Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and the oldest inhabited city in India. It is a famous city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is also called ‘Banaras’ and ‘Kashi’. It is considered one of the most sacred cities in Hinduism and is called Avimukt Kshetra. Apart from this, it is also considered sacred in Buddhism and Jainism. The culture of Varanasi has an inseparable relationship with the Ganges River, Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple and its religious importance. This city has been the cultural and religious center of India, especially of North India, for thousands of years.
Varanasi is often referred to by adjectives like ‘City of Temples’, ‘Religious Capital of India’, ‘City of Lord Shiva’, ‘City of Lights’, ‘City of Knowledge’ etc.
The famous American writer Mark Twain writes: “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older than legends, and when put together, it is twice as old as that collection.”
The Banaras Gharana of Hindustani classical music was born and developed in Varanasi itself. Many philosophers, poets, writers, musicians of India have lived in Varanasi, including Kabir, Vallabhacharya, Ravidas, Swami Ramananda, Trailanga Swami, Sivananda Goswami, Munshi Premchand, Jaishankar Prasad, Acharya Ramchandra Shukla, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Girija Devi, Pandit Hari. Prasad Chaurasia and Ustad Bismillah Khan etc. are few. Goswami Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitmanas, the most revered book of Hindu religion, here and Gautam Buddha gave his first discourse here at Sarnath.
Four major universities are located in Varanasi: Banaras Hindu University, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies and Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya. The residents here mainly speak Kashika Bhojpuri, which is a dialect of Hindi.
Why Varanasi is also named Kashi and Banaras
Banaras City Name: The name of Manduadih station of Varanasi has now officially become Banaras. With this, Banaras, the most popular name of this city, has got government recognition in a way. During the Mughal and British rule, this city was known as Banaras.
Many times the question arose that when the popular name of Varanasi is Banaras, why did its official name become Varanasi. What is its relation with the city of Kashi. There was also a debate that if this city is known by the name of Banaras all over the world, then officially there is neither a station nor anything here on this name. After all, the name of the university here is definitely Banaras Hindu University.
There are also two railway stations in Varanasi by the name of Varanasi Cantt and Kashi but no station in the name of Banaras. After this long standing demand, the name of the station named Madwadih of the city has now been changed to Banaras. Along with this, the government has also given a special recognition to the name of Banaras.
However, it is interesting that during the time of Mughals and British, when the official name of this city was Banaras, then how it became Varanasi. What is its history. By the way, this ancient city has many names.
The most ancient name of Varanasi is Kashi, says Diana L. Sec’s book Banaras City of Light. This name is being spoken for about 3000 years. Then Buddha reached the outskirts of Kashi 600 years before Christ. The city of Kashi has also been mentioned in the stories of Buddha. In fact, Kashi was named after an ancient king Kasha, in whose empire the famous and majestic king Divodasa was later. It is also said that earlier there was such a long grass, whose flowers were of golden color. Which was in abundance in the forests spread along the banks of the river.
City of Light (Kashi)
Kashi was also called Kashika many times. Means shining. It was believed that being the city of Lord Shiva, it was always shining. Which was called “Kashate” i.e. “City of Light”. Perhaps that is why this name became Kashi. The meaning of the word Kashi is bright or radiant.
How did the name Varanasi come about?
Varanasi is also an ancient name. It is also mentioned in Buddhist Jataka tales and Hindu Puranas. It is mentioned time and again in Mahabharata. Actually its name in Pali language was Banarasi. Which broke and came under the new name of Banaras. This city is more known by the name of Banaras. Of course now officially its name is Varanasi.
After independence, the name was Varanasi
, under the rule of the Mughals and then under the British, its name remained Banaras but in independent India its official name was Varanasi. Any Banarasi would say that since the city has the Varuna river on one side, which joins the Ganges in the north and the Assi river on the other. Therefore, due to being between these rivers, its name was called Varanasi.
What the Puranas say The
Padma Purana says that Varuna and Asi are two rivers. God created them and this holy land between them. There is no better place in the world than this. It is written directly in Kurma Purana, Varanasi is the city which is between Varuna and Asi rivers. However, some old literature also says that there used to be a single river flowing north of the city, not the Varuna and the Asi, which was named Ranasi, which may have been later named Varuna.
Archaeological claims that Rajghat is the place where the river Ranasi met with the river Ganges. Perhaps this city would have been situated on both sides of the Varanasi river. It would not have spread on the banks of the Ganges.
