Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India

Located on the western bank of the Ganga, Varanasi (or Benares, Kashi), is among the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities and one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. Early Vedic religion took root here. It was the capital of the kingdom of Kashi in the Buddha's time (6th century BCE), who gave his first post-enlightenment sermon at nearby Sarnath (he apparently avoided Varanasi, already a stronghold of Brahmanism). Varanasi has seen many reversals of fortune over the millennia, even as it retained some fame for its muslin and silk fabrics, sculpture, perfumes, and ivory art.

Xuanzang, the famous Chinese traveler, visited here in c. 635 CE. The city, he wrote, "is densely populated. The families are very rich, and in the dwellings are objects of rare value. The disposition of the people is soft and humane, and they are earnestly given to study ... The climate is soft, the crops abundant, the [fruit] trees flourishing, and the underwood thick in every place." He estimated that the city had about 100 temples with 3,000 priests, who mostly honored Shiva—one of whose statues he saw as "full of grandeur and majesty". Some followers of this sect, he wrote, "cut off their hair, others tie their hair in a knot, and go naked, without clothes; they cover their bodies with ashes, and by the practice of all sorts of austerities they seek to escape from birth and death." In the early 11th century, the great Persian scholar, Al-Beruni, visited India and called Varanasi a leading center of the "Hindu sciences". (Read more)

The ghats of Varanasi

Dasaswamedha ghat (1, 2)

Dasaswamedha ghat

West bank of the Ganges

Harishchandra ghat (1, 2)

This is a small burning ghat south of the main burning ghat known as Manikarnika

Funeral pyres

Burning ghat

Burning ghat (more)

Burning ghat

Burning ghat

Burning ghat

Burning ghat

Bathing and ritual

Bathing and ritual

Bathing and ritual

Bathing and ritual

Chousatti ghat

Manikarnika ghat

Munshi ghat

Manmandir ghat

Vijaya Nagaram ghat

Lalita ghat

Scindia ghat

Raja ghat

Built by former royals

Ghat scene


Morning boatride

Panoramic view of the ghats

Bathing and ritual

Bathing and ritual

Offerings to the river

Temples on the ghats

Applying caste marks

Puja (more)

Artist on the ghat

Manikarnika kund

Sewage meets the Ganges

Tilted temple

Old man by the river (more)

River cruise

Boatful of sadhus

Ganges river scene

Boys before a dip

Boys before a dip

Will he connect?

Old city street (more)

Security at Vishwanath temple

Ad for a school

Vegetable seller

Children (1, 2)

Varanasi train station

On the morning after the Benaras bomb blasts (8th Mar 2006)


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