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Kashi Varanasi

1. Why Was Kashi Created?

Sadhguru: The word “Kashi” literally means to be luminous, or more particularly, a tower of light. Mark Twain said that Kashi is older than legend. Nobody can ever decipher the date of this place. When Athens was not even thought of, Kashi was. When Rome did not even exist in people’s minds, Kashi was. When Egypt did not exist, Kashi was. It is that ancient, and it was built as an instrument in the form of a city, which brings a union between the “micro” and the “macro” – this little human being can have the phenomenal possibility of uniting with the cosmic reality and knowing the pleasure, ecstasy and beauty of becoming one with the cosmic nature.

When Egypt did not exist, Kashi was. When Rome did not even exist in people’s minds, Kashi was.

There have been many such instruments in this country, but to create a city like this is a mad ambition – and they did it thousands of years ago. There were 72,000 shrines, the same as the number of nadis in the human body. The whole process is like a manifestation of a “mega human body” to make contact with a larger cosmic body. It is because of this that a whole tradition came up that if you go to Kashi, that is it. You do not want to leave the place because when you get connected to the cosmic nature, why would you want to go anywhere else?

Today, our idea of science has become the new iPhone. But if you want to look at it as science that is towards ultimate human wellbeing, this is it. You cannot do anything better than this. It is not a religion or a belief system. This is human ingenuity as to how to access the beyond. This is the most phenomenal effort ever made on the planet. There is no question about that.

2. The Science of Kashi

Sadhguru: The most important thing in human life is to know the limitations of your body. You were born yesterday and will be buried tomorrow. You only have today to live. This is the nature of existence. And before death comes, life needs to blossom. So across the country, we set up every possible mechanism that we could use for this purpose. There are many mechanisms like this. Unfortunately, most of them are broken, including Kashi which is largely disturbed, but the energetic part of it is still pretty alive. This is because when we consecrate spaces of this nature, including Dhyanalinga, the physical structure is always only a scaffolding. Generally, the legend says that Kashi is on the top of Shiva’s trishul or trident, not on the ground.

Generally, the legend says that Kashi is on the top of Shiva’s trishul or trident, not on the ground.

What I see in my experience is that the real structure of Kashi is approximately 33 feet above the ground. If we had any sense, we should not have built anything beyond 33 feet in height. But we have, because sense has always been a very scarce material in the world. And, by geometrical calculations, the energy structure could be up to 7200 feet. This is why they called it a “Tower of Light,” because those who had eyes to see, saw that it is a very tall structure. And it did not stop there, it gave you access to what is beyond. The idea is to achieve something that a human being could achieve within himself or herself, through an organized mechanism that comes from the distilled essence of thousands of years of realization of many people. If you have to realize things by yourself, it is like reinventing the wheel and unnecessarily going through a whole lot of painful processes. But if you have to realize through others’ knowing, then you must have humility.

This arrangement was done so that a lot of people could be transported. People came and set up all kinds of methods and mechanisms. At one time, there were over 26,000 shrines – each one of them had a method of its own as to how a human being can attain. These 26,000 shrines developed satellites and many angles of the temple became small shrines of their own – so the number went up to 72,000 shrines when this mechanism called Kashi was in full glory. This did not happen overnight. No one knows in which period the basic structure happened. They say that even Sunira, who is dated something like 40,000 years ago, came here looking for something. By then, it was already a flourishing city.

In terms of antiquity, no one knows exactly how old it is. Shiva wanted to come here because the city was so beautiful. Before he came, it was already a phenomenal city. Just a few years ago, they discovered three layers of temples that were all closed down for a long period of time. This means that the city sunk over a period of time and it was repeatedly rebuilt, one on top of the other. There are three to five layers of the city, because the earth recycles itself over a period of time.3. The Legend of Shiva Living at Kashi

Sadhguru: The legend of Kashi goes by the fundamental that Shiva himself lived here. This is his winter place. He lived as an ascetic in the upper regions of the Himalayas, but when he got married to a princess, compromises had to be made. And being a graceful man, he decided he would move to the plains, as Kashi was the most fabulously built city at the time.

