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It is one of the seven holy cities - Ayodhyaa (UP), Mathuraa (UP), Haridwaar (Uttaraakhand), Kaashee or Vaaraanasee or Banaaras (UP), Kaanchee (Tamil Naadu), Avantee or Ujjain (MP), Dwaarakaa (Gujaraat). In the eastern side of UP, situated on the Western bank of Gangaa River - India's most sacred city. It was an important town by the 7th century BC when Babylon and Nineveh were at the peak of their power. Buddha came here in 500 BC; and it is mentioned in both Raamaayan and Mahaabhaarat. Vaaraanasee derives its name from two streams, the Varunaa and Assee - a small trickle on the Southern Banaaras (corrupted name of Vaaraanasee). It is also called Kaashee (the City of Light). It is believed that Vaaraanasee will not be destroyed even by Pralaya (Great Deluge), Shiv will lift it up on his Trishool (trident) at that time. There is a temple of Shiv, Vishwanaath Temple, in Kaashee; it is one of the 12 Jyotirling.

--Bharat's wife Sunandaa was from Kaashee.
--Bheeshm married Kaashee's princesses (Ambikaa and Ambaalikaa) to Vichitraveerya and was killed because of Kaashee's Princess Ambaa's (eldest sister of Ambikaa and Ambaalikaa) vow to be the cause of destruction of Bheeshm.
--Krishn killed Kaashee's King who boasted himself as second Krishn.
--King Harishchandra lived there after he had donated his kingdom to Vishwaamitra Jee.
--There is one Jyotirling there - Vishwanaath.
--People used to take "Kaashee Karavat" in olden days. Later this custom was stopped.

There are 3 main Kaashee in Bhaarat Varsh. Whatever region has these features is called Vaaraanasee - for example, region of Cuttack was named by king Purushottam Dev in 16th century as Abhinav-Vaaraanasee. It also has same features as Kaashee.
(1) Vaaraanasee - Kaashee has 3 Kantak (obstructions) - Gangaa River to South, Varunaa River in West (as Varun Dev is the Lord of the West direction - Arab among 9 parts of Bharat); and the third one is artificial or man made fort called Asi (= sword).
Gauree or Annapoornaa is at center with Vishwanaath.

(2) Vaaraanasee - Similarly in Cuttack region, as Vaaraanasee region, is surrounded by 2 branches of Mahaanadee - Mahaanadee itself and Kathajodee as its delta starts from there. At their center is the fort Dwaaraavatee (called Baaraabatee now) with the temple of Gadha-Chandee. Thus, it is also known as Vaaraanasee.

(3) Uttar Kaashee -
Similarly there is one Uttar Kaashee in Garhwal hills (now Uttaraakhand State).

Moksh is by knowledge only, and not by rituals only as clarified by Shankaraachaarya. All Kaashee were places of learning and Saadhanaa. However, real Gyaan is within mind and its center is also called Kailaash or Tri-koot. All knowledge is obtained by link (talk) between two hemispheres of brain called 2 Hans. All Aagam texts start as talk between Shiv and Paarvatee on Kailaash which is inside human mind also. Both Kailaash or Kaashee give Moksh by Gyaan leading to Samaadhi.

(4) Gupt Kasshee -
Gupt Kaashee is an important town and stop on the road to Kedaar Naath. It is on the west side of Madaakinee River. Gupt Kaashee mean "hidden Banaaras". According to a myth, when Paandav brothers were searching for a glimpse of Shiv, he hid himself in Gupt Kaashee, but the fled up from there to Kedaar Naath where Paandav had his Darshan. Gupt Kaashee's main temple is of Shiv as Vishwanaath

The ancient name of Bhaarat was Ajanaabh Varsh, as it was given to Naabhi by Swaayambhuv Manu. Aja = Brahma or Vishnu, his Naabhi (navel) has Manipura Chakra in human body. From that Manipur lotus Brahmaa was born. Geographically, Manipur borders Brahma Desh, now called Myammar (Maha-amar = Brahmaa).

In space, creation was from Hiranya Garbh = primordial fireball. That gave rise to 5 Mahaa Bhoot from which life started with plants. Its image is Kalash worship from which all our Poojaa starts. Kalash has all the 5 Mahaa Bhoot, and as a symbol of Hiranya Garbh, a copper coin is put into it, as a substitute of Hiranya = gold. The Mantra from Rig Ved is = Hiranya Garbh appeared first who was the single source (Pati) of all Bhoot (5 Mahaa Bhoot + living beings). He held the earth and sky and we worship that creator form of Brahm.

As Ajanaabh, India was the center of civilization. Its centre was places of Bhoot Naath (Shiv) called Kaashee (bright which also means Hiranyagarbh). There are 3 Kaashee in 3 parts of Bhaarat -
(1) in Northern part is Swarg =Tri-vishtap (Tibet) having Kailaash, place of Moksh,
(2) in central part (Bhuvar) has Kaashee, the center of knowledge and the capital of Bhaarat in times of Devaasur wars where Divodaas ruled,
(3) in Southern part it is Kaanchee = Golden which was centre of riches, called Dravid as the money (currency) flows like Drav = liquid. Now it is called liquidity of currency.

