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Varanasi the cultural capital of our country is also the heart of India. This city is a confluence of spirituality, ancient wisdom, and timeless charm. It has been a cultural and religious epicenter in India for millennia. Varanasi is known for its mysterious ghats, ancient temples, and the sacred river Ganga, Varanasi has a rich history of thousands of years. But the question is what was the city called before it became known as Varanasi?

The Old Name of Varanasi

The Old Name of Varanasi:

The old name of Varanasi is โ€œKashiโ€, a word that holds profound spiritual significance in Hinduism. The name "Kashi" is derived from the Sanskrit word "Kas," which means to light up. Thus, Kashi means "City of Light." As the name suggests, it has been a confluence of knowledge, spirituality, and enlightenment for thousands of years.

Other Names of Varanasi:

The City of Lights: Varanasi is also called as the city of lights, and it is derived from its ancient name Kashi because the word Kashi is taken from the Sanskrit word โ€œKasโ€ that means to light up something that is why this city is called as the city of Lights.

The Cultural Capital of India: Varanasi is often referred to as the "cultural capital of India" due to its rich and ancient cultural heritage that has been preserved and passed down through generations. There are a lot of cultural activities that is performed at this place where pilgrimage from all over world come to this place.

Banaras: The name "Banaras" is adapted during the British colonial era. British officials anglicized many Indian names for ease of their pronunciation and administration. Over time, "Banaras" became a common way to say Varanasi.

Historical Significance:

The history of Kashi is linked with ancient times. According to Hinduism, the city was founded by Lord Shiva, making it an essential pilgrimage site for Hindus. Varanasi is mentioned in many ancient spiritual books, The city is mentioned in the Hrigveda, one of the oldest sacred books in Hinduism. Over the centuries, Kashi has been known as a center of learning, trade, and culture. Kashi is famous for its beautiful Ghats (steps leading to the river), which are used for bathing, cremation, and various religious activities. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the most sacred and visited temples in the city. Other significant places to visit in Varanasi are Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, the Tulsi Manas Temple, and the Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum. Overall, Kashi's history is deeply connected with India's ancient past and its diverse religious and cultural heritage. It remains an enduring symbol of spirituality, knowledge, and the continuity of civilization. The city's prominence in Hinduism is linked to its mention in several sacred texts, including the Vedas, Puranas, and the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva, one of the principal deities in the Hinduism, is believed to reside in Kashi. The city is considered the ultimate destination for spiritual liberation, and it is believed that dying here leads to salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and death.

Varanasi boating

Renaming to Varanasi:

Varanasi was an adopted name from Kashi in 14th century under the Delhi Sultanate. Varanasi is a combination of two rivers - "Varuna" and "Assi," both of which flow through the city. Over time, Varanasi became a popular name and gradually replaced Kashi in everyday usage. Despite the name change, the spiritual aura and the significance of the city remained the same as it was in ancient times. The city's numerous temples, religious rituals, and spiritual practices continued to thrive under the name Varanasi, continuing the legacy of its ancient roots. Today, Varanasi stands as a confluence of culture, religion, and tradition. The city attracts millions of pilgrims, seekers, and tourists, they come to experience the divine vibe of Kashi in its spiritual atmosphere. The ghats of Varanasi, steps that lead to the sacred river Ganges, remain the heart and soul of the city's spiritual life. Devotees come to bathe in the holy waters, perform rituals, and experience the aarti ceremony, a mesmerizing ritual of worship to the river Ganges. Varanasi's narrow aisles and bustling markets offer a glimpse into the everyday life of its residents and evoke a sense of timelessness that is hard to find elsewhere. The ancient temples, such as Kashi Vishwanath, Sankat Mochan, and Durga Temple, stand as testimonies to the city's spiritual heritage.


Varanasi, or Kashi, as it was known in the ancient past, captivates hearts and minds with its divine aura and rich history. The city's transition from Kashi to Varanasi might have brought a change in its name, but its essence and significance as the "City of Light" have endured through the ages. As the Ganges flows eternally and the ghats resonate with prayers and chants, Varanasi remains a symbol of spiritual awakening and cultural splendor, an immortal city that embraces both its ancient heritage and its place in the modern world.

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