Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Many names have been given to Varanasi, though its recently revived official appellation is mentioned in the Mahabharata and in the Jataka tales of Buddhism. It probably derives from the two rivers that flank the city, the Varuna to the north and the Asi to the south. Many still use the anglicized forms of Banaras or Benares, while pilgrims refer to Kashi, first used three thousand years ago to describe the kingdom and the city outside which the Buddha preached his first sermon; the "City of Light" is also called Kashika, "the shining one", referring to the light of Shiva. Another epithet, Avimukta, meaning "Never Forsaken", refers to the city that Shiva never deserted, or that one should never leave. Further alternatives include Anandavana, the "forest of bliss", and Rudravasa, the place where Shiva (Rudra) resides.
A city which, since it is both an exalted place of pilgrimage and an idealize centre of faith, has been likened to Jerusalem and Mecca.According to the historians, the city was founded some ten centuries before the birth of Christ. The city is mentioned in Holy Scriptures like 'Vamana Purana', Buddhist texts and in the epic 'Mahabharata'.Mark Twain,the English author and litterateur,who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Banaras,once wrote:"Banaras is older than history,older than tradition,older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together."
What to see in Varanasi
kashi vishwanath temple : Also known as the Golden Temple, it is dedicated to Lord shiva, the presiding deity of the city. Varanasi is Said to be the point at which the first jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which shiva manifested has supremacy over others gods, broke through the Earth's crust and flared towards the heavens. More than the Gaths and even the Ganga, the Shivalinga installed in the temple remains the devotional focus of Varanasi.
Banaras Hindu University : Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U) founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in 1917A.D is the largest residential University in India. At the entrance, there is the grand statue of its founder and the Vishwanath temple in its centre. The huge temple was built in 1966, under patronage of the Birlas. It has a 677 meter high rising white top and its well carved architecture attracts pilgrims.
Bharat Kala Bhawan : In the cool and calm surroundings of B.H.U is the Bharat Kala Bhavan which has established in 1920A.D and has a vast collection of paintings, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and other materials of archeological studies. In the main hall of the Bhawan, there is a figure of a man standing on one leg and one hand on his hip and lifting a mass of stone above his head, with one hand. The figure is said to be of Lord Krishna lifting Govardana. In the halls of the Bharat Kala Bhawan, there are many rare images that testify to the existence of Krishna cult in Kashi in 15th and 16th century Gupta period. It has the miniature paintings from the courts of Mughals and the Hindu Princes of Punjab Hills. Visit : Monday to Saturday . Opens from 1030 to 1600.
River front (ghats) : The spectacular 4 km sweep of the Ghats is unique sight, best viewed at dawn, in that "soft first light" when the river and Ghats have a timeless appeal. Life is almost panoramic detail unfolds here from dawn to dusk as a steady stream of devotees-swelling to thousands on auspicious days –perform rituals by the Ganga. The Ghats are best approached by Dashashwamedha ghat, where boats are available on hire.
Durga Temple :Godess durga is considered as the goddess of Strength and Power. This temple was built in the 18th century with red stone work. A fine example of Nagara art. This temple falls on the main route from Railway Station to BHU, just before Tulsi Manas temple and Sankatmochan temple.
Bharat Mata Temple :Bharat Mata Temple is among the beautiful temples constructed in 1936 by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt, a Gandhian follower. It is situated within the campus of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth. The shrine is dedicated to Mother India and possesses a beautiful marble structure, which was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi.
The temple also has a beautiful structure of undivided India with a three-dimensional view, displaying the exact proportions of lands, oceans and hills. The architecture of the temple is in the shape of pentagonal cone, which is supported by the five pillars. The temple also offers beautiful view of river Ganges and the ghats located in close vicinity.