Saptapuri as well as Jyotirlinga, Varanasi is said to be the oldest inhabited city in the world. There are supposed to be 2000 temples here. It is on the bank of the Ganges, 125 km east of Allahabad. The city was originally called Kashi or the city of lights. It is said that the first jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light, came through the earth here and flew into the sky. Therefore, Varanasi is also called Kashi, city of light. The Muslim rulers gave it the name Benares. It is believed that anyone who dies in Varanasi attains moksha (liberation).
Many saints and sages have come to Varanasi including Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Buddha, Sankaracharya and Sri Ramanuja. One of the highlights of a trip here is to see the city from the waters of the Ganges at sunrise. There is a five mile parikrama path that goes around this sacred city. There are 81 bathing ghats and other holy kunds or sacred tanks. The important ghats here are Manikarnika, Dashashwamedha and Pancha-ganga, Asi Sangam and Varana Sangam. Adi Keshava Vishnu temple is located where the Ganga meets the Varana River. Famous temples are Vishvanath temple, Bindhu Madhava, Adi Keshava temples, Durga temple and Sankat Mochan temple. The present name of Kashi is Varanansi which is the most important pilgrimage sites in India and also a major tourist attraction. Varanasi situated on the banks of the sacred Ganga. Its mention is found in the ‘Mahabharata, Ramayana, Srimad Bhagavatam and the Puranas which date back 5,000 years.
Varanasi is a centre of learning especially for Sanskrit scholars. There is a five-mile ‘parikarma’ path that goes around this sacred city. There are 81 bathing ghats and other holy ‘Kunds’ or sacred tanks. The three most important ghats are Manikarnika, Dashash wamedha and Panch-Ganga. To bathe at these ghats is called ‘tri-tirthi Yatra.23 Sarnath is 10 km away and is famous for the place where Lord Buddha first preached about enlightenment twenty five centuries ago. The famous Shiva temple is called Vishwanath Temple (Golden Temple) and is visited by a large number of pilgrims. There are many other shrines in Varansasi.