Kaashee, or Banaaras, or Vaaraanasee (UP)
Vaaraanasee, once known as Banaaras or Banaras and Kaashee, is a historical city of Northern India. The city is sacred to Hindu and also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. People often refer to Vaaraanasee 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 "culture capital of India". The scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganges at sunrise set against the back drop of the centuries old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world - definitely a must see destination on any trip to Northern India.

According to a legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity Shiv around 5,000 years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. It is one of the seven sacred cities of Hindu. Many Hindu scriptures, including Rig Ved, Skand Puraan, Raamaayan, and Mahaabhaarat, describe this city.

Otherwise Vaaraanasee is generally believed to be about 3,000 years old. Vaaraanasee was a commercial and industrial center famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautam Buddha (born circa 567 BC), Vaaraanasee was the capital of the Kingdom of Kaashee. The celebrated Chinese traveler, Xuanzang, attested that the city was a center of religious, educational, and artistic activities, and that it extended for about 5 km along the western bank of the Ganges. The city can be scorching hot in the summer months, if possible time your visit to fall between October and March, and bring something warm to wear for chilly days and nights. Vaaraanasee is not a city with distinct tourist destinations as such: instead, the experience is in watching the spectacle of life and death on the river and meandering through the alleys of the old city.

Places to See
There is one Shiv Jyotirling here - Vishwanaath Temple, also known as the Golden Temple. security is tight making entrance difficult and sometimes completely off limits to foreigners. No bags, cell phones or pens are allowed. They can be deposited in the shops by the temple entrance.
Nepaalee Hindu Temple - A small golden temple, built in Nepaalee architecture, near Lalitaa Ghaat
Man Mandir Observatory
Tulasee Maanas Temple
Durgaa Temple
Banaaras Hindu University - a very green and peaceful campus. Few actually know that this University was built during Indian freedom struggle and is known as Oxford of the East. This is the largest residential university of Asia, having approximately 124 independent departments. You also visit Bharat Kala Bhavan, a museum of Art and Archeology inside university.
There is also a Vishwanaath Temple built by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya.
Ram Nagar Fort - the fort of the King of Kaashee

Vaaraanasee is famous for its Ghaat. A Ghaat is a series of steps leading down into the river, used by bathers to take bath and pilgrims to sit around, and the riverside Vaaraanasee consists of a long sequence of these. It's generally possible to walk directly between them, though near Manikarnikaa Ghaat you'll have to navigate your way up and around through the alleyways. The best option for viewing the Ghaat is to charter a boat and see them from the river. Some of the main Ghaat, from North to South are ---

Assee Ghaat - a popular place to stay with many hotels, restaurants and internet cafes
Naarad Ghaat - the Ghaat on which bathing with spouse is not advised because the myth of contention Panchgang a Ghat - the meeting of the five rivers
Manikarnikaa Ghaat - the main cremation Ghaat; a must-see, but remain quiet and never take photographs
Dashaashwamedh Ghaat - the main Ghaat and site of the large evening Aaratee; only reachable by foot at some times of day, about a 5 minute walk south from Gadaulia,
Kedaar Ghaat - brightly painted in stripes and busy with bathers, very photogenic
Harishchandra Ghat - the cremation place were Raja Harishchandra did the last rituals of his son.
Tulasee Ghaat - site of the large water purification plant
Hanuman Ghat,
Raanaa Ghaat
a Shivaalaa Ghaat,

Boat Trip
Boat rides are very popular, especially at sunrise and sunset. The most popular sunset ride is to start at Dashaashwamedh Ghaat and head up to Manikarnikaa Ghaat to see the cremations in progress, and then return to Dashaashwamedh Ghaat and watch the evening Aaratee from the boat. Sunrise is another magical time for a ride, when the Ghaat are filled with Hindu bathing and starting their day - one of the most famous sights in India. You can bargain the price down to around Rs 30/person per hour (even for just 1 person in the boat - in 2012). Get lost in the alleyways - the sounds, sight and smells are just unbelievable.

Vaaraanasee is famous for its fine silk - it's on offer everywhere, but shopping around and bargaining there is hard!
Mehrotra Silk Factory, (near Brahma Ghat, follow the multiple yellow signs) has set, reasonable prices and a good selection. A little out of the way, but worth the trip.
Wow India, Assee Ghaat (the big corner shop, follow the tourists). A large collection of handicrafts from all over the country, a good place to pick up your gifts and souvenirs. Music, silks, Aayurvedic cosmetics, herbal teas, incense and plenty more. Prices are moderate and fixed.

Get around
Many of the sights are in the tiny narrow winding alleys of the waterfront. Rickshaws are only useful for longer trips across town or to the train stations. A cycle-rickshaw from the Junction train station to Dashaashwamedh Ghaat (or Gadaulia if the road is closed) should cost Rs 20. From Gadaulia to Assee Ghaat is Rs 10. Taxis exist but traffic makes them impractical. There is a pre-paid auto-rickshaw stand at the Vaaraanasee Junction (Cantt) train station.

By foot is the only way to see the waterfront and the ghats but be ready to be hot, sweaty, and lost - locals are usually happy to point you in the right direction. The names of Ghaat and signs pointing to restaurants and hotels are often painted on the walls in Roman letters.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 04/06/13