Varanasi (Sanskrit: V r as , ), also commonly known as Banaras or Benaras ( ) and Kashi, ), is a city situated on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, southeast of state capital Lucknow. It is regarded as a holy city by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India.
The Kashi Naresh (Maharaja of Kashi) is the chief cultural patron of Varanasi and an essential part of all religious celebrations. The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in North India for several thousand years. The Benares Gharana form of the Indian classical music developed in Varanasi, and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians resided or reside in Varanasi. Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath located near Varanasi (Kashi).
People often refer to Varanasi as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", "the city of learning", and "the oldest living city on earth."
Painting of Benares in 1890.
The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for the old city lies in the north shores of the Ganges bounded by its two tributaries, the Varuna and the Assi, with the Ganges being to its south. Another speculation about the origin of the name is that the river Varuna itself was called Varanasi in olden times, from which the city got its name. This is generally disregarded by historians, though there may be some earlier texts suggesting it to be so.
Washerwoman at Varanasi, Along the Ganges
Through the ages, Varanasi was variously known as Avimuktaka, Anandakanana, Mahasmasana, Surandhana, Brahma Vardha, Sudarsana, Ramya, and Kasi.
In the Rigveda, the city was referred to as Kasi or Kashi, "the luminous one" as an allusion to the city's historical status as a centre of learning, literature, art and culture. Kasikhand described the glory of the city in 15, 000 verses in the Skanda Purana. In one verse, God Shiva says,
The three worlds form one city of mine, and Kashi is my royal palace therein.
According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva, several thousand years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. It is also a general belief that it stands on the weapon "The Trishool" (Trident) of Lord Shiva. It is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. Many Hindu scriptures, including the Rigveda, Skanda Purana, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, mention the city.
Varanasi is generally believed to be about 3000 years old. It is supposed to be the oldest city in the world, though Jericho also claims this title. Varanasi was an industry centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautama Buddha (born circa 567 BCE), Varanasi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kashi. The celebrated Chinese traveller Xuanzang attested that the city was a center of religious and artistic activities, and that it extended for about 5 km along the western bank of the Ganges.
Kashi Naresh and Ramnagar
Varanasi became an independent Kingdom of Kashi in the eighteenth century, and under subsequent British rule, it remained a commercial and religious centre. Varanasi suffered during the raids into India by Muhammad of Ghori, as described by Kamil-ut-Tawarikh of Ibn Asir: The slaughter of Hindus (at Varanasi) was immense; none were spared except women and children, (who were taken into slavery) and the carnage of men went on until the earth was weary.  In 1910, the British made Varanasi a new Indian state, with Ramanagar as its headquarters but with no jurisdiction over the city of Varanasi itself. Kashi Naresh still resides in the fort of Ramanagar. The Ramnagar Fort of the Kashi Naresh is situated to the east of Varanasi, across the Ganges. The Ramnagar Fort was built by Kashi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh with creamy chunar sandstone in the eighteenth century. It is a typically Mughal style of architecture with carved balconies, open courtyards, and picturesque pavilions. The other fort of the Kashi Naresh is the Chet Singh Palace, near Shivala Ghat, Varanasi built by Maharaja Chet Singh.
Ramnagar Fort and its museum are the repository of the history of the kings of Benares and since the 18th century has been the home of Kashi Naresh. Even today the Kashi Naresh is deeply revered by the people of Benares. He is the religious head and some religious people of Benares consider him the incarnation of Lord Shiva. He is also the chief cultural patron and an essential part of all religious celebrations.
Events of 1857
A massacre by British troops, of the Indian troops stationed here and of the population of the city, took place during the early stages of the rebellion of 1857.
