The City of Shiva- Varanasi
Varanasi is one of the most well-known cities of India, revered for its religious importance and also a site where various cultures meet. Recently, we have seen it as a location for various Bollywood movies like the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Raanjhana etc. It has been known by many names- as Kashi, Banaras and now officially as Varanasi.
Varanasi is well connected by railways throughout India; hence, it is not that difficult to reach this place. Since it is a major city situated in one of the largest states of India, it is also well connected by roads; hence, one can take a bus or taxi easily.
Varanasi is a place popular for Bismillah Kha, the paan and its sarees. It is also a place where history literally resides. Major attractions of Varanasi are its Ghats. With the sacred Ganges washing its shores, the Ghats are carry along with them tremendous religious significance. These Ghats are more than eighty in number and each of them is known by a different name and has some unique mythological story attached to them. Some well-known Ghats are- tulsi Ghat, known to be associated with the famous poet Tulsidas, Dasaswamedh Ghat- as clear from its name, it is the Ghat where Lord Brahma is said to have sacrificed horses to celebrate the return of Shiva to earth, Assi Ghat, Narad Ghat- where no one ever bathes because it is said that if one will take a bath here, it will lead to a domestic conflict. Interesting right? The Ghats are throughout the year crowded with people since everyone wants their sins to be washed away by taking a dip in the Ganges. The funeral rituals are also performed on these Ghats. It is said that if you are lucky enough to die in Varanasi, you will surely attain heaven and a place as God’s disciple.
On the Manikarnika Ghat is situated one of the most famous temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and has at its core one of the twelve Shivlingas- the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The temple is situated in the interior and one has to walk through lanes to reach that. I must tell you- it’s a struggle to reach the holy temple but one that is worth it.
Another big attraction is the Dev Deepawali that is celebrated on Kartik Poornima, which in the Georgian calendar usually during October or November. It is the festival of lights that is celebrated by the Gods in the heaven and is celebrated usually after the Diwali of us mortals. It is a sight to behold as most of the rituals take place during night and all the Ghats are lit up with the earthen lamps. It truly does look like a heaven on earth, with the holy chants echoing in the background.
Varanasi is also the seat of Buddhism as the major centre of Buddhism, Sarnath is located here. Sarnath is one of the most serene places in India though during summers, it really becomes unbearable. There are lots Buddhists mathas and shrines scattered throughout the city. There is also an Ashokan stupa which is said to have relics of the king and the well-known Sarnath pillar. The museum in the city holds important historical relics like the Ashok chakra and our national emblem i.e. the Ashokan pillar. The whole city has all these historical landmarks that one can’t help but find oneself filled with wonder. Not to mention, Varanasi is also the place where the great Sufi poet Kabir took birth. Now, doesn’t that make this place more amazing? It surely does make it complex in terms of religions since people belonging to such diverse religions live together peacefully. This place is definitely a symbol of unity in diversity and succeeds in making the meaning the of ‘Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb’ come alive. As Bismillah Khan Sahab believed that this is the place where his soul resides and gives inspiration for the wonderful music he created.