It is not just the Hindus who venerate Varanasi today, for the city has links with Buddhism and Jainism as well. It was at Sarnath close by that Buddha preached his first sermon nearly 25 centuries ago. Lord Mahavir also revealed his Jain philosophy at Kasi. It was here too that Shankaracharya wrote his commentaries on Hinduism, leading to the great Hindu revival.
Varanasi has always been a centre of trade and commerce famous for its silks and brocades and in the 19th century, Lord Macaulay was to describe it as a "city which, in wealth, population, dignity and sanctity was among the foremost in Asia". He went on to give a glimpse of its commercial importance saying, "all along the shore lay great fleets of vessels laden with rich merchandise. From the looms of Benaras went forth the most delicate silks, that adorned the halls of St. James and of Versailles, and in the bazaars, the muslins of Bengal and sabres of Oude were mingled with the jewels of Golconda and the shawls of Cashmere ". Such was the wealth of Benaras. Even today the city exerts a fascination that is unique in India – attracting visitors from around India and abroad.