“Kashi is the whole world, they say… Kashi is not of this earth, they say… Kashi is the permanent home of Shiva, they say… Kashi is light, they say… Kashi is famous for Death, they say.” –Diana Eck, Banaras, City of Light
The gentle breeze of the Ganges, the massive river opening up for civilization, the stories behind the ancient "Ghats", the palaces at water's edge, the boat ride at sunrise, the aarati at night. The array of shrines, the meandering narrow serpentine alleys of the city, the myriad temple spires, the gently grazing cows, the ashrams, the fragrance of incense and faith behind the chanting mantras, comatose Lassi after a long days work, the devotional hymns - all offer a kind of unique mystifying experience…show more content… Pilgrims take five days to circumambulate Kashi on this fifty-mile path, visiting 108 shrines along the way. If one is unable to walk the entire path a visit to the Panchakroshi Temple will suffice. By walking round the sanctuary of this shrine, with its 108 wall reliefs of the temples along the sacred way, the pilgrim makes a symbolic journey around the sacred city. Another important Banaras pilgrimage route is the Nagara Pradakshina, which takes two days to complete and has seventy-two shrines.
Pilgrims come to spend their remaining years in the holy city. Those who come to live in Kashi with the intention of dying there are called jivan muktas meaning those who ‘are liberated while still alive’.
Some of these temples are named after the great tirthas, or pilgrimage centers, in other parts of India - Rameshvaram, Dwarka, Puri, and Kanchipuram, for example - and it is said that merely by visiting Kashi one automatically gains the benefit of visiting all other sacred places.
Varanasi is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar therefore it is a famous pilgrimage centre for the Jains. Being a prosperous city, the place was invaded by many muslim rulers therefore the muslim influence is also present here. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10 km