — covers an area of 112.26  km² (approximetely 43 mi²). The urban agglomeration is streched between 82º 56’E - 83º 03’E and 25º 14’N - 25º 23.5’N. Being located in broad plain of North India, (also called as Gangetic plains), the land can be very much called as plain. Due to yearly low level floods in river, the soil is repeatedly replenished and hence is very productive for agriculture for most of the part of the city.

On a local level though, Varanasi is located on a higher ground between rivers Ganga and Varuna, the mean elevation being 80.71  m. The main land is relatively stony, which with the absence of small distributaries and canals, provides a continuous and relatively dry land, which was perfect for settling down in the ancient times.

It is often difficult to suggest the original geography of Varanasi, due to conflicts between descriptions provided in old texts and city's current status. It is often said that Varanasi is situated between the two confluences: one of Ganga and Varuna and other of Ganga and river Assi. The statement gets its weight from the fact that the distance between these two confluences is around 2.5 miles, and a round trip to between these two places is considered holy by Hindus, and is called Pancha-kroshi Yatra (the five mile journey).

On the contrary, though Varuna and Ganga do exist as rivers, Assi also exists but only as a nullah. Also, there is no evidence that Assi was ever a big river.


Varanasi has a humid subtropical climate with high variation between summer and winter temperatures. Summers are long, from early April till October, with the monsoon season in between. Cold waves from the Himalayan region dip temperatures across the city in the winter from December to February. The average temperature is 32  °C–46 °C (90  °F–115 °F) in the summer; 5 °C–15 °C (41 °F–59 °F) in the winter. The average annual rainfall is 1110  mm (44  in). Fog is common in winter while hot dry winds called loo blow in summer. The city is relatively free from the air pollution. Recently due to water pollution, making of dams, and increase in temperature due to global warming etc., the water of river has gone significantly down and small portions of land can be seen in the middle of the river.


Varanasi has several small cottage industries, including Silk sari making, the production of textiles such as hand-woven carpets, and handicrafts. The Banarasi Pan (betel leaves) and Banarasi Khoa (a milk product, somewhat similar to cheese) sweets are famous, and the related small-scale industries employ many people. Indian Railways runs a major diesel locomotive factory in Varanasi, Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW).


The population of Varanasi urban agglomeration in 2001 was 1,371,749; the sex ratio was 879 females every 1000 males. However, the area under Varanasi Municipal Corporation has a population of 1,100,748 with the sex ratio being 883 females for every 1000 males. The literacy rate in the urban agglomeration is 61.5% while that in the municipal corporation area is 61%. Approximately 138,000 people in the municipal area live in slums. The crime rate in the city in 2004 was 128.5 per 100,000 which is higher than Uttar Pradesh rate of 73.2 but lower than the national rate of 168.8.


A typical rickshaw
A typical rickshaw

Auto Rickshaw and Rickshaw are the most widely available public transport within Varanasi. In outer regions of the city, mini-buses are common. Small boats and small steamers are used to cross the river Ganga.

Varanasi is well connected by air, rail and buses with all the important places of India. Its distance from Delhi is about 700 kms. The airport is about 25 km from the city centre.

One of the major factors for sustainment of Varanasi for such a long time as an inhabited city, is its effective transport between different cities. From ancient times the city was connected to cities like Taxila, Gazipur, Pataliputra, Vaishali, Ayodhya, Gorakhpur, Agra etc.

The city was connected through a single road from Taxila going through Pataliputra during Mauryan empire. This road was later renovated and extended by Sher Shah Suri during 16th century, which was later to be known as the famous Grand Trunk Road.

Civic administration and utility services

Varanasi is governed by a number of bodies, the prime being the Varanasi Nagar Nigam (Municipal Corporation) and Varanasi Development Authority, which is responsible for the master planning of the city. Water supply and sewage system is maintained by Jal Nigam, a subsidiary of Nagar Nigam. Power supply is by the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited. The city produces about 350 million litres per day of sewer and 425 tonnes per day of solid waste. The solid wastes are disposed in one landfill site. A huge amount of sewer flows into the river Ganga daily. Nagar Nigam also runs a bus service in the city and suburban areas. The city is within the Varanasi range of Varanasi zone of Uttar Pradesh Police. A Special Superintendent of Police is the highest ranking police officer in the city. The city constitutes one parliamentary constituency. Indian National Congress won the constituency in Indian general election, 2004.

