Varanasi (Sanskrit: वाराणसी Vārāṇasī, also commonly known as Benares or Banaras (Hindi: बनारस, Urdu: بنارس, Banāras and Kashi (Hindi: काशी, Urdu: کاشی, Kāśī , is a city situated on the banks of the River Gange in the Indian state of Uttar Pardesh, 320 kilometres (199 mi) southeast of state capital Lucknow. It is regarded as a holy city by Buddhists and Jains, Hindus. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and probably the oldest in India.
The Kashi Naresh (Maharaja of Kashi) is the chief cultural patron of Varanasi and an essential part of all religious celebrations. The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in North India for several thousand years. The Benares Gharana form of Indian classical music developed in Varanasi, and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians resided or reside in Varanasi, including Kabir, Ravidas their Guru Swami Ramanand, Trailanga Swami, Munshi Permchand, Jaishankar Prasad, Acharya Shukla, Ravi Shankar, Girija Devi, Hariprasad Chaurasia, and Bismillah Khan. Tulsidas wrote Ramacharitamans here, and Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath located near Varanasi (Kashi).
Varanasi is home to four universities: Banaras Hindu University, Mahatma Ganfhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies and Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. Residents mainly speak Hindi and Kashika Bhoipuri, which is closely related to the Hindi language. People often refer to Varanasi as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", and "the city of learning."
The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for it lies at the confluence of the Varuna, with the Ganges being to its north, and the Assi, with the Ganges being to its south. Another speculation about the origin of the name is that the river Varuna itself was called Varanasi in olden times, from which the city got its name. This is generally disregarded by historians, though there may be some earlier texts suggesting it to be so.
Through the ages, Varanasi was variously known as Avimuktaka, Anandakanana, Mahasmasana, Surandhana, Brahma Vardha, Sudarsana, Ramya, and Kasi.
In the Rigveda, the city was referred to as Kasi or Kashi, "the luminous one" as an allusion to the city's historical status as a centre of learning, literature, and culture. Kasikhanda described the glory of the city in 15,000 verses in the Skanda Purana. In one verse, God Shiva says.
The three worlds form one city of mine, and Kasi is my royal palace therein.
According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, around 5,000 years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. It is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. Many Hindu scriptures, including the Rigveda, Skanda Purana, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, mention the city.
Varanasi is generally believed to be about 3,000 years old.Varanasi was a commercial and industrial centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautama Buddha (born circa 567 BCE), Varanasi was the capital of the Kingdon of Kashi. The celebrated Chinese traveller, Xuanzang, attested that the city was a centre of religious, educational, and artistic activities, and that it extended for about 5 km along the western bank of the Ganges.
It was at this very place where an unusual incident was observed, an Indian crocodile seized a sleeping Indian tiger on the bank of the river and dragged it into the water.
Kashi Naresh and Ramnagar
Varanasi became an independent Kingdom of Kashi in the eighteenth century, and under subsequent British rule, it remained a commercial and religious centre. Varanasi suffered during the raids into India by Muhammad of Ghori, as described by Kamil-ut-Tawarikh of Ibn Asir: “The slaughter of Hindus (at Varanasi) was immense; none were spared except women and children,(who were taken into slavery) and the carnage of men went on until the earth was weary.”In 1910, the British made Varanasi a new Indian state, with Ramanagar as its headquarters but with no jurisdiction over the city of Varanasi itself. Kashi Naresh still resides in the fort of Ramanagar. The Ramnagar Fort of the Kashi Naresh is situated to the east of Varanasi, across the Ganges. The Ramnagar Fort was built by Kashi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh with creamy chunar sandstone in the eighteenth century. It is a typically Mughal style of architecture with carved balconies, open courtyards, and picturesque pavilions. The other fort of the Kashi Naresh is the Chet Singh Palace, near Shivala Ghat, Varanasi built by Maharaja Chet Singh.
Ramnagar Fort and its museum are the repository of the history of the kings of Benares and since the 18th century has been the home of Kashi Naresh.Even today the Kashi Naresh is deeply revered by the people of Benares. He is the religious head and the people of Benares consider him the incarnation of Lord Shiva.He is also the chief cultural patron and an essential part of all religious celebrations.
