Varanasi – Its significance and the difference between Kashi and Varanasi
According to the Hindu mythology, Varanasi is considered one of the oldest cities of the world. Today, Varanasi is also known as Banaras and is situated on the left bank of the river Ganges in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
There is always confusion about Varanasi and Kashi. In reality, Kashi was the old name of the city which was renamed as Varanasi. ‘Kashi’ means ‘the luminous one’ or ‘city of the light’ and derived its name from ‘Kasha’ which actually means ‘brightness’. The name Varanasi is also a derivative. Since the city is located on the banks of two tributaries of Ganges, Varuna and Asi, the name Varanasi was given to the city. Apart from being one of the most important places of pilgrimages, the city is also known for its heritage in music, art, culture, religion and literature. It was considered the abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati but the origins of the city are yet to be traced or discovered. The city also has one of the twelve Jyotirlingas- the Kashi Vishvanath temple, which is the most important place of worship of Lord Shiva. A ‘Jyotirlinga’ is a place where people worship Lord Shiva in the form of Lingas of light. It is due to this reason that the city is also known as the city of light.
The city has always been considered sacred and has close connections with Lord Shiva. There are many stories and legends which tell us of the significance. One of the many legends states that it was in Varanasi that Lord Shiva stood with Goddess Parvati when time started ticking for the first time ever. Another story says that after Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati he left his abode in the Himalayas and shifted to Varansi with all the other gods. Many religious experts and theologians believe the city was founded by Lord Shiva himself. The city has been closely linked to Lord Shiva because the temple of Kashi is worshipped for Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu, the trinity.
The city has a disturbed history. In the 6th century it became the capital of the kingdom of Kashi. The temple was totally destroyed by the Mughals and was again rebuilt in 1780 by Ahilya Bai who was a Maratha queen of the Malwa kingdom. During the reign of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb the temple was again demolished and a mosque was built there. Till date the ruins of the original Kashi Vishvanath temple can be seen behind the main structure of the mosque. But finally when India got independence in 1947, the city was declared as Varnasi and since then it is called by that name or, on occasions it is also referred to as Banaras.
Even though the name has changed the beauty and the culture of the city remains unchanged. The city’s tradition and culture are a refreshing change in this world infused with technology.
So, soak in the tranquility of the city!