Varanasi also known as Benares is a North Indian city on the banks of the river Ganges. The spiritual capital of India, it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism. Hindus believe that death in the city will bring salvation, making it a major centre for pilgrimage.

History: According to legend, Varanasi was founded by the god Shiva. The Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahabharata are also stated to have visit the city in search of Shiva to atone for their sin of fratricide and Brahmanahatya (the act of killing a Brahmin) that they had committed during the climactic Kurukshetra War. Varanasi grew as an important industrial centre, famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautama Buddha, Varanasi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kashi. The Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BC when he gave his first sermon, “The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma”, at nearby Sarnath. The city’s religious importance continued to grow in the 8th century, when Adi Shankara established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi.

Climate: The dry summer starts in April and lasts until June, followed by the monsoon season from July to October. The temperature ranges between 22 and 46 °C (72 and 115 °F) in the summers. Winters in Varanasi drop below 5 °C from December to February.

Access:

Air: Varanasi is served by Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, which is approximately 26 km from the city centre in Babatpur.

Road: Varanasi is well-connected by air, rail and road. One of the major factors in Varanasi’s is its access to all parts of the country. Within the city mobility is provided by taxis, rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and three wheelersVaranasi lies along National Highway 2, which connects it to Kolkata, Kanpur, Agra, and Delhi.

LifeStyle: Known as the cultural capital of India, Varanasi is famous for its religious and spiritual lifestyle. People of Benaras are known for being the exponents of literature, music, Vedic philosophy, arts, crafts and architecture. Socio-economic aspects of the city are highly influenced by the Ganges and on most of the Hindu festivals people can be seen using the bathing Ghats (river fronts) even before daybreak as an important part of their rituals. People wear ‘Gamcha’ (a cotton towel), as they go bathing in Ganga and drink Thandai (a coolant with milk as its base), which have become a part of the cultural identity of traditional ways of Varanasi.

 

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