Varanasi / Kashi / Banaras / काशी / बनारस / वाराणसी
Varanasi, Kashi or Banaras is situated in Uttar Pradesh in India and is an ancient and religiously important city. It’s old name is Kashi. Varanasi is the most ancient established city. It is situated on the banks of river Ganga and has long been the religious and cultural centre. It is Varuna+Asi=Varanasi as it is situated between Varuna and Asi, the two rivers. Varanasi is mentioned in many ancient scripts like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas etc. People came to Varanasi to learn Sanskrit. Many families of Varanasi still have their unique styles in Indian music. The Ghaats of Varanasi look beautiful as the river Ganga is bent like a bow here. All the ghaats are east facing and so gets the first light of the sun in the morning. Starting from Rajghat in the north to Assi Ghaat in the south, Varanasi has more than hundred ghaats. Dashaashvamedh, Kedar, Harishchandra, Manikarnika etc are some of the main ghaats. On the Manikarnika ghaat, the pyres' flames never stops as the people who die outside Varanasi are continuously brought here for their funeral. Many hindus believe that a person is released from rebirth, gets Moksha, if he/she dies in Kashi.
Ancient records prove that in the 6th century B.C., Kashi was a very prosperous and important place in India. In the middle aeon it was a part of Kannuj, and later the Pal kings of Bengal ruled it. In 1194 Shahaabuddin Gauri robbed the city. It was named Muhammadabad in the Mughal time. Afterwards it was under the control of Avadh rulers. Balwant Singh, with the support of the English army, took Varanasi from the Avadh control in the battle of Buxar. In 1911 English crowned Maharaja Prabhunarayan Singh as the king. In 1950 this region joined Republic of India at will.
Kashi has been the union place for many learned men. This ancient and pure city has always attracted many saints, religious leaders and preachers. Apart from Buddha and Shankaracharya, Ramanuj, Vallabhacharya, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Tulsidas, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Raidas etc also visited Varanasi.
Kashi was again a leader in the Indian freedom struggle. Contribution of students of Varansi’s Hindu University is never forgotten. Great freedom fighters like Sushil Kumar Lahidi, Chandrashekhar Azad and Jitendranath Sanyal were born in the city. Contributions of great men like Pandit Madanmohan Malviya and others like Raja Shiv Prasad Gupt, Baburao Vishnu Paradkar, Shri Shriprakash, Dr. Bhagwan Das, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Dr. Sampoornanand, Kamleshwar Prasad, Manmathnath Gupt, Mukutbihari Lal will always be written with golden letters in the history of Indian freedom Struggle.
Varanasi has always been the centre for the vocal and instrumental music. The very sweet Thumari is a very special contribution of Varanasi to the Indian classical music. In this, some of the famous faces are Dheerendra Babu, Badi Motii, Choti Motii, Sidheshwar Devi, Rasulan Bai, Kashi Bai, Anwari Begam, Shanta Devi and today Girija Devi. Other than these, Bade Ramdas and Shrichande Mishra are the other great voices of the classical music. Tabala players like Kanthe Maharaj, Anokeh Lal, Gudai Maharaj, Krishan Maharaj have showed their talent worldwide. Shehnai and dance also have great performers like Nand Lal, Ustad Bismillah Khan and Sitara Devi who were born here.
Kashi has been the centre for Sanskrit’s history but many writers of Hindi and Urdu have also born here. Some of them are Bhartendu Harishchandra, Ayodhya Singh Upadhyay “Hariaudh”, Jaishankar Prasad, Premchand, Shyam Sundar Das, Rai Krishna Das, Acharya Ramchandra Shukla, Ramchandra Verma, Bechan Sharma “Ugra”, Vinodshankar Vyas, Krishnadev Prasad and Dr. Sampoornand. In Udru literature, Vishvanath Prasad Shaad, Maulavi Mahesh Prasad, Maharaj Chet Singh, Shekh Ali Haji, Aaga Hasra Kashmiri, Hukum Chandra Nayyar, Prof. Hafeez Banarasi, Shri Haq Banarasi and Nazir Banarasi are some great writers.
Craftesmen of Varanasi are also world famous. A visitor here never forgets to take the famous silk “Kimkhab” and clothes with Zari work. They have a big role in the export business. Other than silk and zari, brass work of Varanasi is also very famous. The wooden toys are also famous and helps in the cottage industries. Ganga has many beautiful ghaats in Kashi like Asii, Tulsi, Hanuman, Harishchandra, Dashaashvamedh, Maanmandir, Manikarnika, Sindhiya and Rajghat. All these ghaats are related to some ancient or religious tale.
Kashi is a tourist attraction. It has many historical, religious and ancient places and people from all over the world come to see and praise the culture of the city. Kashi is unique because of its culture, religion, politics and art. It gave origin to Sanskrit – the mother of Indian national language Hindi – and is a symbol of cultural unity.