People and culture

Regions near the banks of river Ganga are extremely crowded and house several Hindu temples, narrow winding lanes and road-side shops. The main residential areas of Varanasi (especially for the middle and upper classes) are situated in regions far from the ghats; they are more spacious and less polluted. Such a place in an Indian city is called a housing colony.

Holy city

Situated on the banks of river Ganga, Varanasi attracts thousands of Hindu piligrims every year.
Situated on the banks of river Ganga, Varanasi attracts thousands of Hindu piligrims every year.
People performing Hindu ceremony at one of the ghats of Varanasi
People performing Hindu ceremony at one of the ghats of Varanasi

Varanasi is said to be the most holy city in Hinduism. It is considered as the most sacred place of pilgrimage for Hindus irrespective of denomination. More than 1,000,000 pilgrims visit the city each year.

Varanasi is the site of the holy shrine of Kashi Vishwanath (an aspect of Lord Shiva), one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of the Lord Shiva.

It is believed by Hindus that bathing in the river Ganga results in remission of sins and that dying in the holy city of Kashi (Varanasi) circumvents rebirth.

This holy city is adored as one of the Shakti Peethas where Divine Mother Sati's earring fell and devotees believe that therein stands the present Vishalakshi Temple.

In the residential neighbourhood of the city lies Sarnath, the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha is said to have given his first sermon about the basic principles of Buddhism. It is one of the four pilgrimage sites designated by Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya, and Lumbini. Here the Dhamek Stupa is a impressive structure marking the spot where the Buddha gave his first sermon. The Dharmarajika Stupa is one of the few pre-Ashokan stupas remaining, although only the foundations remain. Also remaining is the Chaukhandi Stupa commemorating the spot where the Buddha met his first disciples, dating back to the fifth century or earlier amd later enhanced by the addition of an octagonal tower.

Varanasi is also a pilgrimage place for Jains. It is believed to be the birthplace of Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar.

Vaishnavism and Shaivism have co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously. The city has also been influenced by Islamic culture.

This explains the continuous tension between communities in the city and the fact that really ancient monuments are few. However, Varanasi has kept its sacred position as the Holy City of Hinduism.


Varanasi is a city of temples. Almost every road crossing has a nearby temple. Such small temples are the basis of daily local prayers and other rituals. But there are many large temples too, erected at different times through out the history of Varanasi.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple, also called Golden Temple, which in its present shape was built in 1780 by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, is located on the outskirts of the Ganga. This temple makes Varanasi a place of great religious importance to the Hindus, as Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha, the aforementioned Jyotirlinga of the Lord Shiva is enshrined here. It is said that a single view of Vishwanatha Jyotirlinga is considered to merit more than that of other jyotirlingas. A Naubatkhana was built up in front of the Temple by the collector Mohammed Ibrahim Khan at the instance of Governor General Warren Hastings in 1785. In 1839, Punjab Kesari Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, the ruler of Punjab donated gold to cover the two domes of the temple. On January 28, 1983 the Temple was taken over by the government of Uttar Pradesh and its management was transferred to a trust with Late Dr. Vibhuti Narayan Singh, then Kashi Naresh, as president and an executive committee with Divisional Commissioner as chairman.

The temple was once destroyed by Aurangzeb who built a mosque on it. It was later resurrected at a location near the mosque, and is many times a cause of local strain among Hindus and Muslims.