After Aurangazeb s death most of India was ruled by a confederacy of pro-Hindu kings. Much of modern Varanasi was built during this time by the Rajput and Maratha kings. The kings continued to be important through much of the British rule (1775 1947 AD), including the maharaja of Benares, or Kashi Naresh. The kingdom of Benares was given official status by the Mughals in 1737, and continued as a dynasty governed area up until Indian independence in 1947, during the reign of Dr. Vibhuti Narayan Singh. Benares was ceded to the Union of India on 15 October 1948. After the death of Dr. Vibhuti Narayan Singh in 2000, his son Anant Narayan Singh became the figurehead king of Benares, responsible for upholding the traditional duties of a Kashi Naresh.
Geography and climate
The city of Varanasi is located in the middle Ganges valley of North India, in the Eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, along the left crescent-shaped bank of the Ganges river. It has the headquarters of Varanasi district. The "Varanasi Urban Agglomeration" — an agglomeration of seven urban sub-units — covers an area of 112.26 km 2 (approximately 43 mi ). The urban agglomeration is stretched between 82 56 E - 83 03 E and 25 14 N - 25 23.5 N. Being located in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of North India, the land is very fertile because low level floods in the Ganges continually replenish the soil.
On a local level, Varanasi is located on a higher ground between rivers Ganges and Varuna, the mean elevation being 80.71 m. As a result of absence of tributaries and canals, the main land is continuous and relatively dry. In ancient times, this geographic situation must have been highly favourable for forming settlements. But it is difficult to ascertain the original geography of Varanasi because the city's current location is not exactly the same as the one described in some old texts.
Varanasi is often said to be located between two confluences: one of the Ganges and Varuna, and other of the Ganges and Assi, (Assi having always been a rivulet rather than a river.) The distance between these two confluences is around , and religious Hindus regard a round trip between these two places a Pancha-kroshi Yatra (a five mile (8 km) journey) ending with a visit to a Sakshi Vinayak Temple as a holy ritual.
Varanasi experiences a humid subtropical climate (K ppen climate classification Cwa) with large variations between summer and winter temperatures. Summers are long, from early April to October, with intervening monsoon seasons and are also extremely hot, even by South Asian standards. The temperature ranges between 22 C46 C (72 F115 F) in the summers. Winters in Varanasi see very large diurnal variations, with warm days and downright cold nights. Cold waves from the Himalayan region cause temperatures to dip across the city in the winter from December to February and temperatures below 5 C are not uncommon. The average annual rainfall is . Fog is common in the winters, while hot dry winds, called loo, blow in the summers.
Through a combination of water pollution, new constructions of upstream dams, and increase in the local temperature, the water level of the Ganges has recently gone down significantly, and small islands have become visible in the middle of the river.
17th May 2012 was the hottest day of the season so far with mercury soaring up to 45.6 Degree Centigrade.
'The most extravagant Banarasi saris use silk and gold-wrapped silk yarn with supplementary weft brocade Varanasi has several small cottage industries, including producting of Banarasi saris, which are a regional type of sari made from silk. The city also produces carpets and handicrafts. According to some writers, Varanasi has a rather high rate of Child labour given the unorganised nature of small scale industries.
As of 2009, there are an estimated 300,000 weavers in Varansi Numerous weavers have lost work or moved elsewhere as saris become less popular in India and more imported saris impact the market.
Varanasi saris are adorned with intricate designs and zari embellishments making it popular during traditional functions and weddings. Earlier, the embroidery on sarees were often done with threads of pure gold. In 2009, weaver associations and cooperatives together secured Geographical Indication (GI) rights for Banaras Brocades and Sarees .
Varanasi produces large quantities of langra mangoes, which are variety developed in the area. Banarasi paan (betel leaf) and khoa (a milk product) are popular, and the related small-scale industries employ many people.
Indian Railways runs a major diesel locomotive factory in Varanasi, Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW). BHEL, a large power equipment manufacturer, also runs a plant here.
According to Macaulay, Varanasi was the "city which, in wealth, population, dignity and sanctity was among the foremost in Asia". He described the commercial importance saying "from the looms of Benaras went forth the most delicate silks that adorned the halls of St. James and of Versailles."
