|"Varanasi", the city of Ghosts or the city of temples, is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi has been given various names throughout the history, though itís recently revived official appellation is mentioned in the Mahabharata and in the Jataka tales of Buddhism. Itís probably derivative of the two rivers that flank the city, the Varuna to the north and the Asi to the south. Many still use the English forms of Banaras or Benares. While as, pilgrims refer to it as Kashi, first used three thousand years ago to describe the kingdom and the city outside which the Buddha preached his first sermon. Another epithet, Avimukta, meaning "Never Forsaken", refers to the city that Shiva never deserted, or that one should never leave. Further alternatives include Anandavana, the "forest of bliss", and Rudravasa, the place where Shiva (Rudra) resides. Each name carries an additional meaning in terms of the sacred symbolism of the city.
The city is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindusí and has been linked to the cities like Jerusalem and Mecca. According to the historians, the city was founded some ten centuries before the birth of Christ. The mention of the city is found in Holy Scriptures like 'Vamana Purana', Buddhist texts and in the epic 'Mahabharata'.
The Banaras or Varanasi is situated on the west bank of the holiest of all Indian rivers, the Ganga or Ganges. Along the water's edge, there are the burning ghats or crematoriums. The most sacred one is Manikarnika, associated with Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva's wife. The major shrine is the Vishwanath Temple the abode of Lord Shiva, the most important of the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, the Lords of this universe.