is among the oldest living cities in the world, it is also the
holiest a 'Hindu pilgrimages. Thousands come daily to Varanasi
to take a ritual dip in the river Ganga, to cleanse their souls of
sins and to worship tit its, many temples.
is so old that it is a part of Indian mythology and finds mention in
the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Through the ages Varanasi was
also known variously as Avimuktaka, Anandakanana, Mahasmasana,
Surandhana, Brahma Vardha, Sudarsana, Ramya and Kasi - the city of
light. Its present identity is derived from the two tributaries of
the Ganga, Varuna and Asi that join the river along the northern and
southern periphery of the city. Today Varanasi is ‘Kasi', the
ultimate pilgrimage for thousands of devotees around the country,
while to urban India it continues to be the popular 'Benaras'.
5000 years ago, Kasikanda described the glory of the city in 15, 000
verses in the Skanda Purana. In it Lord Shiva says, 'the three
worlds form one city of mine and Kasi is my royal palace therein'.
As Shiva’s abode Varanasi has always been venerated. It is
believed that the jyoti linga in its
Kasi Vishwanath Temple
back to the time of the epics. The temple itself is of more recent
origin. Successive invasions starting with the destruction of the
city in 1193 by Mohammed Ghori and ending with the plunder of
Benaras by Warren Hastings nearly 600 years later; saw the temple
being built and rebuilt a number of times. The present temple was
constructed by Rani Ahalya Bai Holkar, the ruler of Indore, in 1776.
A few years later in 1835, at the instance of the Sikh ruler of
Lahore, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the temple shikara was gilded with