Varanasi attracts thousands of Hindu piligrims every year.
Varanasi is a noted centre for silk weaving and brassware. Fine silks and brocaded fabrics, exquisite saris, brassware, jewellery, woodcraft, carpets, wall hangings, lamp shades and masks of Hindu and Buddhist deities are some of Varanasi's shopping attractions. The main shopping areas include the Chowk, Gyan Vapi, Vishwanath Gali, Thatheri Bazar, Lahurabir, Godoulia or Dashswamedh Gali and Golghar. Besides the illustrious and fine silks and brocaded fabrics, one can also buy shawls, carpets, wall hangings, Zari work; stone inlay work, glass beads and bangles, masks of Hindu and Buddhist deities and lampshades. However, one has to be on watch while buying silk saris and beware of the imitations that are much cheaper than the real silk ones but are not so easy to distinguish.
One can also buy 'kamandalam' or brass water pot from Varanasi, which is often used by saints to carry water. People buy bottled 'Ganga jal' or jerrycans from the riverbank too for religious purposes or to be used as Holy Water in various rituals. Besides, people can also take water of the Ganges themselves from the river. Assi Ghat, a midway point between Godaulia in the heart of downtown and youth culture of Benares Hindu University is also a major tourist point.
Keeping apace with the modern world, the ancient city has paved way for malls and multiplexes. The prominent ones being IP Mall in Sigra and JHV Mall in the Varanasi Cantonment area.
Administration and politics
Varanasi is governed by a number of bodies, the prime being the Varanasi Nagar Nigam (Municipal Corporation) and Varanasi Development Authority, which is responsible for the master planning of the city. Water supply and sewage system is maintained by Jal Nigam, a subsidiary of Nagar Nigam. Power supply is by the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited. The city produces about 350 million litres per day of sewer and 425 tonnes per day of solid waste. The solid wastes are disposed in one landfill site. A huge amount of sewer flows into the river Ganges daily. Nagar Nigam also runs a bus service in the city and suburban areas. The city is within the Varanasi range of Varanasi zone of Uttar Pradesh Police. A Special Superintendent of Police is the highest ranking police officer in the city. The city constitutes the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi of the Bharatiya Janata Party won the constituency in Indian general election, 2009. Varanasi was one the five cities where the Ganga Action Plan was launched.
The schools are affiliated with the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), or the U. P. Board.
Varanasi is the site of three public universities:
Banaras Hindu University includes Institute of Technology, Faculty of Management Studies, BHU, Institute of Agricultural Sciences and Institute of Medical Sciences and is among the top three largest residential universities in the world, having more than 128 independent teaching departments. Institute of Technology has been slated for conversion into an Indian Institute of Technology under the "Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2011". With this, Institute of Technology would become the 16th IIT of India as Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi.
Sampurnanand Sanskrit University: Governor General Lord Cornwallis established the Sanskrit College (1791), which was the first college in Varanasi. The first principal of Sanskrit College was Sanskrit professor J. Myor, ICS followed by J.R. Ballentien, RTH Griffith, Dr. G. Thevo, Dr. Aurthor Venice, Dr. Ganganath Jha, and Gopinath Kaviraj among others. After India achieved independence, this college became Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. It has apprx. 1000 affiliated colleges all over India.
Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth is a chartered university that is named for Gandhi
Imania Arabic College, known as Jamia-e-Imania is a prominent Madrasa for Shia Muslims in this city and it was established as a Religious Seminary for extended Islamic studies and higher religious education on 15 December 1866/1283 (A.H.).
Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (Central University of Tibetan Studies) at Sarnath is a deemed university with a preference for the traditional Tibetan method of teaching within a framework of modern universities.