Events of 1857
A massacre by British troops, of the Indian troops stationed here and of the population of the city, took place during the early stages of the rebellion of 1857.
The city of Varanasi is located in the middle Ganges valley of North India, in the Eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, along the left crescent-shaped bank of the Ganges river. It has the headquarters of Varanasi district. The "Varanasi Urban Agglomeration" — an agglomeration of seven urban sub-units — covers an area of 112.26 km2 (approximately 43 mi²).The urban agglomeration is stretched between 82° 56’E - 83° 03’E and 25° 14’N - 25° 23.5’N.Being located in the Indo-Gangetic Planis of North India, the land is very fertile because low level floods in the Ganges continually replenish the soil.
On a local level, Varanasi is located on a higher ground between rivers Ganges and Varuna, the mean elevation being 80.71 m. As a result of absence of tributaries and canals, the main land is continuous and relatively dry. In ancient times, this geographic situation must have been highly favourable for forming settlements. But it is difficult to ascertain the original geography of Varanasi because the city's current location is not exactly the same as the one described in some old texts.
Varanasi is often said to be located between two confluences: one of the Ganges and Varuna, and other of the Ganges and Assi, (Assi having always been a rivulet rather than a river.) The distance between these two confluences is around 2.5 miles (4.0 km), and religious Hindus regard a round trip between these two places—a Pancha-kroshi Yatra (a five mile (8 km) journey) ending with a visit to a Sakshi Vinayak Temple as a holy ritual.
Varanasi experiences a humid subtropical climate ( koppen climate classification Cwa) with large variations between summer and winter temperatures. Summers are long, from early April to October, with intervening monsoon seasons and are also extremely hot, even by South Asian standards. The temperature ranges between 32°C– 46 °C (90°F– 115 °F) in the summers. Winters in Varanasi see very large diurnal variations, with warm days and downright cold nights. Cold waves from the Himalayan region cause temperatures to dip across the city in the winter from December to February and temperatures below 5 °C are not uncommon. The average annual rainfall is 1,110 mm (44 in). Fog is common in the winters, while hot dry winds, called loo, blow in the summers.
Through a combination of water pollution, new constructions of upstream dams, and increase in the local temperature, the water level of the Ganges has recently gone down significantly, and small islands have become visible in the middle of the river.
Varanasi has several small cottage industries, including producting of Banarasi saris, which are a regional type of sari made from silk. The city also produces carpets and handicrafts. According to some writers, Varanasi has a rather high rate of Child labour given the unorganised nature of small scale industries.
Banarasi Silk is known all over the world for its finery and softness. Banarasi Sarees are adorned with intricate designs and zari embellishments making it popular during traditional functions and weddings. Earlier, the embroidery on sarees were often done with threads of pure gold. In 2009, weaver associations and cooperatives together secured Geographical Indication (GI) rights for ‘Banaras Brocades and Sarees’.
Varanasi produces large quantities of langra mangoes, which are variety developed in the area. Banarasi paan (betel leaf) and khoa (a milk product) are popular, and the related small-scale industries employ many people.
Indian Railways runs a major diesel locomotive factory in Varanasi, Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW). BHEL, a large power equipment manufacturer, also runs a plant here. The first Indian business house of Varanasi and Kanpur was the firm NihalChand KishoriLal established in the year 1857 which set up the fourth Oxygen plant in the country here by the name of Indian Air Gases Ltd.
According to Macaulay, Varanasi was the "city which, in wealth, population, dignity and sanctity was among the foremost in Asia". He described the commercial importance saying "from the looms of Benaras went forth the most delicate silks that adorned the halls of St. James and of Versailles."
Probably due to its unique culture, Varanasi is a major tourist destination for foreign tourists in India. A number of hotels are present in the city, as well as more efficient housing for Western student researchers.
Varanasi is a noted centre for Banarasi silk weaving and brassware. Fine silks and brocaded fabrics, exquisite saris, brassware, jewellery, woodcraft, carpets, wall hangings, lamp shades and masks of Hindu and Buddhist deities are some of Varanasi's shopping attractions. The main shopping areas include the Chowk, Godaulia, Vishwanath Lane, Lahurabir and Thatheri Bazaar.Assi Ghat, a midway point between Godaulia in the heart of downtown and youth culture of Benares Hindu University, is the district where most young, foreign, long-term residents stay.