Red coloured Durga Temple
Red coloured Durga Temple

Durga Temple, also called Monkey temple, was built at some point of time in 18th century by a Bengali Maharani. The temple got its name as 'Monkey temple' because of the presence of large number of monkeys in the temple. According to legends, the present statue of Goddess Durga was not made by man but appeared on its own in the temple. Thousands of Hindu devotees visit the Durga temple during Navratri and other auspicious occasions. Non-Hindus can enter the courtyard of the Durga temple but not the inner sanctum.

The architecture is of Nagara Style, which is typical of North India. The temple is accompanied by a rectangular tank of water called Durga Kund. The temple has multi-tiered spires and is stained red with ochre, signifying the red colour of Durga. The Kund was earlier connected to the river itself thus refreshing the water. This tunnel was later closed, leading to locked water which is replenished only by rain or drainage from the Temple. Every year on the occasion of Nag panchami, the act of depicting Lord Vishnu reclining on the coiled-up Shesha Naga, with his consort Lakshmi, seated at his feet; the assemblage resting on the "Kshira Sagar" is repeated in the Kund.

(New) Vishwanath Temple, also called Birla Temple was built by Birla family of industrialists. It was built as a replica of the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple.. The temple was planned by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, who wanted the temple to stand for national revival. The temple is open to people from all castes and religions.


A holy city, Varanasi does not take a backseat when it comes to fine arts and literature. Great Indian writers have lived in this city from Kabir and Tulsidas to Bharatendu Harishchandra, Jayshankar Prasad, Hazari Prasad Dwivedi; even named after the city, e.g. Kashi Nath Singh.

Art lovers and historians like Rai Krishnadas, his son Prof. Anand Krishna, musicians like Pt. Omkarnath Thakur, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Siddheshwari Devi, Dr. Lalmani Misra, Dr. N. Rajam, Pt. Anokhelal, Pt. Samta Prasad, Kanthe Maharaj and numerous others have kept the city alive to the spiritual aspect of fine arts apart from their ability to entertain. Numerous festivals are celebrated that preserve traditional styles of classical and folk culture. All night, open music concerts like ones organised at Sankat Mochan Temple, Hori, Kajri and Chaiti Mela, Budwa Mangal, are annual features that draw connoisseurs from all over.


Varanasi's schools are either run by the state government or by private (many of which are religious) organisations. Schools mainly use English or Hindi as the medium of instruction. The schools are affiliated with the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), or the U.P. Board of High School & Intermediate Education. Under the 10+2+3 plan, after completing their secondary education, students typically enrol in a 2 year junior college (also known as a pre-university) or in schools with a higher secondary facility. Students usually choose from one of three streams — liberal arts, commerce, or science, though vocational streams are also available. Upon completing the required coursework, students may enrol in general or professional degree programmes.

Varanasi is the site of three public universities. Banaras Hindu University, which includes Institute of Technology ( IT-BHU), is among the top 3 largest residential universities in the world having more than 128 independent teaching departments. Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth University and Sampoornanand Sanskrit University are the other two universities. Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies at Sarnath is a deemed university with a preference for the traditional Tibetan method of teaching within a framework of modern universities. Varanasi is also noted for many private and public institutes that provide Hindu religious teaching. Since ancient times people have been coming to Varanasi to learn philosophy, Sanskrit, astrology, social science and religious teachings. In Indian tradition, Varanasi is often called "Sarva Vidya Ki Rajdhani" (capital of knowledge).


Probably due to its unique culture, Varanasi is a major tourist destination for foreign tourists in India. A number of 3 and 4 star hotels are present in the city. All sort of cuisines are available mostly as street food due to rich and hospitable culture of Varanasi.

Terrorist Acts in Varanasi

On 7th March, 2006, terrorists planted as many as four explosive devices in Varanasi. Around 20 people were reported killed, and many were injured. One of the bombs was planted in the Sankat Mochan Temple, a shrine dedicated to Lord Hanuman, while another was planted on a platform of the Varanasi Cantonment Railway Station, the main railway station in the city. An unknown Islamic group called Lashkar-e-Kahab claimed responsibility for the terror attacks but investigation led to the Pakistani terrorist outfit Lashkar-E-Tayyaba.

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