- Other colleges include Institute of Integrated Management and Technology (IIMT), Central Hindu school, Udai Pratap Autonomous College which is highly regarded in the purvanchal zone as one of the good colleges for studies in commerce, arts and science, Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra is a college of Dance and Music in the city that trains the students professionally in Bharatnatyam and Hindustani Vocal. The city also has the Jamiah Salafiah, a Salafi Islamic institution. Government Queens Inter College and Bengali Tola Inter College, one of the oldest college in east India.
Wall paintings, Varanasi, 1974 Varanasi's "Old City, " the quarter near the banks of the Ganges, has crowded narrow winding lanes that are flanked by road-side shops and scores of Hindu temples. As atmospheric as it is confusing, Varanasi's labyrinthine Old City is rich with culture, and a deservedly popular destination for travellers and tourists. The main residential areas of Varanasi (especially for the middle and upper classes) are situated in regions far from the ghats; they are more spacious and less polluted.
Art and literature
Varanasi has its own culture of fine art and literature. Great Indian writers have lived in this city from Kabir, Ravidas, Tulsidas who wrote much of his Ram Charit Manas here, Kulluka Bhatt who wrote the best known commentary of Manusm ti here in 15th century and Bharatendu Harishchandra, later writers have been Jaishankar Prasad, Acharya Shukla, Munshi Premchand, Jagannath Prasad Ratnakar, Devaki Nandan Khatri, Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Tegh Ali, Kshetresa Chandra Chattopadhyaya, Vagish Shastri, Baldev Upadhyaya, Sudama Pandey (Dhoomil) and Vidya Niwas Mishra.
Art lovers and historians like Rai Krishnadasa, his son Anand Krishna, musicians like Gopal Mishra (considered one of the best sarangi player of all times) Omkarnath Thakur, Ravi Shankar, Bismillah Khan, Girija Devi, Siddheshwari Devi, Lalmani Misra and his son Gopal Shankar Misra, N. Rajam, Rajbhan Singh, Anokhelal Mishra Samta Prasad, Kanthe Maharaj, M. V. Kalvint, Sitara Devi, Gopi Krishna, Kishan Maharaj, Vikash Maharaj Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Mahadev Mishra, Chhannulal Mishra and numerous others have kept the city alive to the spiritual aspect of fine arts apart from their ability to entertain. Numerous festivals are celebrated that preserve traditional styles of classical and folk culture. All night, open music concerts like ones organised at Sankat Mochan Temple, , Kajari and Chaiti Mela, Budwa Mangal, are annual features that draw connoisseurs from all over.
Sushruta, the great surgeon and author of Sushruta Samhita, the Sanskrit text of surgery, also lived in Varanasi. This city is place for Authentic Ayurveda and Panchkarma treatment.
Jantar Mantar at Varanasi
Jantar Mantar is an observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh, of Jaipur in the year 1737 is situated close to the Dashashwamedh Ghat, overlooking the ghats on the Ganges. Jai Singh was a great admirer of science and technology and he was particularly passionate about astronomy.
Archaeological museum, Sarnath is the oldest site museum of Archaeological Survey of India. In order to keep the antiquities found from the site, a decision was taken in 1904 by the Government to construct a site museum adjacent to the excavated site at Sarnath. It was due to initiative of Sir John Marshall, the then Director General of Archaeology in India, that this museum was created. The plans were prepared by Mr. James Ramson, the then consulting Architect to the Government of India. The building was completed in 1910 to house, display and study the antiquities in their right perspective. The building forms half of a monastery (Sangharam) in plan.
There are five galleries and two verandahs on the museum to display the antiquities ranging from 3rd century B.C. to 12th century A.D. found at Sarnath.
Bharat Kala Bhavan
The nucleus of Bharat Kala Bhavan evolved in January 1920. Its first Hony. Chairman (for life) was poet Rabindranath Tagore and its Hony. Vice-Chairman was poet s nephew Silpacharya Abanindranth Tagore. But in reality the credit for the origin and subsequent development of this internationally famous museum goes to Padmavibhushan Late Rai Krishnadasa a renowned writer in Hindi and a pioneer among the Indian art historians.