Administration and Politics
Varanasi is governed by a number of bodies, the prime being the Varanasi Nagar Nigam (Municipal Corporation) and Varnasi Development Authority, which is responsible for the master planning of the city. Water supply and sewage system is maintained by Jal Nigam, a subsidiary of Nagar Nigam. Power supply is by the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited. The city produces about 350 million litres per day of sewer and 425 tonnes per day of solid waste.The solid wastes are disposed in one landfill site. A huge amount of sewer flows into the river Ganges daily. Nagar Nigam also runs a bus service in the city and suburban areas. The city is within the Varanasi range of Varanasi zone of Uttar Pradesh Police. A Special Superintendent of Police is the highest ranking police officer in the city.The city constitutes the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. Dr. Murli Manihar Joshi of the Bharatiya Janata Party won the constituency in Indian general election 2009.Varanasi was one the five cities where the Ganga Action Plan Ganga was launched.
The schools are affiliated with the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), or the U. P. Board.
Varanasi is the site of three public universities:
- Banaras Hindu University was founded in 1916 by Madan Mohan Malaviya with the cooperation of Annie Besant Annie. Its 1,350-acre (5.5 km2) campus was built on land donated by the Kashi Naresh. The University includes Institute of Technology and Institute of Medical Sciences and is among the top three largest residential universities in the world, having more than 128 independent teaching departments.
- Sampurnanand Sanskrit University: Governor General Lord Cornwallis established the Sanskrit College (1791), which was the first college in Varanasi. The first principal of Sanskrit College was Sanskrit professor J. Myor, ICS followed by J.R. Ballentien, RTH Griffith, Dr. G. Thevo, Dr. Aurthor Venice, Dr. Ganganath Jha, and Gopinath Kaviraj among others. After India achieved independence, this college became Sampurnanand Sanskrit University.
- Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth is a deemed and chartered university that is named for Gandhi and follows the principles of Gandhism.
- Imania Arabic College known as Jamia-e-Imania (Urdu: الجامعة الإيمانية it is a prominent Madrasa for Shia Muslims in this city and it was established as a Religious Seminary for extended Islamic studies and higher religious education on 15 December 1866/1283 (A.H.).
- Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (Central University of Tibetan Studies) at Sarnath is a deemed university with a preference for the traditional Tibetan method of teaching within a framework of modern universities.
- Other colleges include Institute of Integrated Management and Technology (IIMT), Udai Pratap College, Nav Sadhanan Kala Kendra is a college of Dance and Music in the city that trains the students professionally in Bharatnatyam and Hindustani Vocal. The city also has the Jamiah Salafiah, a Salafi Islamic institution.
Varanasi's "Old City," the quarter near the banks of the Ganges, has crowded narrow winding lanes that are flanked by road-side shops and scores of Hindu temples. As atmospheric as it is confusing, Varanasi's labyrinthine Old City is rich with culture, and a deservedly popular destination for travellers and tourists.The main residential areas of Varanasi (especially for the middle and upper classes) are situated in regions far from the ghats; they are more spacious and less polluted.
Art and literatureVaranasi has its own culture of fine art and literature. Great Indian writers have lived in this city from Kabir, Ravidas, Tulsidas who wrote much of his Ram Charit Manas here, Kulluka Bhatt who wrote the best known commentary of Manusmrti here in 15th century and Bharatendu Harishchandra, later writers have been Jaishankar Prasad, Acharya Shukla, Munshi Premchand, Jagannath Prasad Ratnakar, Devaki Nandan Khatri, Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Tegh Ali, Kshetresa Chandra Chattopadhyaya, Vagish Shastri, Baldev Upadhyaya, Sudama Pandey (Dhoomil) and Vidya Niwas Mishra.