. “If I have to become the king, Shiva has to leave, because with him around, me being a king is not going to work. People will gather around him.”

There is a beautiful story. Shiva left Kashi because of some political reasons. The gods were afraid that Kashi would lose its reverberence if it was not properly managed, so they asked Divodasa to become the king. But he set a condition, “If I have to become the king, Shiva has to leave, because with him around, me being a king is not going to work. People will gather around him.” So Shiva, along with Parvati, left to Mount Mandara, but he did not want to stay there. He wanted to come back to Kashi, so he first sent messengers. They went and they just loved the city so much, they did not go back.

Then Shiva sent 64 celestial women. He said, “Somehow corrupt the king. Once we find some fault in him, we can send him packing and I’ll come back.” They came and they entrenched themselves all over the society, wanting to corrupt it. But they loved the place so much they forgot the mission and settled down.

Then he sent Surya Deva. He also came – all the Aditya temples in Kashi are for him – he loved it so much that he did not go back. Surya Deva was so ashamed and scared that he could not fulfill Shiva’s mission because his love for the city was greater than his commitment to the mission, so he turned south, tilted to one side and settled down.

Then Shiva sent Brahma. Brahma himself came and loved it, and he did not go back. Then Shiva said, “I cannot trust any of these people,” and he sent two of his most trusted ganas. Both of them came – they could not forget Shiva, they are his people – but they loved the place so much and thought, “This is the only place Shiva should live, not Mount Mandara.” Then they became dwarapalakas of this city.

Shiva sent two more, Ganesha and another, who came and took charge of the city. They started preparing the city, guarding the city, and they said, “Anyway Shiva has to come, there is no point in going back.” Then Divodasa was tempted with mukti. He did not fall for any kind of corruption, but he was tempted with mukti and he took it. Then Shiva came back.

These are all stories to tell you how much people longed to be here, not because of pleasure, but because of the possibility that the city offered. The city was not just a dwelling place; it was a mechanism to go beyond all limitations. It was a mechanism for this tiny little organism to connect with the larger organism of the cosmos.

4. Why Is Kashi Called Varanasi?

Sadhguru: Varanasi, Banaras or Kashi – it has many names. This is the oldest city on the planet. However far human memory goes, they talk about a great city called Varanasi that was built between two rivers of Varuna and Asi. (Sadhguru)

Varanasi (Vārāṇasī[ʋaːˈraːɳəsi]; also Banaras or Benares (Banāras[bəˈnaːrəs] (listen)),[12][13] and Kashi (Kāshi[kˈæʃi] (listen))[14][15][a]) is a city on the Ganges river in northern India that has a central place in the traditions of pilgrimage, death, and mourning in the Hindu world.[17][b] The city has a syncretic tradition of Muslim artisanship that underpins its religious tourism.[20] Located in the middle-Ganges valley in the southeastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi lies on the left bank of the river. It is 692 kilometres (430 mi) to the southeast of India’s capital New Delhi and 320 kilometres (200 mi) to the east of the state capital, Lucknow. It lies 121 kilometres (75 mi) downstream of Prayagraj, where the confluence with the Yamuna river and mythical Saraswati river is another major Hindu pilgrimage site.

Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities.[21] Kashi, its ancient name, was associated with a kingdom of the same name of 2,500 years ago. The Lion capital of Ashoka at nearby Sarnath has been interpreted to be a commemoration of the Buddha’s first sermon there in the fifth century BCE.[22][23] In the 8th century, Adi Shankara established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi. Since ancient times, the city has been an important centre of Hindu devotion, pilgrimage, mysticism and poetry contributing to its cultural importance.[24] Tulsidas wrote his Awadhi language epic, the Ramcharitmanas, a Bhakti movement reworking of the Sanskrit Ramayana, in Varanasi. Several other major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including Kabir and Ravidas.[25] In the 16th century, Rajput nobles in the service of the courts and armies of the Mughal emperor Akbar, sponsored the building or further enhancement of the major Shiva temple in the city; they also built other temples, all displaying an empire-wide architectural style.[26][27] Under the Treaty of Faizabad, the East India Company acquired Benares in 1775,[28][29] the city later successively becoming a part of the Benares Division in the Ceded and Conquered Provinces, the North-Western Provinces, and the United Provinces, and after India’s independence of Uttar Pradesh.[30]