Founded with a modest collection, the museum has a record of steady growth and its present holding exceeded 100,000. The collection includes archaeological materials, paintings, textiles and costumes, decorative art, personalia collections, Indian philately and literary and archival materials. Most of its collections are historically important, aesthetically beautiful and enjoy certain amount of uniqueness. However, the name and fame of this University Museum justly rests on its priceless collection of Indian paintings. An eminent art historian once declared that the museum possesses one of the greatest collection of miniature paintings. Though the museum s target visitors are university students, alumni, research scholars and teachers, it also serves as a Regional Museum and caters to the need of a huge number of lay visitors.
The Ramnagar Fort lies about 14 km. from Varanasi and is situated on the opposite bank of river Ganges. It is the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. Maharaja Balwant Singh built this fort-palace in the eighteenth century. The fort is built in red sandstone. The Ramnagar fort has a temple and a museum within the grounds and the temple is dedicated to Ved Vyasa, who wrote Mahabharata, the great Indian epic..
A rare collection of manuscripts, especially religious writings, is housed in Saraswati Bhawan with the Ramnagar Fort. It includes a precious handwritten manuscript by Tulsidas. There are also many books illustrated in the Mughal miniature style, with beautifully designed covers.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities and targets of pilgrimage for Hindus. As the place where Siddh rtha Gautama gave his first sermon to his disciples, Varanasi is the city where Buddhism was founded. It is the birthplace of Suparshvanath, Shreyansanath, and Parshva, who are respectively the seventh, eleventh, and twenty-third Jain Tirthankars and as such Varanasi is a holy city for Jains. Guru Nanak Dev visited Varanasi for Shivratri in 1507 and had an encounter which with other events forms the basis for the story of the founding of Sikhism. The city has a sizeable native Muslim population, it hosts the Roman Catholic Diocese of Varanasi, and has a significant Jewish expatriate community. Varanasi is home to numerous tribal faiths which are not easily classified and many denominations of the religions which are present.
People performing Hindu ceremony at Kedar ghats
Annie Besant worked in Benares to promote theosophy and founded the Central Hindu College which later became a foundation for the creation of Benaras Hindu University as a secular university.
As a place of pilgrimage for many faiths Varanasi continually hosts an unusually rich diversity of religious practitioners and teachers who are not resident in the city.
Hinduism in Varanasi
Varanasi is a holy city in Hinduism, being one of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus of all denominations and is one of seven most holy places for Hindus in India.
A K etra is a sacred ground, a field of active power, a place where Moksha, final release can be obtained. The Garuda Purana enumerates seven cities as giver of Moksha, They are Ayodhya, Mathura, M y , K si, K ch , Avantik and Dv r vat . It has the holy shrine of Kashi Vishwanath (a manifestation of Lord Shiva), and also one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a person's soul from the cycle of its transmigrations. Hindus regard Kashi as one of the Shakti Peethas, and that Vishalakshi Temple stands on the spot where Goddess Sati's earrings fell. Hindus of the Shakti sect make a pilgrimage to the city because they regard the river Ganges itself as the Goddess Shakti. Adi Shankara wrote his commentaries on Hinduism here, leading to the great Hindu revival. Vaishnavism and Shaivism have always co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously.
The Ramlila is a cycle of plays which recounts the epic story of Lord Rama, as told in R macaritam nasa, the version of the Ramayana penned by Tulsidas. The plays sponsored by the Maharaja, are performed in Ramnagar every evening for 31 days. On the last day the festivities reach a crescendo as Rama vanquishes the demon king Ravana. Maharaja Udit Narayan Singh started this tradition of staging the Ramleela at Ramnagar in mid-nineteenth century.
Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats. Many of the ghats were built when the city was under Maratha control. Marathas, Shindes (Scindias), Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwes (Peshwas) stand out as patrons of present-day Varanasi. Most of the ghats are bathing ghats, while others are used as cremation sites. Many ghats are associated with legends or mythologies while many ghats are privately owned. The former Kashi Naresh owns Shivala or Kali ghat.