Art lovers and historians like Rai Krishnadasa, his son Anand Krishna, musicians like Gopal Mishra (considered one of the best sarangi player of all times) Omkarnath Thakur, Ravi Shankar, Bismillah Khan, Girija Devi, Siddheshwari Devi, Lalmani Misra and his son Gopal Shankar Misra, N. Rajam, Rajbhan Singh, Anokhelal, Samat Prasad, Kanthe Maharaj, M. V. Kalvint, Sitara Devi, Gopi Krishna, Kishan Maharaj, Vikash Maharaj Rajan abd Sajan Mishra, Mahadev Mishra, Chhannulal Mishra and numerous others have kept the city alive to the spiritual aspect of fine arts apart from their ability to entertain. Numerous festivals are celebrated that preserve traditional styles of classical and folk culture. All night, open music concerts like ones organised at Sankat Mochan Temple, Hori, Kajari and Chaiti Mela, Budwa Mangal, are annual features that draw connoisseurs from all over.
Sushruta, the great surgeon and author of Sushruta Samhita, the Sanskrit text of surgery, also lived in Varanasi.
MuseumsJanatar Mantar is an observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh, of Jaipur in the year 1737 is situated close to the Dashashwamedh Ghat, overlooking the ghats on the Ganges.Jai Singh was a great admirer of science and technology and he was particularly passionate about astronomy. Before the commencement of construction (of observatories) he sent scholars abroad to study the foreign observatories. The emissaries returned with many manuals on astronomy. The Jantar Mantar at Varanasi was built in line with Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain and Jaipur observatories.
The Jantar Mantar was built to measure the local time, the Sun's declination, altitude, the declination of stars, planets and to determine eclipses The Jantar Mantar at Varanasi has several masonry instruments to record the motion, speed and properties of stars and planets and study astronomy that are accurate and can still be used efficiently today. The Jantar Mantar incorporates multiple structures of unique form, each with a specialised function for astronomical measurement.
Archaeological museum, Sarnath is the oldest site museum of Archaeological Survey of India. In order to keep the antiquities found from the site, a decision was taken in 1904 by the Government to construct a site museum adjacent to the excavated site at Sarnath. It was due to initiative of Sir John Marshall, the then Director General of Archaeology in India, that this museum was created. The plans were prepared by Mr. James Ramson, the then consulting Architect to the Government of India. The building was completed in 1910 to house, display and study the antiquities in their right perspective. The building forms half of a monastery (Sangharam) in plan.
There are five galleries and two verandahs on the museum to display the antiquities ranging from 3rd century B.C. to 12th century A.D. found at Sarnath.
Bharat Kala Bhavan
Bharat Kala Bhavan, located inside the BHU campus, is an art and architecture museum and houses a vast collection of paintings, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and other materials of archaeological importance. The Bharat Kala Bhavan was established in the year 1920 A.D. by Rai Krishndas. In the main hall of the Bharat Kala Bhawan, there is a figure of a man standing on one leg and one hand on his hip and lifting a mass of stone above his head, with one hand. The figure is said to be of Lord Krishna, lifting Mount Govardhana. Many images in the Bharat Kala Bhavan confirm to the existence of Krishna cult in Kashi in 15th and 16th century.
Bharat Kala Bhavan also has a great collection of miniature paintings from the courts of Mughals and other Kingdoms and principalities. Some of the important sections in the Bharat Kala Bhavan are Mahamana Malaviya gallery, Nicholas Roerich gallery, Chhavi (Painting Gallery), sculpture gallery, Nidhi (Treasures) gallery, sculpture gallery, archaeological gallery, decorative art gallery and Banaras through ages gallery.
The Ramnagar Fort lies about 14 km. from Varanasi and is situated on the opposite bank of river Ganges. It is the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. Maharaja Balwant Singh built this fort-palace in the eighteenth century. The fort is built in red sandstone. The Ramnagar fort has a temple and a museum within the grounds and the temple is dedicated to Ved Vyasa, who wrote Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. Legends have it that Ved Vyasa stayed here for a brief period.
The Ramnagar fort houses a museum displaying the royal collection which includes vintage cars, royal palkies, an armory of swords and old guns, ivory work and antique clocks. The Durga Temple and Chhinnamastika Temple are also located at Ramnagar. A temple of Dakshin Mukhi Hanuman is there. Inside the giant walls of the Ramnagar fort-palace, there is a big clock. This clock not only displays year, month, week and day but also astronomical facts about the sun, moon and constellation of stars. An interesting array of ornate palanquins, gold-plated howdahs and weapons are some of the artifacts on display in the Ramnagar fort-palace museum.
