Famed as the Place of Devas that was founded by Bhagavan Siva Himself, some five thousand years ago, Kasi has a hoary legend with age-old reputation worldwide. Varun and Ganga and also Assi, flowing in different directions, confluence in ‘Varana-Assi’ or Varanasi. Euologised in several Scriptures like Rig Veda, Puranas and Epics, Varanasi was the Capital of Kasi King three thousand years ago and was reputed even by then as the capital of Religion, Education and Arts. The City covers some five kilometers of the Holy and Everflowing Ganges on its banks attracting lakhs of Pilgrims every year as the Ultimate Destination of Salvation for Hindus of all faiths and several other religions especially Buddhists and Jains. This is the Sacred Spot that Bhagavan Visveswara manifested as Avimukta Jyotir Linga in the renowned Golden Visveswara Temple. It is stated that Lord Brahma executed such severe Tapasya (meditation) here so much that Maha Vishnu moved His head across fast in disbelief and the latter’s ear ring fell at a place on the bank of the River and was since then named ‘Manikarnika’. When Brahma was once chanting Vedas in praise of Siva in the form of the Jyoti Linga with the former’s ‘Panchamukhas’ or Five Heads, some pronounciation slips rolled by and becoming furious of the chanting mistakes which changed the sense of the words, Lord Siva opened the third eye and burnt one of Brahma’s heads which fell and found a permanent place in the Temple. Viswanath Temple is also considered as a ‘Shakti Peetha’ and it is believed that Devi Sati’s ear-rings fell at the spot where Devi Visalakshi’s shrine stands. Durga Temple, nick-named as Monkey Temple owing to large presence of monkeys, is considred as a shrine built originally by Durga Herself and during ‘Navarathras’ of Dussera festival comes fully alive and heavily crowded by devotees. Sankata Vimochana Hanuman Temple is frequently visited, especially on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The Shrine of Annapoorni is stated as the place where Devi Annapurna Herself distributed ‘Anna’ (Rice and so on) to devotees when there was a famine and Lord Siva Himself asked for ‘Anna’ in the disguise of a Beggar! There is a Neelakantha Temple with Deities of Vishnu, Avikuntha Vinayaka, Virupakshi Gauri, Saniswara and clusters of Five-some Lingas. A separate shrine dedicated to Kala Bhairava is present too in the courtyard. On the five km long banks of Ganga are situated hundreds of ‘Ghats’ or areas specified for many purposes like Sacrifices or Yagnas and Homams, some for bathing, or some even owned privately. For eg. ‘Dasasvamedha’ Ghat where Brahma performed Yagnas and even now Brahmanas perform Agni Sthomas, Homas to please Devas and so on; ‘Manikarnika Ghat’ where Brahama executing penance and Vishnu’s earrings were lost at the disbelief of the former’s strengh to do it so seriously and shook His earrings fast and lost these while Devi Parvati pretended that Her earrings were lost so that Siva would stay back to search the lost earrings forever and thus tie Him up to Kasi and such other beliefs. Besides the Manikarnika Ghat, where dead bodies are brought for the favour of cremation to attain mukti (salvation), there is the Harischandra Ghat where the Illustrious King Harischandra was posted as a slave and cremated dead bodies with the same belief of attaining salvation. It is common knowledge that the King stood for truthfulness and endured the most severe tests of life of selling off his family and Son, became a life-long slave and finally attained Salvation.There are many other Ghats like ‘Man Mandir Ghat’ near Someswara Linga Temple, Lalitha Ghat near by Pasupatinath Temple, Tulasi Ghat where Tulsidas scripted Ramayana and so on. Ranging from Kings and Queens, Foreign Plunderers, Great Saints , modern Educationists, Artistes, Disbelievers, Non Hindu Followers, and even modern Pandas-anybody be named and be found- are all attracted to this Memorable City for their reasons of Salvation, Religion, wordly fulfilments, mischief or mere curiosity: but Maha Deva Blesses them all whatever may be the motive!

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at [email protected]