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Varanasi Legendary History

Varanasi Travel Guide

Varanasi (Kashi) is a legend city in itself. To describe it here in couple of pages seems to grab whole sea in a pot. According to legends the city founded by the great Hindu deity Lord Shiva, several thousand of years ago. When lord Shiva, The mountain ascetic, left his perpetual meditation and married to the lovely Parvati, daughter of the Himalayas, he needed to find a magnificent home for the two of them. Scanning the entire earth from the peak of great Himalaya, he chose the city of Varanasi. Thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country, it is said that this entire region is stands on the weapon called "The Trishoola"(Trident) favorite weapon of Lord Shiva. It is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. Many Hindu scriptures, including Rigveda, Skanda purana, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, mention the city. Varanasi is believed to be an oldest place for about several thousand of years old. It was an industry centre famous for its muslim and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculptures during the time of Gautam Buddha, born circa 567BCE. Varanasi was the Capital of the kingdom of Kashi. Many travelers and philosophers across the worlds visited the wealth of the city and described it very artistically in order to its great religious and cultural aspect that is extended for about 5 km along the western bank of the Ganges.

In the sixth century B.C., the Buddha must have traveled along the northern road from gaya in bihar, where he attained enlightenment, to Banaras. Here he forded the river Ganges to make his way to the suburb of sarnath, where he preached his first sermon. Today the grand trunk road follows virtually the same route. When the Aryan moved in this city from northern India this was called than 'Kashis'. When the Kashi king took side in the Great War mentioned in the 'Mahabharata', was this city from which they came and to which they returned. The history of north India becomes somewhat clearer in the eight to six century B.C. with emergence of the sixteen great kingdoms. These kingdoms were called Janpadas, which literally means 'foothold of the tribe' and they were indeed the place where Aryan culture gained a foothold I its expansion through north India. Kashi was one such kingdom, as were its powerful neighbors Koshala to the north and Magadh to the east. It was not all to enrich the Benaras history but beside all this there were a great influence of Buddhist literature. Particularly the Jataka tales which tell the fables of the farmer lives of the Buddha. While all of this literature dates from a later time, it contains historical traditions, legends and cultural information.

The balance of power constantly changed and by the seventh century B.C. Koshala begun to grow in strength, contending first with Kashi and then with magadha for commanding position. It was in this time of koshla’s ascendancy that Shakya kingdom in which the Buddha would be born a generation later was subsumed. This shift in power is also noted in the Jatakas, a number of which describe the victories of the Koshala king over Kashi.

One of the great poet of the age and, indeed, one of the greatest in all of Indian literature, was Kabir, was from a group of very low-caste Benaras handloom weavers, called 'julahas'. Some believe he born in muslim religion and later changed into Hindu, but one fact always remind his memory and that is his dedication toward true welfare of society, the literature he has given and the believe of one god. Kabir lived in kashi throughout his life but refused to die in kashi because he believed that 'if Kabir dies in Kashi, what homage will he render Ram', the point of course, is that god alone, Ram alon can save, no matter where one dies. But many still believe that to die in Kashi brings liberation.

Kabir was at his height in kashi during the fifteenth century. In the sixteenth century, he was followed in banaras by another great poet of the hindu bhakti tradition, Tulsi das. Like kabir, tulsi wrote in hindi, the vernacular language of the people, rather than in Sanskrit. Unlike kabir who was little concerned about scriptures, tulsi das rendered sacred literature- the very province of the Sanskrit pandits into hindu. His famous version of the Ramayana, called the Ramcharitmanas, was attacked at first by orthodox pandits, but it was loved by the people. Tulsi das was a Bhakt of Rama, the lord whose tale is told in the Ramayana. Hanuman, the monkey servant of lord Rama, was also important to Tulsi's devotion. Tulsi Das lived through the best days of the Mughal period in Banaras, during his time Akbar built many temples and great places whice tulsi mentioned in his literature. He was dedicated to the city and lived in various places in Kashi. Unlike Kabirdas, Tulsidas was not so disdainful about the city Kashi where he lived. In many of his work he praised lord Shiva and the holy city Kashi in order to provide a nearest destination of liberation or so called Moksha for people on earth. Tulsi das died in 1623 at the age of eighty, and his ashes were consigned to the Ganges.

In the mid twentieth century a great marble temple was eracted in the southern part of Kashi to honor Tulsi Das called Tulsi Manas Temple, people also know this as Vimala temple means 'Flawless'. The memory of tulsi das is vividly preserved in this temple today. He too is cast in plastic and sits in mechanical animation at the temple door, turning the pages of his epic and repeating the name, "Ram Ram".


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