A rare collection of manuscripts, especially religious writings, is housed in Saraswati Bhawan with the Ramnagar Fort It includes a precious handwritten manuscript by Tulsidas. There are also many books illustrated in the Mughal miniature style, with beautifully designed covers.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities and targets of pilgrimage for Hindus. As the place where Siddhartha Gautama gave his first sermon to his disciples, Varanasi is the city where Buddhism was founded. It is the birthplace of Suparshvanath, Shreyansanath, and Parshav, who are respectively the seventh, eleventh, and twenty-third Jain Tirthankars and as such Varanasi is a holy city for Jains. Guru Nanak Dev visited Varanasi for Shivratri in 1507 and had an encounter which with other events forms the basis for the story of the founding of Sikhism. The city has a sizeable native Muslim population, it hosts the Roman Catholic Diocese of Varanasi, and has a significant Jewish expatriate community. Varanasi is home to numerous tribal faiths which are not easily classified and many denominations of the religions which are present.
Annie Besant worked in Benares to promote theosophy and founded the Central Hindu College which later became a foundation for the creation of Benaras Hindu Universiry as a secular university.
As a place of pilgrimage for many faiths Varanasi continually hosts an unusually rich diversity of religious practitioners and teachers who are not resident in the city.
Hinduism in Varanasi
Varanasi is a holy city in Hinduism, being one of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus of all denominations and is one of seven most holy places for Hindus in India.
A Ksetra is a sacred ground, a field of active power, a place where Moksha, final release can be obtained. The Garuda Purana enumerates seven cities as giver of Moksha, They are Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya, Kāsi, Kanchi, Avantika and Dvaravati.It has the holy shrine of Kashi Vishwanath (a manifestation of Lord Shiva), and also one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges 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 Shkti Peethas, and that Vishalakshi Temple stands on the spot where Goddess Sati’s earrings fell. Hindus of the Shakti sect make a pilgrimage to the city because they regard the river Ganges itself as the Goddess Shakti. Adi Shankara wrote his commentaries on Hinduism here, leading to the great Hindu revival. Vaishnavism and Shaivism have always co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously.
The Ramlila is a cycle of plays which recounts the epic story of Lor Rama, as told in Ramacaritamansa, the version of the Ramayana penned by Tulsidas. The plays sponsored by the Maharaja, are performed in Ramnagar every evening for 31 days. On the last day the festivities reach a crescendo as Rama vanquishes the demon king Ravana. Maharaja Udit Narayan Singh started this tradition of staging the Ramleela at Ramnagar in mid-nineteenth century.
Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats . Many of the ghats were built when the city was under Maratha control. Marathas, Shindes (Scindias), Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwes (Peshwas) stand out as patrons of present-day Varanasi. Most of the ghats are bathing ghats, while others are used as cremation sites. Many ghats are associated with legends or mythologies while many ghats are privately owned. The former Kashi Naresh owns Shivala or Kali ghat.
Varanasi is a city of temples. Tilbhandeshwar temple is also one of the oldest temple at Varanasi.It is situated near Bengali Tola Inter College Pande Haweli.
Islam in Varanasi
Islam came to Benares in 12th century during the rule of Delhi Sultanate; and established during the Mughal Period. The Muslims form a substantial part of the city's population, particularly in the old city where they form about one third of the population. Weaving in Varanasi of the famous Baranasi saris is a Muslim domain. Many of city's Muslims belong to the weaver caste called "Ansari" ("helper" in Arabic).
Buddhism in Varanasi
Sarnath is a place of Buddhist pilgrimage. The site where Buddha gave his first sermon and thereby founded Buddhism is marked by Dhamek Stupa. Buddhist traditions worldwide have each built their country's architectural style of Buddhist temple here.
Varanasi is one of the holiest places in Buddhism too, being one of the four pilgrimage sites said to have been designated by Gautama Buddha himself (the others being Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya, and Lumbini). In the residential neighbourhood of Varanasi lies Sarnath, the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha is said to have given his first sermon about the basic principles of Buddhism. The Dhamek Stupa is one of the few pre-Ashokan stups still standing, though only its foundation remains. Also remaining is the Chaukhandi Stupa commemorating the spot where Buddha met his first disciples (in the 5th century or earlier, BC). An octagonal tower was built later there.
