Varanasi also commonly known as Benaras or Banaras and Kashi, is a city situated on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 320 kilometres (199 mi) southeast of state capital Lucknow. It is regarded as a holy city by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India.
People often refer to Varanasi as “the city of temples”, “the holy city of India”, “the religious capital of India”, “the city of lights”, “the city of learning”, and “the oldest living city on earth.”
Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located in Varanasi, the Holiest existing Place of Hindus, where at least once in life a Hindu is expected to do pilgrimage, and if possible, also pour the remains (ashes) of cremated ancestors here on the River Ganges. It is in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. The temple stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganges, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples. The main deity is known by the name Vishwanatha or Vishweshwara meaning the Ruler of the universe. The temple town that claims to be the oldest living city in the world, with 3500 years of documented history is also called Kashi and hence the temple is popularly called as Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Due to this 15.5m high golden spire(golden cover built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh-ruler of Lahore), the temple is sometimes called as the Golden Temple,
The temple has been referred in Hindu theology since a very long time and as a central part of worship in the Shaiva philosophy. The temple has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times. The Gyanvapi Mosque, which is adjacent to the temple, is the original site of the temple. The current structure was built by the Maratha monarch, Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780. Since 1983, the temple is being managed by Govt. of Uttar Pradesh. During the religious occasion of Shivratri, Kashi Naresh (King of Kashi) is the chief officiating priest and no other person or priest is allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum. It is only after he performs his religious functions that others are allowed to enter.
According to legend, the city was founded by the Lord Shiva, several thousand years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. It is also a general belief that it stands on the weapon “The Trishool” (Trident) of Lord Shiva. It is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. Many Hindu scriptures, including the Rigveda, Skanda Purana, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, mention the city.
Varanasi is generally believed to be about several thousand years old. In fact, it is supposed to be the oldest city in the world. Varanasi was an industry centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautama Buddha (born circa 567 BCE), Varanasi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kashi. The celebrated Chinese traveller Xuanzang attested that the city was a center of religious and artistic activities, and that it extended for about 5 km along the western bank of the Ganges.
Now to the Crux…
Varnasi is elevated That is, when geographically observed it is above the usual ground level. It is not connected with any of the cities or other surroundings. It stands alone elevated.
Symbolically the Quality of saints in India. This is the most special quality of this place alone.
Proof from Wikipedia : On a local level, Varanasi is located on a higher ground between rivers Ganges and Varuna, the mean elevation being 80.71 m. As a result of absence of tributaries and canals, the main land is continuous and relatively dry. In ancient times, this geographic situation must have been highly favourable for forming settlements. But it is difficult to ascertain the original geography of Varanasi because the city’s current location is not exactly the same as the one described in some old texts.
Varanasi is often said to be located between two confluences: one of the Ganges and Varuna, and other of the Ganges and Assi, (Assi having always been a rivulet rather than a river.) The distance between these two confluences is around 2.5 miles (4.0 km), and religious Hindus regard a round trip between these two places—a Pancha-kroshi Yatra (a five mile (8 km) journey) ending with a visit to a Sakshi Vinayak Temple as a holy ritual.
Hence as Indians we should be proud to have such a place in India and understand its importance!
Mark Twain once wrote, “Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”