Tucked away in the banks of River Ganges, the holy city of Varanasi is inarguably the most flocked religious destination in India. Previously known as Banaras or Kashi, Varanasi has been rightly called as the spiritual hub of Hinduism. According to a most popular Hindu belief, anyone who dies in this auspicious city can easily attain ‘moksha’. Home to many Hindu saints, poets, writers and philosophers like Kabir, Ravidas, Munshi Premchand, Ravi Shankar, Jaishankar Prasad, Buddha, Tulsidas and other eminent celebrity, Varanasi has found distinction as the religious and cultural hub of India. Talking of the origin of the city, historians opine that the city is as old as the Vedas and Puranas while the more religiously inclined lot fences that Lord Shiva founded the city. As per the records, Varanasi was an independent part of the Kashi Kingdom that was under the dominance of the Brahmin community. However, during Muslim rule in India, the city went through a destructive phase and later became a separate state under British India. Scroll down this write-up to know more about the history of Varanasi and explore the events that left an indelible impression in the heart of the city.
A Legendary Beginning
The roots of Varanasi can be well perceived in the lines of Mark Twain, - “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” According to the legends, the city was founded around 5000 years ago. There is also mention of this city in the sacred texts of Rigveda, Ramyana, Mahabharata and Skanda Purana. Known as the artistic, cultural, religious, and educational hub, Varanasi has lured many erudite men from different parts of the world. The name of Hsuan Tsang, a Chinese traveler deserves a special mention in this case.
Muslim Rule In Varanasi
Until 1194, the place was ruled by Brahmin community and did not fall under the dominance of any kingdom. However, during the 16th and 17th century, after the Mughal invasion, Varanasi witnessed a complete downfall in its religious rule. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb destroyed most of the temples and learning institutions, thereby stripping Varanasi of its religious splendor.
During the British Raj, the city fell under the rule of the northern territory of the English. Varanasi was also affected by Indian Mutiny that took place in 1857. During the Indian rebellion, a group of the Company’s troops massacred the Indian crowds, which turned out to be the gory affair. The first assault by the Indian radicals was directed towards the British Commissioner, Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence who resided in Lucknow, close to Varanasi. In the year 1911, Varanasi was declared as an independent state and was returned back to its former glory of the Kashi Kingdom for a brief period while Ramnagar became its capital.
When India got its independence in the year 1947, the city became a part of the Indian Union. Varanasi merged as a part of Uttar Pradesh. After independence, Varanasi became a hub for many universities and other learning institutions. The Benares Hindu University is one of the most renowned and largest universities in Asia. As Varanasi progressed in the educational sector, it also saw a consecutive growth in the branches of modern science with the introduction of study of ‘ayurveda’. Today this holy city rests as one of the most visited religious hub in the country.