Jainism in Varanasi
Varanasi is a pilgrimage site for Jains along with Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed to be the birthplace of Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar. Islamic culture has also had an influence on Varanasi. Shree Parshvanath Digambar Jain Tirth Kshetra (Digambar Jain Temple) is situated in Bhelupur, Varanasi. This temple is of great religious importance to Jain Religion. Parshavanath (पार्श्वनाथ) or Parshvanatha (pārśvá-nātha, occasionally spelled Parshvanath or Parswanath) was the twenty-third Tirthankara (fordmaker) in Jainism. fl. ca. in the 9th century BCE, traditionally (877 – 777 BCE. He is the earliest Jain leader generally accepted as a historical figure. He was a nobleman belonging to the Kshatriya caste. He lived in Varanasi in India around 800 BCE and is the most popular object of Jain devotion.
The population of Varanasi urban agglomeration in 2001 was 1,371,749; the sex ratio was 879 females every 1000 males. As per 2011 census, population stands at 3,138,670. However, the area under Varanasi Nagar Nigam has a population of 1,100,748 with the sex ratio being 883 females for every 1000 males.The literacy rate in the urban agglomeration is 77% while that in the municipal corporation area is 78%. Approximately 138,000 people in the municipal area live in slums. The crime rate in the city in 2004 was 128.5 per 100,000 which is higher than Uttar Pradesh rate of 73.2 but lower than the national rate of 168.8.
Varanasi is well connected by air, rail and road with the major Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Ujjain , Jaipure, Patna, Secunderabad etc.It is located at a distance of 776 km from Delhi. It is located at a distance of 1840 km from Secunderabad.One of the major factors in Varanasi's sustained existence as an inhabited city is its role as an established transportation hub between different cities. Dating to the ancient times, the city was connected to cities like Azamgarh,Taxila, Ghazipur, Pataliputra, Vaishali, Ayodhya, Gorakhpur, Agra etc.
The new Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, Babatpur, commonly known as Varanasi Airport is located about 22 km from the city centre and is well connected to Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Khajuraho, Bangkok, Bangalore, Colombo and Kathmandu. All the major domestic Indian carriers including Air India, Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Indian Airlines, Mihin Lanka, Thai Airways International, Spicejet, and Alliance Air operate from here. The Airport handled more than 3.50 lakh passengers per year.
A new terminal catering to both domestic and international passengers opened in 2010 on 150 acres (0.61 km2) of land adjacent to the airport. The old terminal building could handle only about 200 domestic passengers at any given time, but the new terminal building can handle 1,000 passengers and will have parking for 500 vehicles.
The first railway line to Benares was opened from Kolkata in December 1862 and was built by the East Indian Railway Company.
The double-decked Malviya Bridge takes both the railway and the Grand Trunk Road across the river Ganges near Rajghat.
Varanasi Junction under the control of Northern Railways and Mughal Sarai Junction of East Central Railway are the two major railway stations within the city limit. Apart from these there are 16 other railway stations located within the city limits.
Previously, the city was connected by a single road from Taxila going through Pataliputra during the Maurya Empire. This road was later renovated and extended by Sher Shah Suri during the 16th century and later came to be known as the famous Grand Trunk Road.
The NH 2 linking Delhi-Kolkata passes through the city and NH 7 which is the longest National Highway in India connects Varanasi with the cities of Jabalpur, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Salem, Madurai and Kanyakumari.
Auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are the most widely available public transport within Varanasi. In outer regions of the city, mini-buses are common. Small boats and small steamers are used to cross the River Ganges.
In March 2006, bomb blasts form terrorists resulted in 28 people being killed and many injured. One of the bombs was planted in the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, shrinededicated to Lord Hanuman, while another was planted on a platform of the Varanasi Cantonment Railway Station, the main railway station in the city. A militant group, Lashkar-e-Kahab, claimed responsibility for the terror attacks. In November 2007 Varanasi endured another bomb blast. The bomb was placed in the civil court of Varanasi. More than 20 people died and over 100 were injured.
On December 7, 2010, one person was killed and twenty people were injured in a blast outside a temple at Sheetla Ghat just before the temple aarti was due to be performed.The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the millitant group, Indian Mujahideen.