Moksha Dayika Nagari
|State||: Uttar Pradesh|
|Type of Tourism||: Pilgrimage|
|Area||: 1550 square kilometers|
|Population||: 3, 682, 194 (As per Indian census 2011)|
|Altitude||: 80.71 meters|
|Best Tourist Season||: October to March|
|Clothing recommended||: Light Cotton in summer, woolen in winter|
|Languages spoken||: Hindi, English|
|Telephone Code||: India (0542), International (+91)|
|Pin Code||: 221001|
|What to buy||: Banarasi Silk Saris, Hand Woven Pure Silk Saris, Gold and Silver Brocades, Dress Materials, Silk Pashminas, Shawls, Bed Covers, Silk Carpets, Oriental Persian Carpets, other Silk Textile, Hand Block Printed Cotton Kurties, Suits, Accessories, Antique Jewellery, Beads and Bangles, Wall Hangings, Lampshades, Copperware, Brassware, Wooden and Clay Toys, Stone Inlay Work, Zari Work, Musical Instruments, Masks of Hindu and Buddhist Deities, Kamandalam, Bottled Ganga Jal, Hot Chocolate, Herbal Tea, Incense, The Khatta-Meetha ‘Langda Aam’ etc.|
|Shopping Tips||: You will get silk products every where. So do not hesitate to bargain. And also beware of the artificial or imitation silk.|
|Where to Shop From||: The Chowk, Vishwanath Gali, Dashswamedh Gali, Gyan Vapi, Thatheri Bazar, Lahurabir, Godoulia and Golghar|
|Food Specialties||: Banarasi Chat, Pani Puri, Paapri Chat, Aloo Tikia Chat, Samosas, Pakoras, Puris, Dum Aloo, Kachori, Lassi with layers of Malai and Rabri, Lavanglata, Rosgullas, Sandesh, Chamcham, Pedas, Jalebis, Barfi, Laddoos, Hot Milk, Thandai, Sherbets, Panna, Murabba, Bhang, Banarasi Paan.|
|Local Transportation||: Auto Rickshaw, Cycle Rickshaw, City Buses, Taxi, Boats, Steamers,|
Popularly known as ‘Banaras’, ‘Benares’ or ‘Kashi’ and much venerated by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists as a most sacred city on the earth, Varanasi; nestled on the banks of the holy river Ganga (Ganges) is a municipal corporation and the district headquarter of Varanasi District in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Celebrated as the oldest civic of the country, Varanasi is also one of the earliest and continuously inhabited cities of the world. Referred to as ‘the religious capital of India’, ‘the city of learning’, ‘the city of temples’ and ‘the city of lights’, Varanasi has always been regarded as the most blessed and sacrosanct vicinity in the universe over the centuries. As stated in the aforementioned verse, Kashi (Varanasi) along with other six cities is a ‘Moksha Dayika Nagari’ i.e. a town that will lead you to eternal salvation. It is strongly believed amongst the Hindus that if you die at Kashi or if the mortal remains of a human being are immersed in the sacred river Ganga at Varanasi, you surely attain the state of ‘Moksha’. Even bathing in the Ganga at the Ghats of Kashi is affirmed to be very pious and it is said that as you dip in the waters of Ganga, all your sins are washed away.
Apart from this, Varanasi is also one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva located in India; ‘Varanasyam cha Vishweshwam’. Revered as the most sacred shrine of Hinduism, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Varanasi is a place where Lord Shiva eternally resides. Visiting Varanasi, the holy abode of Lord Shiva at least once in a life time is believed to be extremely auspicious and lucky by every Hindu. Varanasi is metaphorically called a melting pot of life and death where living is believed to be equally fortunate as dying. Mark Twain was right about Varanasi when he said,
“Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, And looks twice as old as all of them put together”.
The name ‘Varanasi’ is supposed to have derived from the names of two rivers Varuna and Assi, the tributaries of the river Ganga. According to another opinion, the river Varuna was known by the name Varanasi in olden days from which the city received its name. Over the ages, the moksha dayika city Varanasi has been known by several appellations viz. Avimuktaka, Anandakanana, Mahasmasana, Surandhana, Brahma Vardha, Sudarsana, Ramya, and Kasi. The city Varanasi is cited in Rigveda as ‘Kashi’ which means ‘the illuminated one’ or ‘the city of lights’. This refers to the status of Varanasi as a pivot of learning, literature and culture. Varanasi finds citations in a number of Hindu scriptures such as Rigveda, Purana, Ramayana, and Mahabharata and so on. In Skanda Purana, the glory of Varanasi or Kashi is described in 15,000 verses of Kasi Khanda where in, Lord Shiva himself proclaimed in one of the verses
History of Varanasi
The oldest living city of the world Varanasi boasts of its more than 3000 years old mythological as well as chronicled history. As per the legend associated with the background of the city, Varanasi is believed to have been founded by Lord Shiva Himself several millenniums back. It is also said that the city stands on the ‘Trishool’ the exclusive weapon of Lord Shiva and is considered to be one of the seven sacred cities of the country. The ultimate pilgrim hub of Hindus and the symbol of Hindu renaissance, Varanasi has been the home to knowledge, literature, philosophy, culture, devotion, Indian arts and crafts over the centuries. The city also basks in the glory of its Buddhist and Jain eminence. During the age of Gautama Buddha, who was born in 567 BCE, Varanasi furnished as the capital of the Kingdom of Kashi. Sarnath, situated just 10 kilometers from here is the very venue where Gautama Buddha preached his cardinal sermon after ‘The Enlightenment’.
Varanasi is also held in high esteem by Jains as the 23rd Tirthankara of Jainism; Parsvanath Swami Ji as well as Suparshvanath Ji (the 7th Tirthankara) and Shreyansanath Ji (the 11th Tirthankara) were born here. This city also finds citations in the travelogues of the renowned Chinese traveler Xuanzang (visited India around AD 635) who referred to this civic as the center of religious and artistic activities and described it as a city expanded over 5 kilometers along the banks of the river Ganga. Aryans arrived from Indus Valley settled down near the Ganga Valley and by the 2nd century BC, Varanasi had become a pivot of Aryan culture and philosophy. The city also prospered as a nucleus of commerce and acquired world wide fame due to its silk and muslin fabrics, ivory works, perfumes and sculptures.
Under the Muslim Rule from 12th century AD for next 3 centuries Varanasi underwent an era of destruction, plunders and downfall. The city was barbarically assaulted by Muhammad Ghori. As elucidated by Kamil-ut-Tawarikh of Ibn Asir, “The slaughter of Hindus at Varanasi was immense; none were spared except women and children, who were taken into slavery and the carnage of men went on until the earth was weary.” The temples were demolished and people were executed. It was only in 16th century when Akbar, the great Mughal Emperor restored the religious and cultural glory of Varanasi. In 18th century AD, Varanasi was made an independent kingdom named ‘Kashi’ and again flourished as an axis of all commercial and religious enterprises in northern India. Later, during the Rebellion of 1857, Varanasi once again witnessed a brutal massacre befell by British over Indian troops as well as civilians.
In the year 1910, Varanasi was made a new Indian State by British with Ramanagar as its administrative capital. The celebrated Ramanagar Fort was used by the Kashi Naresh as his royal residence wherein the present king of Kashi still dwells. This fort of Ramanagar was constructed by the Kashi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh. Kashi Naresh, venerated as the incarnation of Lord Shiva is revered a lot by the citizens of Varanasi even today. He functions as the religious head of Benares and the cultural patron of this holy abode of Gods.