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About Benares

     Varanasi is called as "the ancient city" when Lord Buddha visited it in 500 B.C.E, and is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world today. It is considered to be one of the sacred places on earth.

     Varanasi also commonly known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi is a city situated on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 320 kilometers (199 mi) southeast of state capital Lucknow. Being located in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of North India, the land is very fertile because low level floods in the Ganges continually replenish the soil. Varanasi is located on a higher ground between rivers Ganges and Varuna, the mean elevation is 80.71 m. As a result of absence of tributaries and canals, the main land is continuous and relatively dry. In ancient times, this geographic situation must have been highly favourable for forming settlements.

The Origin of the Name

     The name ‘Varanasi’ possibly originates from the names of the two rivers: the Varuna still is flowing in Varanasi and the Assi (not visible, though a small stream or Nalla near Assi Ghat is considered to be the Assi River).

     Varanasi was variously known as Avimuktaka ("never forsaken" with reference to Shiva), Anandakanana, Kashika (the shining one), Mahasmasana, Surandhana, BrahmaVardha, Sudarsana, Ramya, Anandavana (the forest of bliss) and Rudravasa (the place where Shiva (Rudra) resides) from ages.

     Varanasi has been popularly known by many names including Kashi (used by pilgrims, dating from Buddha's day). In the Rigveda, the city was referred to as Kasi or Kashi, "the luminous one" as an allusion to the city's historical status as a centre of learning, literature, art and culture. Kasikhand described the glory of the city in 15,000 verses in the Skanda Purana.

Renowned Varnasi

     It is said that the Hindu god Shiva himself narrates in a verse that, "The three worlds form one city of mine, and Kashi is my royal palace therein”. Varanasi is often referred as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", and "the city of learning." Varanasi has nearly 100 Ghats. Many of the Ghats were built when the city was under Maratha control. Marathas, Shinde’s (Scindia’s), Holkar’s, Bhonsle’s, and Peshwe’s (Peshwa’s) stand out as patrons of present day Varanasi. Most of the Ghats are bathing Ghats, while others are used as cremation sites. Many Ghats are associated with legends or mythologies while many Ghats are privately owned. The former Kashi Naresh owns Shivala or Kali Ghat.

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