The name Kasi (another name
for Varanasi) is mentioned in the Rig-Veda. It is often also referred to as
"city of temples and learning". Buddha preached his first sermon after
enlightenment at Sarnath, just 10 km away from Varanasi. Knowledge,
philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts has all
flourished here for centuries.
Vaishnavism and Shaivism
have co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously. Jainism is also a part of the
different religions followed here. Varanasi is believed to be the birthplace
of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar therefore it is a famous
pilgrimage centre for the Jains. With a number of temples, Mrs. Annie Besant
chose Varanasi as the home for her 'Theosophical Society'. Being a
prosperous city, the place was invaded by many muslim rulers therefore the
muslim influence is also present here.
The Benares Hindu
University, the biggest University in Asia built by Pandit Madan Mohan
Malviya is also situated in Varanasi. Ayurveda is said to be originated at
Varanasi and is believed to be the basis of modern medical sciences.
Varanasi is also famous for its trade and commerce, especially for the
finest silks and gold and silver brocades, since the early days.
Varanasi has also been a great center of learning for ages. Varanasi is
associated with promotion of spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit, yoga and
Hindi language. Aptly called as the cultural capital of India, Varanasi has
provided the right platform for all cultural activities to flourish.
Varanasi has its own style of classical Hindustani music, and has produced
prominent musicians, philosophers, poets, and writers in Indian history,
including Kabir, Prem Chand, Tulsi Das, the famous saint-poet who wrote Ram
Charit Manas, Jaishankar Prasad, Pandit Ravi Shankar, and Ustad Bismillah
Khan. The language spoken in the city is Bhojpuri, a dialect of Hindi.
The history of Varanasi is
very old but it however lives in the form of old manuscripts and the folk
traditions but most importantly through its people.