Why Every Seeker Must Visit Kashi
Kashi or Varanasi, as it is now referred to, is regarded as the oldest living city in the world, dating back to before the 11th century B.C. Before ancient Greece was even a thought, Kashi was there.
Before the first stone structure in Rome was placed, Kashi was there. Also known as Benaras, Mark Twain said this, “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Located on the west bank of the Holy River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, many Indians and Hindus believe that going to Kashi to die, will allow them to attain complete dissolution from the ultimate suffering of continuous birth, death, and rebirth. Kashi is one of the holiest of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism, known as the spiritual capital of India, still vibrantly alive, brazenly colorful, and rich with history and tradition. Let’s look at why every seeker must visit Kashi at some point during their journey.
Why Was Kashi Built?
Creation, in and of itself, is what is known as “cosmogenic.” “Cosmos” in Greek literally means “made to order” or something that was created by a plan, instead of just happening. “Genesis” literally mean “birth” or “creation.” So, Kashi was not some random happening or a city just build and created as time went on. It was created around a very specific plan.
When ancient yogis saw and realized the nature of the cosmos, how it evolves from within itself and has the ability to evolve limitlessly, they wanted to create a city of the same evolutionary capabilities. Kashi itself is essentially a micro-replica of the cosmos.
Kashi was created and built as an instrument to bring together the microcosm and the macrocosm. When this happened, a phenomenal possibility was created, which allowed the human being and the cosmos to meet. Architecturally and geometrically, Kashi is a perfect manifestation of this.
What’s magnificently astounding about Kashi is the incredible feat that it took to create, and it was done thousands of years ago. The city was designed very specifically with 72,000 shrines, the same number of nadis or energy pathways in the human system. In other words, Kashi is like a huge manifestation of a human body making contact with a much larger cosmic body. It was this that started the whole tradition that if you went to Kashi, you never wanted to leave. Once one gets connected to the cosmic nature, they no longer need anything else.
Kashi is a Yantra
Yantra means “machine” or “mechanism.” When machines are created, they are designed to enhance who we are, to help us perform better than what we can without them. When we build machines, we take a part of the earth and manifest it into whatever the machine is, as every material comes from right here on our planet. When we take material from the earth and turn it into a machine, there is a certain inertia to it. However, when we want to create something that needs to function perpetually or for an extreme amount of time, it needs to be created without the need for inertia. Traditionally, this is what is known as a yantra or an “energy machine.” Kashi was built and created as one huge phenomenal yantra to enhance one’s inner wellbeing, without physicality attached to it.
Kashi Has Rich History
When Kashi was in full-swing thousands of years ago, it is said that the energy there was so vibrant, so powerful, that whoever went there, never wanted to leave. It is believed that Shiva himself lived in Kashi during the winters. Gautama the Buddha attained enlightenment under the famous Bodhi tree, just roughly 10 km from Kashi in a nearby village called Sarnath. It was there that he gave his first sermon, giving birth to Buddhism.
Varanasi was an important industrial center, known famously for its production of muslin and silk fabrics, ivory works, art, perfumes, and sculpture. Kashi was the hub for the world’s leaders in science, mathematics, art, yoga, mysticism, writing, poetry, and was a very strong center for spiritual education and cultural importance. Over many years, Kashi has been the home to many prominent and highly regarded Indian writers, poets, and philosophers. It is also where the Benares Gharana form of Hindustani classical music was developed, some 200 years ago.
Why Every Seeker Must Visit Kashi
Making the pilgrimage to Kashi is an immensely spiritual experience. It is a chance to transform yourself, by soaking in the intense energy of the spiritual capital of India.
- Shiva, the first yogi and the first guru, resided in Kashi. In one verse of the ancient religious text of Skanda Purana, Shiva said, “The three worlds form one city of mine, and Kāśī is my royal palace therein.” Varanasi is home to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, considered to be one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and one of the most famous and spiritually important temples in all of India.
- It is believed that a single dip in the waters of the Holy River Ganges can wash away a lifetime of sins.
- Known as ‘Maha-Smashana’ or ‘The Great Cremation Grounds’, the holy city of Kashi will humble you, by bringing you face-to-face with the balance of life and death.
- A chance to witness the powerful nightly ritual called, Ganga Aarti, paying tribute to the Holy River.
- When it was in full-swing, Kashi was the world’s hub for art, music, science, mathematics, yoga, devotion, philosophy, poetry, writing, and many other things. It was also the birth place of several key figures of the Bhakti movement.
- Roughly 10 kilometers from Kashi is the 1500-year old Mahabodhi Temple, marking the spot of the legendary Bodhi tree, under which Gautama Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment. Buddha delivered his first sermon at Sarnath, near Varanasi, which marks the spot that gave birth to Buddhism.