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Varanasi – erstwhile Benares, cradle of the Ganga

Midway in its long journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, the waters of the Ganges flow through the holy city of Varanasi. According to Hindu belief, Benaras, or Varanasi as it is known, is the cosmic center of the universe. Its aura of history, religion, philosophy and tradition, is steeped in Hindu rituals and ideals. Numerous ghats, or steps leading down to the Ganges, present an ever-changing tableau from dawn to dusk. The number of ghats exceeds one hundred, all with their entourage of temples and ancient homes, thus forming the axis around which the city developed. The most important ghats are Assi, Dasawamedha, Barnasangam, Panchganga, and Manikarnika. Every evening, aarti, or prayers, are offered on the banks of the Ganges. As the lamps are lit, it is a sublime experience, and a sight to witness. The Banaras Hindu University is the largest residential university in Asia, and is a center of Sanskrit, Indian art, culture, and music.

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