Varanasi – An Oldest City in the world

The land of Varanasi, often referred to as Benares, has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. This city is on the banks of river Ganges. Varanasi is one of the major religious places in India, where Hindus wishes to visit at least once in his/her lifetime. People strongly believe that if they take dip in this river Ganga, their sins will wash away.

Varanasi as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. The holy city was the capital of the ancient ‘Janapad’ (kingdom) of Kashi. 

Many of the great spiritual teachers are associated with Benares. Buddha gave his first sermon nearby in the deer park at Sarnath. Parshvanatha, the first master of the jains, was born in the town in the 8th century. Varanasi is the embodiment of heaven on earth.

Eighty-five per cent of all Indians are Hindu. Every devout Hindu hopes to tread the hallowed ‘Pankoshi road’ at least once in their life and bathe in the same day in strict succession in the five ghats of Assi, Dashashwamedh, Adi Keshav (Varuna-sangam), Panchganga and, finally, the cremation ghat of Manikarnika. There are over 80 ghats, or embankment steps stretching four miles along the left bank of the Ganges.

Varanasi is a bridge or ‘tirtha’ between heaven and earth, a crossing point where gods visit this world and mortals travel to the next. Shiva brought his wife, Parvati, to the City of Light. The town derives its name from the combination of two rivers – the Varuna and Assi.

The bodies arrive all day on bamboo stretchers and on top of taxi roofs. They are accompanied to their final resting places with the traditional mantra, ‘Ram, Ram, Satya Hai!’

Mourning is considered bad luck by the men who attend the funeral pyre. Women are forbidden.

The eldest son, head shaven, walks around the fire and sets it alight. It takes three hours to burn a body. Four hundred are cremated a day. 

This is the ancient city of ‘burning and learning’.

Along the banks holy men perform their pujas, offering “prasad” to the scummy waters. Turds float by. Nearby, under a pipal tree, a goat bleat. Two dogs fight over a bone. Monkeys scavenge rice grains swept towards them by a toothless old woman with a broom. Vultures circle overhead. Mynah birds screech from the trees. Children play marbles.

A million Hindus a year come to Uttar Pradesh to purify themselves in the polluted waters flowing through Shiva the Destroyer’s city. To achieve ‘moshka’ or ‘mukti’ – salvation from the pain of existence and the anguish of continual rebirth and death. Die in Varanasi and your spirit will be united with the absolute, the Atman.

Eternal peace is guaranteed and enlightenment assured amid the noisy crowds, the dust, the incense, the clangorous rickshaw bells and the raw sewerage.

Varanasi has been the centre of Sanskrit study for over 2,500 years. The institute was founded in 1791. The novelist Prem Chand and poet Tulksi Das as well as the musician Ravi Shankar were all born in Varanasi. Music houses can be found in every narrow alleyway along with the silk houses.

The place became the burning ghat because of its proximity to the sacred pools of Manikarni-kakhund dug by Vishnu with his discus. Shiva was so impressed by Benares that he dropped jewelled earrings into the river.

Pilgrims come to Benares to press their palms together and give the traditional Namaskar greeting… to salute the divine in everything.

Varanasi or Benaras as it was known previously is well-connected by both road and rail. The Varanasi Airport lies 25 km from the city center. Tourists coming from out of India can come first to Delhi or Mumbai and then fly by a domestic flight to Varanasi. From the airport, you can reach your hotel by a taxi.

La tierra de Varanasi, a menudo conocida como Benares, ha sido el lugar de peregrinación definitivo para los hindúes durante siglos. Varanasi es la ciudad viva más antigua del mundo. Esta ciudad está a orillas del río Ganges. Varanasi es uno de los principales lugares religiosos de la India, donde los hindúes desean visitar al menos una vez en su vida. La gente cree firmemente que si se bañan en este río Ganga, sus pecados desaparecerán. 

Varanasi como “más antiguo que la historia, más antiguo que la tradición, más viejo incluso que la leyenda y se ve el doble de viejo que todos ellos juntos”. La ciudad santa fue la capital del antiguo ‘janapad’ (reino) de Kashi. 

Muchos de los grandes maestros espirituales están asociados con Benares. Buda dio su primer sermón cerca en el parque de ciervos en Sarnath. Parshvanatha, el primer maestro de los jains, nació en la ciudad en el siglo VIII. Varanasi es la encarnación del cielo en la tierra. 

El 85% de todos los indios son hindúes. Cada hindú devoto espera pisar el santipido ‘Camino Pankoshi’ al menos una vez en su vida y bañarse en el mismo día en estricta sucesión en los cinco ghats de Assi, Dashashwamedh, Adi Keshav (Varuna-sangam), Panchganga y, finalmente, la cremación ghat de Manikarnika. Hay más de 80 ghats, o escalones de terraplén que se extienden cuatro millas a lo largo de la orilla izquierda del Ganges.

Varanasi es un puente o ‘tirtha’ entre el cielo y la tierra, un punto de cruce donde los dioses visitan este mundo y los mortales viajan al siguiente. Shiva trajo a su esposa, Parvati, a la Ciudad de la Luz. La ciudad deriva su nombre de la combinación de dos ríos – el Varuna y Assi. 

Los cuerpos llegan todo el día en camillas de bambú y en la parte superior de los techos de taxi. Ellos son acompañados a sus lugares de descanso finales con el mantra tradicional, ‘Ram, Ram, Satya Hai’