Known formerly as Kashi or Benares, this ancient city at the banks of the river Ganga, is one of the holiest cities in India. Varanasi gets its name from the two tributaries of the Ganga, Varuna and Assi, between which it is situated. This enchanting city is said to have been founded by Lord Shiva.
Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world and the most important pilgrimage site in India. With its array of shrines, temples and palaces rising in several tiers from the water’s edge, it is one of the most picturesque cities in the east. The main attraction here are the Ghats (wide stairways, descending from the buildings down to the water’s edge), each with its own significance. Since the sixth century BC, this city has been a centre of learning and the tradition has been kept alive in a continuous tradition.
Most Indians believe that anyone dying in Varanasi attains instant enlightenment. For the western tourist, Varanasi is an ideal window to view the ancient Indian cultural traditions. No other place in the world has this timeless quality or such a holy and soulful atmosphere.The Golden Temple, which is the main temple of Varanasi, is dedicated to Shiva or Vishveswara (Vishwanath). The original temple was located across the road, but was destroyed by Aurangzeb who had built a mosque over it using columns from that sanctuary. The present temple was built by Ahilya Bai of Indore in 1777. The Mosque of Aurangzeb has minarets towering 71m above the Ganges.
The Durga Temple was built in the 18th century by a Bengali Maharani in the Nagara Style. It is painted red with ochre. The temple has the typical five spires (symbolizing the elements) merging into one (Brahma).