Origin Of Varanasi
Kashi is also referred to as Varanasi. As per legend, the city of Kashi was founded by Lord Shiva.
Archaeological evidence reveals that the region was populated by the Aryan folks in the 11th and 12th century BC. This shows that Kashi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.
Kashi- A Holy Pilgrimage Centre
Kashi is even today regarded as a holy pilgrimage for the Hindus. A Hindu is expected to visit the Varanasi at least once in a lifetime.
According to the epic Mahabharata, the Pandavas visited Kashi to wash their sins of fratricide and Brahmahatya. It is one of the seven holy cities where a Hindu believes he can attain salvation.
Varanasi or Kashi has always been a centre for religious and cultural activities. In 8th century BC, Parshva the 23rd Jain Tirthankara was born here. He is also the first historically accepted Jain Tirthankara. In 528 BC, Gautam Buddha founded Buddhism in Kashi.
Foreign Rule and Impact On Culture of Varanasi
Varanasi was connected to Patliputra and Taxila during the Mauryan Empire. In the year 1194, Turkish Muslim ruler Qutb-ud-din Aibak conquered Varanasi. During his rule, countless temples were completely destroyed. Many years of Muslim rule lead to suppression of Hinduism. During this tenure, many more temples were destroyed.
Varanasi is the place that witnessed the Bhakti movement. Many saints of the Bhakti movement like Ravidas and Kabir were born here. These saints were socio-religious reformers who guided people to better lives.
The city of Varanasi experienced a thorough cultural revival during the reign of Akbar. He was a secular ruler and maintained Hindu-Muslim unity. During his rule, he invested and built a Lord Vishnu temple and a temple for Lord Shiva. The city again experienced a cultural setback during the reign of Aurangzeb.
After the death of Aurangzeb, India was ruled by several pro-Hindu kings. The Rajput and Maratha kings helped to revive Varanasi culturally to what it is today. The king of Benares was of importance even during the British rule. It was given the identity of a separate kingdom.