When was the official name Varanasi
The name Varanasi is also mentioned in Matsya Purana, Shiva Purana, but in folk pronunciation it was popular with the name ‘Benaras’, which came to be called ‘Benaras’ during the British period. Finally, on 24 May 1956, it was officially renamed as Varanasi.
The names by which this city was known,
this Shiva city was known by different names in different times and by different people. It has many names. Like- Kashi, Kashik, Banaras, Varanasi, Varanasi, Avimukt, Anandavan, Rudravas.
Before independence, this was Banaras
kingdom. Before independence, when about 565 native princely states were in existence in India, one of them was Banaras. The king of Banaras was called Kashi Naresh or Banaras Naresh or Kashi Raj. Even before 15 August 1947, the then Maharaja of Banaras, Vibhutinarayan Singh, signed the letter of merger of his princely state with India. After independence, when Uttar Pradesh was formed, the princely states of Tehri Garhwal, Rampur and Banaras were merged in it.
Then Sriprakash, a well-known Congress leader of Banaras, demanded to change the name of Banaras and talked about giving it its ancient name. Sriprakash was later made the Governor of Assam. Then it was mentioned that the name of this ancient city should be Kashi or Varanasi. Then Sriprakash wrote several letters to Sardar Patel and the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Govind Vallabh Pant about this.
Sampurnanand stamped the name Varanasi. In
fact, when the name of this city was changed on 24 May 1956, the main role was played by Sampurnanand. By then he had become the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He had his own relationship with Banaras. This leader, a scholar of Sanskrit, chose the more Sanskritic name Varanasi instead of Banaras.
Varanasi is also known as Banaras and Kashi. This city is the oldest and continuously growing city in the world. This city is called the city of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is the main deity of Hindus who is considered a symbol of creation and destruction. Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in Hinduism. There is a great belief in Hinduism about this city that if a person dies here or is cremated in Kashi, then he attains salvation, that is, that person gets freedom from the cycle of birth and death. That is why, this place is also called the place of liberation. People have an unwavering belief about Varanasi that if one takes a dip in the holy river Ganges flowing here, then all the sins are washed away. For many tourists, taking a dip in the Ganges River at sunrise and sunset is a unique and memorable experience. Aarti (prayer) is organized every evening at the main ghats of Varanasi. The most attractive aspect of this mystical city is that all the rites and rituals are performed at the main ghats located here, in which every function is well organized and concluded, people take a dip in the Ganges, aarti is performed, dead bodies are cremated. The rites are performed, they are also bathed. Apart from these activities, you can also see people doing yoga, massage, beard making and playing sports like cricket here on the banks of the river. The city of Varanasi, a tourist destination in and around Varanasi, is completely painted in religious colour. The most interesting aspect of this city is the many ghats located here. From these ghats one has to descend several steps to reach the Ganges. Out of all these Ghats, some of the Ghats are quite famous in which Dashashwamedha is the prevalent Ghat, where grand aarti is organized every morning and evening. Apart from this, Darbhanga Ghat, Hanuman Ghat and Main Mandir Ghat are also prominent. Varanasi is the only city in the whole world where tourists are provided with the facility of “death tourism”. Tourists can see many dead bodies being cremated together at Manikarnika Ghat here, these bodies are bathed, burnt and later their ashes and ashes are immersed in the Ganges. The Assi Ghat has the highest number of hotels and restaurants. Apart from this, the Tulsi Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat, Shivala Ghat and the highly illuminated Kedar Ghat also need no introduction. Varanasi is said to be the abode of Lord Shiva and that is why the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located here which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Apart from Kashi Vishwanath Temple, there is also a new Kashi Vishwanath Temple which is built in the BHU campus of Varanasi. Apart from this, there are many notable temples like Tulsi Manas Temple and Durga Mandir. Here is the Alamgir Mosque representing the religion of the Muslims while Jain devotees visit the Jain temple for peace. Apart from religious places, Varanasi has Ram Nagar Fort on the other side of the river and Jantar Mantar which is an observatory. Varanasi Hindu University is also located in this city whose campus is built in a very peaceful environment. This university is called the Oxford of the East. The city is famous for classical dance, music and yoga. Best time to visit Varanasi The best time to visit Varanasi is from December to February. How to reach Varanasi Varanasi is easily accessible by air, by train and by road.