Varanasi is a city of temples.some of popular temple are Kashi vishwanath temple, Durga temple, Sankat mochan, Bharat mata, Tulsi manas. Tilbhandeshwar temple is also one of the oldest temples in Varanasi. It is situated near Bengali Tola Inter College Pande Haweli.
Islam in Varanasi
Construction of the Mosque of Aurangzeb near the bank of the Ganges River at Varanasi. Interwoven within one million Hindus are 250,000 Muslims who have made Varanasi their home for the past 500 years. Standing high over the Hindu temples and shrines, the Mosque of Aurangzeb evokes the past, when Mogul Muslims ruled India for generations. Entering a Muslim area is stepping back in time to that Mogul past. Muslims live in the close-knit communities founded in those days. The call to prayer can be heard rippling through the air and into homes. Textile scraps and brightly colored thread litter the street. Many of Varanasi's Muslims belong to a weaver caste called "Ansari", "helper" in Arabic. For generations they have passed on their craft from father to son, hand-weaving silk on room-sized, foot-powered looms. The silks they create are beautiful and intricate. They are fashioned into saris worn only for special occasions; many a Hindu girl has dreamed of a Varanasi silk sari for her wedding day.
Buddhism in Varanasi
Sarnath is a place of Buddhist pilgrimage. The site where Buddha gave his first sermon and thereby founded Buddhism is marked by Dhamek Stupa. Buddhist traditions worldwide have each built their country's architectural style of Buddhist temple here.
Varanasi is one of the holiest places in Buddhism too, being one of the four pilgrimage sites said to have been designated by Gautama Buddha himself (the others being Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya, and Lumbini). In the residential neighbourhood of Varanasi lies Sarnath, the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha is said to have given his first sermon about the basic principles of Buddhism. The Dhamek Stupa is one of the few pre-Ashokan stupas still standing, though only its foundation remains. Also remaining is the Chaukhandi Stupa commemorating the spot where Buddha met his first disciples (in the 5th century or earlier, BC). An octagonal tower was built later there.
Jainism in Varanasi
Jain Ghat, Varanasi Varanasi is a pilgrimage site for Jains along with Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed to be the birthplace of Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar. Islamic culture has also had an influence on Varanasi. Shree Parshvanath Digambar Jain Tirth Kshetra (Digambar Jain Temple) is situated in Bhelupur, Varanasi. This temple is of great religious importance to Jain Religion. Parshvanath ( ) or Parshvanatha (p r v -n tha, occasionally spelled Parshvanath or Parswanath) was the twenty-third Tirthankara (fordmaker) in Jainism. fl. ca. in the 9th century BCE, traditionally (877 777 BCE. He is the earliest Jain leader generally accepted as a historical figure. He was a nobleman belonging to the Kshatriya caste. He lived in Varanasi in India around 800 BCE and is the most popular object of Jain devotion.
The population of Varanasi urban agglomeration in 2001 was 1, 371, 749; the sex ratio was 879 females every 1000 males. As per 2011 census, population stands at 3, 138, 670. However, the area under Varanasi Nagar Nigam has a population of 1, 100, 748 with the sex ratio being 883 females for every 1000 males. The literacy rate in the urban agglomeration is 77% while that in the municipal corporation area is 78%. Approximately 138, 000 people in the municipal area live in slums.
Varanasi is well connected by air, rail and road with the major Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Indore, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Ujjain, Jaipur, Patna, Jamshedpur, Secunderabad etc.It is located at a distance of 776 km from Delhi. It is located at a distance of 1240 km from Secunderabad.One of the major factors in Varanasi's sustained existence as an inhabited city is its role as an established transportation hub between different cities. Dating to the ancient times, the city was connected to cities like Azamgarh, Taxila, Ghazipur, Pataliputra, Vaishali, Ayodhya, Gorakhpur, Agra etc.
