The word Varanasi was formed using two words, Varuna and Asi. Varuna is a minor tributary of Ganga, which originates in Bhadohi while Asi is a small stream.
The holy city, which lies on the banks of the sacred River Ganges, is believed to be the oldest living city in the world, which according to the legend is the abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is believed that the person who breathes his last here is sure to attain salvation.
Varanasi is the city which has countless temples devoted to both Shaivism and Vaishnavism, and both these forms of Hinduism co-exist here in harmony. It is also an important centre of the Jain religion, as it is the birthplace of the twenty-third Tirthankara, Parsvanath.
Besides being an important religious city, Varanasi is also a major centre of learning and culture. The Banaras Hindu University in the city is the largest university in Asia.
Additionally, Varanasi is associated with the origin of the ancient holistic healing sciences of Ayurveda and Yoga. The founder of these sciences, Maharishi Patanjali, has strong connections with the city of Varanasi.
Besides being world famous for its religious and cultural significance, the city is also recognized as a centre of trade and commerce since ancient times, dealing in commodities such as silver and gold brocades and the widely popular, Banarasi silks.
Another interesting fact about Varanasi is that it is home to several literary geniuses such as Munshi Prem Chand and Tulsi Das, who penned down the great epic Ram Charit Manas.
The city is also the birthplace of celebrated artists, musicians and dancers, including the acclaimed sitar player, Ravi Shankar and the shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan.
Varanasi is the living symbol of the Hindu renaissance, being home to its culture, knowledge, devotion, art and philosophy.
It has been used as a location for the shooting of countless films, both from India and across the borders, in addition to being the venue of numerous television serial and travel shows.
A very strange and unbelievable custom practised in the city of Varanasi is that of frog marriage, which is carried out in the rainy season at the Ashwamedh Ghat. The priest performs the ritual of wedding a couple of frogs and they are then left into the river.
All these interesting facts about the city are responsible for increasing the attraction value of the city for Indian and global travellers. It is believed that the ancient city has been a chief centre of civilization for the past 3000 years.