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Culture of Varnasi

Buddhism in Varanasi Sarnath, 13 kilometers from north east of Varnasi, is a place of Buddhist pilgrimage. The site where Buddha gave his first sermon and thereby founded Buddhism is marked by Dhamek Stupa. Buddhist traditions worldwide have each built their country's architectural style of Buddhist temple here. Varanasi is one of the holiest places in Buddhism too, being one of the four pilgrimage sites said to have been designated by Gautama Buddha himself (the others being Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya, and Lumbini). In the residential neighborhood of Varanasi 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. The Dhamek Stupa is one of the few pre-Ashokan Stupas still standing, though only its foundation remains. Also remaining is the Chaukhandi Stupa commemorating the spot where Buddha met his first disciples (in the 5th century or earlier, BC).

Jainism in Varanasi

Varanasi is a pilgrimage site for Jains along with Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed to be the birthplace of Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar. Shree Parshvanath Digambar Jain Tirth Kshetra (Digambar Jain Temple) is situated in Bhelupur, Varanasi. This temple is of great religious importance to Jain Religion. Parshvanath or Parshvanatha was the twenty-third Tirthankar in Jainism. He is the earliest Jain leader generally accepted as a historical figure. He was a nobleman belonging to the Kshatriya caste. He lived in Varanasi in India around 800 BCE and is the most popular object of Jain devotion.

Islam in Varanasi

Islam came to Benares in 12th century during the rule of Delhi Sultanate; and established during the Mughal Period. The Muslims form a substantial part of the city's population, particularly in the old city where they form about one third of the population. Weaving in Varanasi of the famous Banarasi saris is a Muslim domain. Many of city's Muslims belong to the weaver caste called "Ansari" ("helper" in Arabic).


A Kshetra is a sacred ground, a field of active power, a place where Moksha, final release can be obtained. The Garuda Purana enumerates seven cities as giver of Moksha; they are Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya (Haridwar), Kasi, Kanchi, Avantika (Ujjain) and Dvaravati (Dwarka). It has the holy shrine of Kashi Vishwanath (a manifestation of Lord Shiva), and also one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.

Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a person's soul from the cycle of its transmigrations. Hindus regard Kashi as one of the Shakti Peethas, and that Vishalakshi Temple stands on the spot where Goddess Sati's earrings fell. Hindus of the Shakti sect make a pilgrimage to the city because they regard the river Ganges itself as the Goddess Shakti. Adi Shankara wrote his commentaries on Hinduism here, leading to the great Hindu revival. Vaishnavism and Shaivism have always co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously.

In the Rig-Veda, 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, and culture. Kasikhanda described the glory of the city in 15,000 verses in the Skanda Purana. In one verse, Lord Shiva says, the three worlds form one city of mine, and Kasi is my royal palace therein.

It is said that Lord Shiva has established Kasi around 5,000 years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. It is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. Many Hindu scriptures, including the Rig-Veda, Skanda Purana, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, mention the city. Varanasi, Kashi or Banaras, is older than traditions. It is a city witch liberates soul from body to ultimate. The much quoted Sanskrit Skloka Proclaim ‘Kasyam maranam mukti’ (death in Kashi is Liberation).

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.