“Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” – Mark Twain.
Yes, the word Varanasi, or Benaras, casts a magic spell each time it is heard or thought about. Not only from the religious point of view, but even if we see the city solely from a tourist’s or wanderer’s eyes, we shall never be disappointed—such is the majesty of the land. However, it is really weird to know that this eons old city (a city older than humanity itself) doesn’t feature among UNESCO’s world heritage sites. Here are a few reasons why Benaras must be declared so, and soon enough—
8. One of the Oldest Inhabited Cities
If Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world, then Varanasi or Kashi is surely the oldest towns, and inhabited still! In fact, if you study the oldest Hindu religious text, Rig Veda, you’ll find the mention of Kashi in a few chapters.
According to the legend, the city was built by Vishwakarma, the God who created the Earth, and is believed to be the pious home of Lord Shiva himself.
7. It is a City for ALL
Well, if you thought that Varanasi is special only to the Hindus, then we’re sorry, but you’re wrong. Only a few kilometers from Varanasi is Sarnath, where Gautama Buddha imparted his first sermon to his disciples.
And, it is one of the very few cities in India (or, in the world) where you’ll find a temple and a mosque sharing the same boundary, and that too, since ages! Yes, that’s the charm of the city!
6. Seat of Education
Varanasi had been a seat for education since ages immemorial. And, this received a proper acclamation when Annie Besant, to promote the study of theosophy, founded the Central Hindu School which is now renowned as one of the most sophisticated institutions around.
Other than this, the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is still regarded one of the best in India where you can study and research on myriad topics from all the streams.
5. Architecture Galore
Well, if you’re a sucker for architecture, then you can never be disappointed in Benaras. From the majestic Ramnagar Fort to the marvelous Chunar fort atop a hillock, overlooking the vast Ganges, and from the sprawling buildings lining the ghats and the Sarnathto the brilliant Jantar Mantar, you can very well term this city as an architectural paradise! We bet, you’ll be awestruck every time you visit these architectural wonders!
4. Temples of Kashi
Kashi or Varanasi is quite a small town compared to the larger cities and metros of India, but in spite of that, an estimate of over 23,000 temples (small and large) are sprinkled over the entire geography of the city with the foremost being the famous Kashi Viswanath Temple—one of the 12 jyotirlingas of the country!
It’s also renowned as the city of Manikaran Ghat where Hindus from around the world are brought in their death bed to be cremated—apparently, if a Hindu is cremated here, he or she attains moksha or salvation. Whether it is true or not, we don’t know; but it is definitely one city where the pyre never stops burning—even during the rainy seasons!
3. The City Alive With Cultural Ethos
Varanasi might be one of the oldest cities, but it can never be called a dead city! Varanasi has had a long tradition of fine arts and performing arts. It is one of the birthplace of the famous Katthak dance forms, and the seat of Hindusthani Classical Music since ages immemorial. It is also the hometown of the famous writers and poets like Tulsidas, Kabir, Hazari Prasad Diwedi, Devaki Nandan Khatri and many others.
Varanasi is also the hub of fine arts like painting (the brilliance and superiority of the wall paintings around the streets of the city is something that words fall short of to define), the intricate fabric weaving and designing (the famous Benarasi silks) and the stitches are renowned as among the best in the world!
2. The Holy City of the Ganges
They say it is the Ganges that provides the true worth to the city, and quite true it is! Taking a boat trip along the entire stretch of the city is what we recommend you to do at least once in your lifetime. We bet, you can never have enough of it! The view of the age old ghats along with the palatial buildings adorning them is something for the eyes to behold for a lifetime.
Besides, the Ganga Arti on the main Dhashavamedh ghat of the city daily takes place on such a grand scale that no other festivity from around the world could measure up to.
1. You Can Never Go Hungry If You’re Here
No matter whether one is rich or poor, the city is open to all.
And, it is one such city where even beggars get a full square meal daily—thanks to the temples and the nice hearted people to come here daily to do noble duties of mankind!