Varanasi Airport, 2011 Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport commonly known as Babatpur Airport is located at a distance of 21 km from Varanasi Cant Station.
All the major domestic Indian carriers including Air India, Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Spicejet, and international carriers like Air India, Mihin Lanka, Thai Airways International,Korean Air and Naaz Airlines operate from here. The Airport handled more than 5.50 lakh passengers per year.
A new terminal catering to both domestic and international passengers opened in 2010 on of land adjacent to the airport. The old terminal building could handle only about 200 domestic passengers at any given time, but the new terminal building can handle 1, 000 passengers and will have parking for 500 vehicles.
Haj Flights started operating from Varanasi in 2007. About 5000 Haj pilgrims from various districts of eastern U.P. board flights here. Saudi Arabia based Nas Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines operated direct flights from Varanasi to Medinah in 2010 and 2011.
Varanasi Junction, the largest station serving the city Varanasi Junction commonly known as Varanasi Cantt Railway Station, is the major rail and one of the most busiest and highest revenue generating stations in India. The station records a rush of more than 1.5 lakh passengers and more than 240 trains passing through here on a daily basis. It is partly under the administrative control of Lucknow Division of the Northern Railway Zone, and partly under the administrative control of Varanasi Division of North Eastern Railway Zone of the Indian Railways.
The first railway line to Benares was opened from Howrah in December 1862 and was built by the East Indian Railway Company. The station was build on right bank of the Ganges. Later in 1872, Oudh & Rohilkund Railway Company opened rail line from Benaras to Lucknow. In 1887, Dufferin Bridge was constructed over the Ganges at Varanasi allowing trains to go to Mughalsarai.
Mughal Sarai Junction of East Central Railway is another major railway station 8 km from the city limit (16 km from Varanasi Cant Station). At Mughal Sarai Junction, two most important railway lines meet: 1. Main Line (Delhi-Allahabad-Patna-Howrah) and 2) Grand Cord (Delhi-Moradabad-Lucknow-Varanasi-Gaya-Howrah). A large number of trains are available here, particularly to eastern India.
Manduadih is another rail terminal at a distance of 4 km from Varanasi Cant Station. Trains of North Eastern Railway originate from this station. It is under the administrative control of Varanasi Division of NE Railway.
Other important railway stations in the city are Varanasi City, Kashi, Sarnath, Shivpur, Bhulanpur and Babatpur.
In ancient times, the city was connected by a road starting from Taxila and ending at Pataliputra during the Mauryan Empire. This road was later renovated and extended from Kolkata to Peshawar by Emperor Sher Shah Suri during the 16th century and later during the British Raj came to be known as the famous Grand Trunk Road.
The G.T. Road is now known as NH 2 between Kolkata and Kanpur. NH 2 further extends to Delhi via Agra. NH 56 connects Varanasi to Lucknow via Jaunpur, Sultanpur; and NH 29 connects Varanasi to Gorakhpur via Ghazipur. NH 7 which is the longest National Highway in India connects Varanasi with the cities of Jabalpur, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Salem, Madurai and Kanyakumari.
SH 87 links Varanasi to Bhadohi, the carpet city; and SH 5A connects Varanasi to Shaktinagar. Grand trunk road also known as GT road originating from Kolkata up to Delhi and further up to Lahore (in Pakistan) passes via Varanasi, it connects Varanasi to Allahabd, Kanpur, Aligarh cities. National highway no. 7 longest national highway in India from Varanasi to Kanyakumari (in Tamil Nadu) originates from here and it connects Varanasi to central and southern parts of India.
Cycle rickshaws in a busy street in Varanasi Auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are the most widely available public transport within old city. In outer regions of the city, city-buses are common. Taxi is also available. Prepaid Auto cum Taxi Booth is there at Cant Railway Station and Babatpur Airport. Small boats and small steamers are available for tourists to the Ganges. Recently, Low floor city buses are introduced in the city under JNNURM scheme.
