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Varanasi History



The original name of Varanasi was 'Kashi,' which originated from the word 'Kasha,' meaning brightness. It is also known as Avimuktaka, Anandakanana, Mahasmasana, Surandhana, Brahma Vardha, Sudarsana and Ramya.

Varanasi, the name was derived from the names of the two tributaries of Ganges; Asi and Varuna, which edge its southern and northern borders. Banaras or Benares as it’s fondly called is just corrupted version of its name.

According to Historians the Aryans first settled in the middle Ganges valley and then by the second millennium it became the centre of Aryan Philosphy and Religion. The city also was considered famous as a city flourishing as a commercial and industrial town. It was famous for its silk fabrics, the famous gold embroidered trademark Banarasi Saris, the muslins, the sculptures, the ivory works and the perfumery.

Varanasi became the capital of Kingdom of Kashi in the 6th century BC. It has always been a nucleus point for religious, cultural artistic and a centre of learning and hence it drew many venerated men from around the world like the Chinese traveler Hsuan Tsang.

All along history Varanasi has has strategic importance in terms of trade route and the richness of the city. It has time and again been plundered and looted by rulers like Mahmud of Ghazni, Mahmud of Ghori, Sultan Allaudin Khilji and Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. They came and invaded the city and ransacked the temples and riches of the city.

Varanasi has been refered time and again in the scriptures of as in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata and also in the Buddhist Jataka tales. The Jain’s also have strong ties to the city; it is believed to be the birthplace of Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar.

Varanasi was the home of the Bhakti Movement. The devotional movement took place in the 15th century with the likes of Kabir and Ramananda.  It is also the home for the largest university in Asia – The Benaras Hindu University.

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