Varanasi City: City of Lord Shiva, City of religion and city of enlightenment we call Varanasi (Kashi) by many names. It is called the oldest living city. Varanasi is the religious capital of India. It is believed that Varanasi is situated on the trident of Lord Shiva. Varanasi (Visheshvara) exists on the middle fork of trident of Lord Shiva, Omkareshvara on the north fork and Kedareshvara on south fork of trident of Lord Shiva (Omkareshvara, Visheshvara, Kedareshvara). Lord Shiva always lives here invisibly and flow the energy from his hair in the form of Ganga River. One of the most popular temples (Jyotirlinga) of Lord Shiva ‘Kashi Vishwanath’ is situated here. Varanasi is considered as the last pilgrimage.
Kashi(Varanasi) on the Trident of Lord Shiva
Varanasi is also very popular for Buddhist pilgrimages. The Founder of Buddhism Lord Buddha has given his first sermon at Sarnath in Varanasi. Parshvanath (One of the Tirthankars of Jainism) and Patanjali(Author of Yaga Vashistha) also belong to Varanasi. Varanasi is linked with many centuries of history and yet dynamic with its association with river Ganga. Varanasi city is also known as the city of Kabir, Tulsi, Raidas and Munshi Prem Chand (great Hindi poet and Novelist).It is associated with its oldest root customs and culture.
To keep the old customs and traditions alive the people of this city are trying hard to achieve this goal. They do their work with unity. Varanasi is known for its Ganga-Yamuni culture. Ganga-Yamuni culture denotes the harmony of different religions such as Hindi, Muslim etc. There is unity in diversity. The whole world admires this effort and unity of this city. The Hindu and the Muslim celebrate their festivals with unity and enthusiasm. People of Varanasi enjoy various fairs and festivals. Some popular festivals celebrated in Varanasi are Holi, Diwali, Id, Dussehera, Christmas etc. and some popular fairs of Varanasi are Durga Pooja, Bharat Milap, Naag Nathaiya, Panchkoshi yatra. World popular Ram Lila (Drama on the Life of Lord Rama) is enacted at Ram Nagar Fort in Varanasi. Many tourists and people from all over the world come to visit this beautiful city.
Varanasi is the oldest city in the world and older than history. Varanasi has been destroyed four times by Muslim invaders between 11th to 17th centuries but it has been re-built. In Varanasi, there are over 3000 Hindu temples, 1400 mosques, 12 churches, 3 Jain temples, 9 Buddhist temples and 3 Sikh temples. Varanasi is denoted by various names such as Varanasi, Kashi, Banaras, Benares, Mahasmashana, Avimukta, Anandvan, Rudravasa etc.
Kashi: The word Kashi is taken from Atharva Ved which means 'concentration of cosmic light’. Kashi gives Moksha (liberation) to everybody. Kashi is originated from name of Kasha who was the seventh king of Kashi. Hindu Devotees of the city called it Kashi because the rays of the sun in the morning spread across the river.
Varanasi: This city is called Varanasi (Varuna + Assi) because it is lying between Varuna River (north side) and Assi River (now just narrowed to water stream in south side). It is believed that Varuna and Assi originate from the left and the right legs of Lord Vishnu lying at Allahabad (Prayag) and both the rivers originate from his legs to guard the entrance of evil. No evil power can reside between this area and this is the reason that Tulsi Das selected Varanasi to reside and compose the Epic Ram Charit Manas (One of the religious books of the Hindus).
Banaras: This city is denoted by Banaras or Banarasi by Buddhist literature. Pali version became more popular in the time of Muslim ruler and British ruler. This city was popular by Banaras. One meaning of Banaras is also popular as: Banaras = Bana (readymade) Ras (Juice), thus Banarase means a place where readymade juice of life is always available.
Avimukta: According to the literature, Lord Shiva said “I never forsake it”. That’s why this great place is known as Avimukta (‘never forsaken’).
Anandvan: Lord Shiva explains: “My lings are everywhere there, like little sprouts arisen out of sheer enjoyment” (mentioned in Kashi Rahasya). Thus it is known as forest of enjoyment (Anand+Van=Anandvan).
Rudravasa: This city is known as Rudravasa because Lord Shiva lives here and protects it.
Mahasmashana, The ground of great cremation: The whole city is the ground of cremation which controller is Lord Shiva. The word Mahasmashana is explained as: Maha (great), Sma (dead body), and Shan (final rest). All the five gross elements (earth, water, air, fire and sky) live here like corpses. At present there, are two cremation ghats (Harishchandra ghat, Manikarnika ghat) in Varanasi. More than 50,000 dead bodies are cremated here in a year. People come here from all other parts of India to get salvation.