Silk weaving, carpets and crafts and tourism employ a significant number of the local population, as do the Banaras Locomotive Works and Bharat Heavy Electricals. The city is known worldwide for its many ghats, steps leading down the steep river bank to the water, where pilgrims perform rituals. Of particular note are the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the Panchganga Ghat, the Manikarnika Ghat, and the Harishchandra Ghat, the last two being where Hindus cremate their dead. The Hindu genealogy registers at Varanasi are kept here. Among the notable temples in Varanasi are Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Shiva, the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, and the Durga Temple.

The city has long been an educational and musical centre: many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians live or have lived in the city, and it was the place where the Benares gharana form of Hindustani classical music was developed. In the 20th-century the Hindi-Urdu writer Premchand and the shehnai player Bismillah Khan were associated with the city. India’s oldest Sanskrit college, the Benares Sanskrit College, was founded during East India Company rule in 1791. Later education in Benares was greatly influenced by the rise of Indian nationalism in the late 19th-century. Annie Besant founded the Central Hindu College in 1898. In 1916, she and Madan Mohan Malviya founded the Banaras Hindu University, India’s first modern residential university. Kashi Vidyapith was established in 1921, a response to Mahatma Gandhi‘s Non-cooperation movement.


Traditional etymology links “Varanasi” to the names of two Ganges tributaries forming the city’s borders: Varuna, still flowing in northern Varanasi, and Assi, today a small stream in the southern part of the city, near Assi Ghat. The old city is located on the north shores of the Ganges, bounded by Varuna and Assi.[31]

In the Mahabharata the city is referred to as Kāśī (काशी: Kashi) from the Sanskrit verbal root kaś- “to shine”, making Varanasi known as “City of Light”,[32][14] the “luminous city as an eminent seat of learning“.[33] The name was also used by pilgrims dating from Buddha’s days.

Hindu religious texts use many epithets in Sanskrit to refer to Varanasi, such as Kāśikā (transl. ”the shining one”), Avimukta (transl. ”never forsaken by Shiva”), Ānandakānana (transl. ”the forest of bliss”), Rudravāsa (transl. ”the place where Rudra resides”), and Mahāshmashāna (transl. ”the great cremation ground”).[34]



According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi was founded by Shiva,[35] one of three principal deities along with Brahma and Vishnu. During a conflict between Brahma and Shiva, one of Brahma’s five heads was torn off by Shiva. As was the custom, the victor carried the slain adversary’s head in his hand and let it hang down from his hand as an act of ignominy, and a sign of his own bravery. A bridle was also put into the mouth. Shiva thus dishonoured Brahma’s head, and kept it with him at all times. When he came to the city of Varanasi in this state, the hanging head of Brahma dropped from Shiva’s hand and disappeared in the ground. Varanasi is therefore considered an extremely holy site.[36]

The Pandavas, the protagonists of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, are said to have visited the city in search of Shiva to atone for their sins of fratricide and brahmahatya that they had committed during the Kurukshetra War.[37] It is regarded as one of seven holy cities (Sapta Puri) which can provide MokshaAyodhyaMathuraHaridwar, Kashi, KanchiAvanti, and Dvārakā are the seven cities known as the givers of liberation.[38] The princesses Ambika and Ambalika of Kashi were wed to the Hastinapura ruler Vichitravirya, and they later gave birth to Pandu and DhritarashtraBhima, a son of Pandu, married a Kashi princess Valandhara and their union resulted in the birth of Sarvaga, who later ruled Kashi. Dhritarasthra’s eldest son Duryodhana also married a Kashi princess Bhanumati, who later bore him a son Lakshmana Kumara and a daughter Lakshmanā.

The Cakkavatti Sīhanāda Sutta text of Buddhism puts forth an idea stating that Varanasi will one day become the fabled kingdom of Ketumati in the time of Maitreya.[39]