Varanasi (also Benaras) is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and extends latitude 2520′ N and longitude 8300′ E. Sandwiched between the rivers Varuna and Ashi as they join the Ganges, Varanasi takes its name from its location. It is also called Kashi, the city of light, but the British, in an endeavor to simplify matters, had coined their own name for the place-Benaras. For a relatively short period, while under Mughal rule, Varanasi was also known as Muhammadabad. Modern-day Varanasi is situated along the west bank of the Ganges (also Ganga) and extends into a myriad collection of narrow lanes that form an integral part of it. The city winds itself around these vines of communication, stretching from one ghat to the other.
Travel to the city of Varanasi and you will travel back in time. No other city in India will impact you more than ancient Varanasi.
One of the oldest cities in the world, Varanasi is located in the upper east area of India and is not far from the border with Nepal. Sitting on the Ganges River, the city is an overwhelming display of crowds, colors and ancient Indian architecture. Roads are packed with people, cars, cows and the pavement is more or less dirt and mud depending upon when you are there.
Architecturally, Varanasi is a typical of India itself. Youll find shanty towns and run down homes laying in contrast to stunning temples and homes of the Maharajas. If you want to be impressed, simply walk down to the Ganges River and look up and down the river. The structures lining the river will remind you of Venice, Italy, without the glitz. The towering structures are both beautiful and ancient.
Following this view, a visit to the Darbhanga Ghat is an eye opener. The massive structure is home to the Maharajas of Dharbhanga of Bihar. The Ghat reeks of power, mysticism and long ago ages. Youll know what I mean when you see it.
The Ganges is the hub of life in Varanasi. The holiest of cities, Varanasi is known as the city of light, but is really the city of death. Believed to have been founded by the Hindu goddess Shiva, the city is a mecca for those seeking religious enlightenment. Thousands of Indians seek to cleanse themselves in the waters each morning, which makes for an explosion of activity and colorful dresses. The rest of the day will amaze you even more.
As the holiest Hindu city, many of the Hindu faith believe dying in Varanasi brings enlightenment. Thousands upon thousands of Hindus travel to the city in their later years for this purpose. Charitable institutions and Hindu temples take in the multitude of elderly. Although not as prevalent as in the past, many of the deceased are cremated in the open on pyres overlooking the Ganges. It is truly a site to be seen.