MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA JULY 03 , 2012 01.15 A.M.
Varanasi or Benaras or Kasi or Kashi , this old and perennial city of India , which symbolises Hindu ethos and its timeless tradition , is a new metropolis , yet it existed and started its journey several millennium ago . As per tradition and folklore it is 5000 years old city . Its mythical and cultural name is Kashi . Rigveda mentions this city as Kasi or Kashi . During British era the name was changed and the city came to be known as Benaras . After independence the city was rechristened as Varanasi . Varuna and Assi are two rivers , which caress the city from two sides , hence the city was rechristened as Varanasi .
Varanasi predates history . It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world and the oldest city in India . As per Hindu mythology this city rests on the trident of Bhagwan Shiva . This city is closely associated with the legendary Raja Harishchandra , an ancestor of Bhagwan Ram . Harishchandra ghat still exists and bears his name and reminds us of his supreme sacrifices in pursuit of truth . Along with AYODHYA , MATHURA , MAYA [ HARIDWAR ] , KANCHI , AVANTIKA [ UJJAIN ] and DWARKA , Varanasi , for the Hindus , is the 7th Holiest Cities of India . I consider myself lucky and fortunate that I have chance to visit all the above mentioned seven cities .
I have been to Varanasi several times . I first visited this city with my parents and other siblings , while I was a toddler . It was for the MUNDAN [ Tonsure Ceremony ] of my younger brother . I still remember my first journey to Varanasi by train . I was a kid and I used to converse with my parents only in Bhojpuri . My father insisted that while in Varanasi , we all must converse in Hindi . I was finding it difficult and avoided speaking throughout the journey .
I have visited this city numerous times since then . Every year when I visit my native place Deoria , I have to make a halt either at Varanasi or Lucknow . This year in June , I took a morning flight from Mumbai on June 16 , 2012 and along with my wife , landed there in the afternoon . Varanasi now has a swanky and sprawling airport . Old airport was not worthy of the reputation of this ancient city . This new Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport is truly impressive .
I took a cab and drove to Hotel Gautam Grand near Varanasi Cant station .
When in Varanasi , you have to enjoy the crowded lanes and by-lanes of this mythical yet modern metropolis . Godaulia is the nerve – centre of the city .
The world-famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the 12 JYOTIRLINGAS of Bhagwan Shiva in India . You dare not afford to miss this shrine . The old temple , built by Adi Shankaracharya in 8th century , was destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb , who built a mosque on the ruins of this temple , which , today , is known as Gyanvapi mosque . The present Kashi Vishwanath temple was built by Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1717 . This temple was adorned by Maharaja Ranjit Singh , who donated 820 k.g. gold in 1889 .
After darshan of Kashi Vishwanath temple , you proceed to Dashashwamedha Ghat , where Ganga Aarti is performed in the evening . Dashashwamedha Ghat was built by Maharaja Savai Jai Singh II in 1693 . It is one of the 100 ghats of Varanasi . Originally Ganga Aarti was started in Haridwar by Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya . Few years back it was started in Varanasi also and today it is major tourist attraction .
Apart from Dashashwamedha ghat , Kedar ghat and Harishchandra ghat are other two major ghats of Varanasi .
Sankat Mochan temple is the another famous temple of Varanasi . According to the folklore , Sant Tulsidas worshipped here and Bhagwan Hanuman gave him darshan . After Kashi Vishwanath temple , it is the 2nd most revered temple of Varanasi for Hindus .
Varanasi is famous for Sants like Tulsi Das , Kabir Das , Ravi Das , Tailang Swami and Keena Ram . Tailang Swami and his disciple Keena Ram Baba followed AGHOR PANTH . Keena Ram Baba is most famous exponent of AGHOR PANTH . I visited his Ashram also . This was my first visit . I visited it twice . First visit was in the afternoon of June 16th and the second one was next day , on June 17 , 2012 .
I left Varanasi on June 17 , 2012 in the morning . While proceeding towards Sarnath and Aundihar , I started remembering several luminaries of Indian history , who were born in Varanasi and spent their lives in this city .
Notable residents of Varanasi
- Trailanga Swamy, Great Spiritual Leader
- Sir James Brooke, founder of the White Rajah dynasty of Sarawak
- Premchand, famous Hindi writer
- Madan Mohan Malaviya, Founder of the Banaras Hindu University
- Lal Bahadur Shastri, Former Prime Minister of India, Bharat Ratna
- Bismillah Khan, Shehnai player, Bharat Ratna
- Channulal Mishra, Hindustani Classical player, Padma Bhushan
- Kishan Maharaj, Tabla player, Padma Vibhushan
- Ravi Shankar, Sitar player, Bharat Ratna
- Siddheshwari Devi, Khayal singer, Padma Shri
- Vikash Maharaj, Sarod Maestro
- Naina Devi, Khayal singer
- Bhagwan Das, Bharat Ratna
- Sameer, Lyricist
- Pandit Birju Maharaj
- Girija Devi, Padma Bhushan
- Ritwik Sanyal, Dhrupad
- Sitara Devi, Padma Shri
- Rai Krishnadasa., Padma Vibhushan
- Gopinath Kaviraj, Padma Vibhushan
- K.L. Shrimali, Padma Vibhushan
- Uday Shankar, Padma Vibhushan
- Rani Lakshmibai
- Kabir Das
- Tulsi Das
- Bharatendu Harishchandra
- Shamta Prasad (Gudai Maharaj) Tabla player, Padma Shri
- Jaishankar Prasad
- Kashi Naresh, last king of Varanasi
- Devendra Nath Dwivedi, was an Indian politician and the Governor designate of Gujarat. He has been General Secretary of AICC, Additional Solicitor General of India & Supreme Court Lawyer. He was a Congress member of the Rajya Sabha from 1974 to 1980.
- Kamalapati Tripathi, was the writer, journalist, editor and freedom fighter was a senior Indian National Congress leader from Varanasi. He has been Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh as well as the Union Minister for Railways.
- Baldev Upadhyaya, was a renowned Hindi, Sanskrit scholar, literary historian, essayist and critic.Padma Bhushan
- Devaki Nandan Khatri was a writer, who belonged to the first generation of popular novelists in the modern Hindi language.
Temple of Markandeya Mahadev in Aundihar is another famous shrine of Bhagwan Shiv , which I visited with my wife , while on my way to Deoria .
Varanasi is not a remote place for me . It is in between Mumbai and Deoria . I can and will visit it as long as I am alive . But then being alive is the big , unknown and unanswered question . Who knows it is my last visit or not ? Who knows whether I would be able to visit it again or not ?
I started for Deoria with heavy heart . Though I do hope to visit Varanasi again in winters for Allahabad Kumbh mela . Lines of Agyeya come running in my mind :
पार्श्व गिरि का नम्र चीड़ों में , डगर चढ़ती उमंगों सी ;
MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA
- Wandering the Ghats of Varanasi (roadtoithaca.com)
- Wandering the Ghats of Varanasi II (of III) (roadtoithaca.com)
- Varanasi, A visit to the Ghats – Varanasi, India (travelpod.com)
- purity and danger (telegraphindia.com)
- Life and Death (zephyrani.wordpress.com)
- Along the Ghats, Varanasi, India (milestotravel.wordpress.com)
- Itty-Bitty Travel Guide: Varanasi (amandaclaire.me)
- Notes on the India Series (allibander.wordpress.com)
- A boat ride, Varanasi, India (milestotravel.wordpress.com)
- India in a blog post (dougwallack.wordpress.com)
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