Being the most sacred city in Hinduism and Jainism, and important in the history of Buddhism , Varanasi is India's most important pilgrimage destination. Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with settlements dating back to the 11th century BC. For some, the culture shock of the burning corpses in plain view and the feces overflowing from the Ganges can be a bit overwhelming. However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganga at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries-old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world. The city can be scorchingly hot in the summer months so, if possible, time your visit to fall between October and March, and bring something warm to wear for chilly days and nights, instead.
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One of the greatest scholars of his day is about to meet the source of all knowledge. The city of Varanasi lies four hundred miles northwest of Calcutta on the northern bank of the Ganges River. While there are historical records of pilgrimages to Varanasi dating back to the seventh century, to the faithful this most sacred of destinations has existed as a bustling holy city for much longer. The preeminent scholar in Varanasi at the beginning of the sixteenth century was Prakashananda Saraswati, a renounced priest, or sannyasi, in the line of Sripada Sankaracharya. Prakashananda and his colleagues were masters of the Vedas, the Sanskrit literature that includes extensive writings in every basic field of knowledge.
A major religious hub in India , it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities Sapta Puri in Hinduism and Jainism , and played an important role in the development of Buddhism and Ravidassia. Varanasi grew as an important industrial centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. The city's religious importance continued to grow in the 8th century, when Adi Shankara established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi. During the Muslim rule through the Middle Ages, the city continued as an important centre of Hindu devotion, pilgrimage, mysticism and poetry which further contributed to its reputation as a centre of cultural importance and religious education.