Varanasi vs Banaras
If you want to visit and experience the holiest of cities in entire world, leave alone India, you need to head towards northern region of India, where in the state of Uttar Pradesh you find the land of Shiva, the creator of life, according to Hindu Puranas. Variously known as Varanasi, Banaras and Kashi, the city is the oldest living city in the world, and in the words of Mark Twain “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. Varanasi is a rather modern name of the ancient city of Kashi as it is located on the banks of tributaries of river Ganaga, Varuna and Asi. These tributaries run along ite northern and southern borders. Benares is believed to be a mere corruption of the word Varanasi. Let us take a closer look.
Hindus believe that just a dip in the holy river Ganges (Ganga) in Varanasi is enough to purify them of all their sins and a guarantee to their liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. It is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva and his concierge Parvati. The heart of the city of Shiva lies in the Ghats that run along the river Ganges. The holiness of the city can be gauged by the presence of both river Ganges and the Lord Shiva. Banares is one of the holiest pilgrimages in the world and is visited by millions of Hindus from not just India, but across the world.
Varanasi is holy not just for Hindus but also for Buddhists as Lord Buddha himself chose to give his sermons here in a place called Sarnath. Sarnath is one of the 4 pilgrim centers of Buddhists in India. Jains also consider Varanasi as a sacred city as their 23rd Tirthankar is believed to have been born here. Not just these three great religions, but the city also bears Islamic influence in some of its traditions and customs, which is why the culture of the city is believed to be a mixture of Hindu and Muslim cultures. The city receives hindus in large numbers in search of moksha while Buddhists from all over the world come here to achieve nirvana. In Hindu scriptures, even dying in the holy city of Varanasi is considered to be a guarantee of moksha (liberation), which is why one sees so many people in their old age having a desire to visit the holy city.
Benares, or Varanasi as it is internationally known, was chosen by Lord Shiva to be an abode for himself and his wife Parvati because of numerous pools, streams, rivers and dense forests. It is hard to imagine if Varanasi may have been like this, but historians claim that the city was indeed very beautiful and had natural look that was hard to resist for mortals. The cultural capital of India, Varanasi is still believed to be an abode of Lord Shiva. Because of the cultural and religious importance of the city, festivals and fairs are very frequent in Benares.
The shrine of Lord Kashi Vishwanath (Shiva) is the holiest shrine in Varanasi. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in the country. These Jyotirlingas are places where people worship Lord Shiva in the form of Lingas of light. This is why Kashi is also called the city of light by Hindus.
Difference between Varanasi and Banaras
• The holy city of Varanasi is situated along the tributaries of river Ganges called Varuna and Asi, which explains the modern name.
• This word Varanasi gave way to the word Banares that is in effect a corruption of Varanasi.
• Third and most ancient name of the city is Kashi, meaning the city of light.
• Varanasi is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva, and his concierge Parvati.