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Varanasi ' - a cultural capital of india
varanasi also commonly known as 'Benares' or 'Banaras' and 'Kashi', is a city situated on the left (west)bank of the river Ganga in the state of Uttar Pradesh.Varanasi is famous for its religious and spritiual lifestyle.Varanasi is known as the Cultural Capital of india.

According to American writer Mark Twain "Banaras 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 'Vamuna Purana', the Varuna and Assi rivers originated from the body of the primordial person at the beginning of time itself , the tract of land lying between them is believed to be 'Varanasi' , the holiest of all pilgrimages.

Being the oldest living city, varanasi has been a mute witness to many great historic upheaveals and events.Hindus believe that bathing in Ganga remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a person's soul from the cycle of its transmigrations.Hindus regard Kashi as one of the Shakti Peethas, Vaishanavism and Shaivism have always co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously. More than 1, 000, 000 pilgrims visit the city each year . It has the holy shrine of Lord Kashi Vishwanath ( a manifestation of lord shiva ), and also one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
According to the legend , the city was founded by the Hindu deity , Lord Shiva , around 5, 000 years ago , thus making it one of the most imporatnt pilgrimage destination in the country .It is one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus .According to mythology , after marriage Lord Shiva come to reside in Varanasi along with his wife parvati and other gods and godesses. It is believed that he never left the city , thus making it an important Shaivite pilgrimage.Shiva popularly known as destroyer amongst the Hindu trinity , is the most venerate lord here.Many Hindu scriptures, including the Rigveda , Skanda Purana , Ramayana and the Mahabharata mention the city.Through the ages, Varanasi is known as ;
Avimuktaka, Anandakamana , Mahasmasana , Surandhana , Drahma Vardha , Sudarsana , Ramya and Kasi.Due to its location and prosperity, Varanasi was raided over and over again by Muslim rulers.From Mahmud of Ghazni to Ghauri to the Delhi Sultan Alaudin Khilji and most of all, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.As a result , most of the ancient temples and other structures were destroyed .what now remains is mostly about 200 years old, and many which are earlier than the 17th centuary .
The histroy of Varanasi lives however, in the resositary of old manuscripts , the folk traditions and most imporatantly , through its people.

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