In popular culture
- The film Banaras - A Mystic Love Story (2006), is based on Varanasi's history, and its role in Indian tradition.
- In Kurt Weill's "Benares Song" in the opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.
Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay's seminal Bengali novel, Aparajito, was partly set in Benaras, which was further immortalised by Satyajit Ray in his Apu Trilogy. A part of the film was shot in Varanasi.
Ian McDonald's novel River of Gods is partly set in Varanasi.
- Satyajit Ray's Joi Baba Felunath was almost entirely set in Varanasi.
- B Gopal released 2002 Indra was almost set in Varanasi.
- Song Khaike Paan Banaraswala from the 1978 hit film Don starring Amitabh Bachchan sang praises of the flavorful Banarasi paan.
- In the composition by Pandit Vikash Maharaj called "Ganga" the documentary film called Holiwater.
- In a song by Krishna Das entitled "Kashi Vishwanath Gange" on the CD Breath of the heart.
Geoff Dyer's 2009 book: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is (as the name suggests) half set in Varanasi.
- Vijay Singh's novel Jaya Ganga, In Search of the River Goddess and classic film Jaya Ganga is partly set in Varanasi. See excerpts with shots of the ghats
- The film Naan Kadavul (2009) depicts its protagonist as an Aghori in Varanasi.
- The film Water (2005 film) explores the lives of widows at an ashram in Varanasi, India. This film was originally planned to be set in Varanasi but due to public opposition, the film was finally shot in Sri Lanka.
- The film Bunty Aur Babli was partly set in Varanasi
- The film Ghatak: Lethal was partly set in Varanasi
- The novel Deep River by Shusaku Endo, about a group of Japanese pilgrims travelling to India, was partly set in Varanasi
In the 1898 book Following the Equator, American writer Mark Twain wrote about his visit to Varanasi saying that "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together."
Premchand, famous Hindi writer
Madan Mohan Malaviya, Founder of the Banaras Hindu University
Lal Bahadur Shastri, Former Prime Minister of India, Bharat Ratna
Bismillah Khan, Shehnai player, Bharat Ratna
Channulal Mishra, Hindustani Classical player, Padma Bhushan
Kishan Maharaj, Tabla player, Padma Vibhushan
Ravi Shankar, Sitar player, Bharat Ratna
Siddheshwari Devi, Khayal singer, Padma Shri
Vikash Maharaj, Sarod Maestro
- Naina Devi, Khayal singer
Bhagwan Das, Bharat Ratna
- Pandit Birju Maharaj
Girija Devi, Padma Bhushan
Ritwik Sanyal, Dhrupad
Sitara Devi, Padma Shri
Rai Krishnadasa., Padma Vibhushan
Gopinath Kaviraj, Padma Vibhushan
K.L. Shrimali, Padma Vibhushan
Uday Shankar, Padma Vibhushan
- Rani Lakshmibai
- Kabir Das
- Tulsi Das
- Bharatendu Harishchandra
Shamta Prasad (Gudai Maharaj) Tabla player, Padma Shri
- Jaishankar Prasad
Kashi Naresh, last king of Varanasi
Devendra Nath Dwivedi, was an Indian politician and the Governor designate of Gujarat. He has been General Secretary of AICC, Additional Solicitor General of India & Supreme Court Lawyer. He was a Congress member of the Rajya Sabha from 1974 to 1980.
Kamalapati Tripathi, was the writer, journalist, editor and freedom fighter was a senior Indian National Congress leader from Varanasi. He has been Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh as well as the Union Minister for Railways.
Baldev Upadhyaya, was a renowned Hindi, Sanskrit scholar, literary historian, essayist and critic.Padma Bhushan
Devaki Nandan Khatri was a writer, who belonged to the first generation of popular novelists in the modern Hindi language.
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