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History and Development of Varanasi

Varanasi since its inception is one of the places that are sacred and the most renowned holiest city of the Hindus. Shiva, the creator of earth, water and life as believed by the Hindus was believed to live and preach at Varanasi (Bailey, 2014). He is also believed to be the founder of the city of Varanasi (Farley, 2014). The reason behind the Hindus visiting Varanasi is that he place gives them saintly and anarchic experience as well as know about the teachings of Lord Shiva. Cannabis also known as ganja or marijuana is a famous thing that the visitor often smokes because the saints of Varanasi are doing the same thing for thousands of years or more  (Farooq, 2015). The reason behind this smoking is that the saints and visitors believes that Lord Shiva smokes weed and had told his followers to do the same. The belief is that Lord Shiva smoked weed and drank bhang because he got peaceful experience (Bailey, 2014).

There is a negative impact on the city’s history due to the visitors as they sometimes affect the city badly but the thought is wrong as there are many visitors exploring the city, many students learning about history and many people from round the world donating money and things which helps the locals to improve their lifestyle.

According to Mark Twain, “Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together" (Yuvraj, 2014).  Varanasi is believed to be the city of learning and is older than many other civilization of the world. The Hindus believes that dying in the land of Varanasi gives salvation and the person is free from the birth and re-births continuity (varnasi city , n.d.). The other name of Varanasi is Banaras or Kashi. Kashi is believed to be one of the favorite places of Lord Shiva where he used to smoke weed (rai, n.d.).

The one proverb says “Hustlers, bulls, stairs and the mendicant. These are the common things found in Kashi (Varanasi). By escaping them, one can attain salvation”! - this proverb means that most of the people come to Varanasi which is the spiritual capital of the country and world because of the stunning river tranquil, the sacred and historic temples and also ‘wash out their sins in the water of Varanasi’s river and get retreat in the shores known as the Ghats. The frequent scene that catches the eye is the cord of people smoking the marijuana with the help of a chillum. Even the leaders, prime ministers, presidents of the countries across the world come and visit Varanasi. Last year, the personalities who visited Varanasi were Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. They came to visit the holy Ganges or Ganga to gain the spiritual feeling and performed the pujaarchana, sankalp on the names of their dead elders on the river banks (Dubey, 2015). The western people come to Varanasi mainly to learn music and Indian mythological history as the music of Varanasi has a traditional hymn of Indian myth (korpela, 2010).

Spirituality in Varanasi

Other than Hinduism, there are different eras of the Varanasi city with a different history.

This is the era or period when the city started to gain its popularity as the city of culture and spiritual accent of Hinduism. The city was named as the ‘city of Shiva’ after the fact Shiva founded the city. This place is also famous for the Ganges that flow in here which is famous for healing the wound and correcting the worst. The pilgrims take a bath on the river of Ganges and wash out the sins they have performed throughout their life. The bath gives the liberation from the death and re-birth (go see feel, n.d).

Lord Buddha, who was earlier known as Siddhartha, started his first sermon at sarnath, a place in Varanasi. Buddha addressed Varanasi as one of the sacred pilgrimage sites for the Buddhist with the places, kushinagar, Bodh Gaya and Lumbini (JIMLUCE, 2012). Even before the appearance of Buddha, Banaras or Varanasi was a holy place. Hiouen Thasng (Xuanzang) who visited Varanasi in 635 AD addressed the city as a wealthy and prosperous place. Varanasi is precious to both the Hindu and Buddhist religion (go see feel, n.d.).

Muslim era:

From the beginning of the 12th century, the city of Varanasi was full of destruction due to the rule of the Muslim rulers and Islamic religion.  The most famous temple of Varanasi, The Kashi Vishwanath temple was destroyed and Mosques were built in a large number at that time in Varanasi, the Hindus also ran away from the city and returned after the 18th century (go see feel, n.d.).

British era:

During the British colonial period, Varanasi came up as an independent city along with Ramnagar, its capital. After the independence, Varanasi became a part of the state of Uttar Pradesh (go see feel, n.d).


The temples are the dedicated stone deception of the Gods. Temples always have stories and are decorated with lots of paintings as a reflection to those stories. Temple is a place where the pilgrims come to visit and worship the Lord and in return haves the blessings of lord. The common rule while entering every temple is the removal of shoes that makes sure that the devotees pay lots of respect to the lord and Hindu culture (Kumar, 2017).

This temple is also known as the Golden temple and it totally dedicated to Lord Shiva, the founder of the world, as believed. Jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light that gave Shiva the power to be the Lord of Lords is first seen in Varanasi. The Jyotirlinga reaches heaven by breaking the earth’s crust. The Shivling in the temple is the main attraction of Varanasi in terms of the Ghats and Ganges.

Annapurna mandir:

In Hinduism, Annapurna is the goddess of food. This temple attracts the pilgrims as they come here to pray for the health and happiness.

Kalbhairav mandir:

Kalbhairav was known as Lord Shiva’s protector and he was the decision maker of who can visit Lord Shiva and also who are eligible to stay in Varanasi. He is known as the Kotwal of Varanasi (Varanasi government, n.d).


Mritunjay mandir:

The visitors have a belief that worshipping at this temple will make them free from diseases (Varanasi government, n.d).

Tulsi manas mandir:

A great saint named Tulsidas used to live here and this temple is built in memory of him.

There are many other temples in Varanasi but they are not as important as the temples that are mentioned above (Varanasi government, n.d).

Weed is always found in Varanasi and is consumed in many form including bhang and hashish for drinking and smoking. From the raisin of cannabis plant, with high concentration of THC, Hashish is made (Herbs, 19). Even the restaurants have the cannabis cigarette for the pilgrims (Dikson, 15).

There are some stores which make and sell the bhang balls mixed with milk. A person after consuming this gets high and laughing is a common outcome of bhang. The people often are unable to stand on their own after drinking bhang. Rolling of paper and adding the weed to it makes it a joint (Sonaiye, 2016). Ganja is also available on the banks of the Ganges as the people believe that smoking weed and drinking bhang is the religious activity of the place. The marijuana, mixed with milk and other ingredients like dry fruits, poppy seeds and sugar is the main drink for performing meditation in Varanasi (Sanna, 2014). Thandai is the other and local name of bhang made out of marijuana leaves and dry fruits. In MahaShivratri, the cultural day of worshipping Lord Shiva the Hindus drink bhang and enjoy the rituals and occasion. Holi is another big festival of Varanasi where bhang is a common stuff. The smoking of weed is done by the saints uttering the name of Lord Shiva as weed is also believed to be the favourite of Lord Shiva (Acharya, 2015). .

There are many holy rivers of India but Ganga or the Ganges is famous among all of them. The holiness of Ganga is spread across the world and holds a special place in the Hindu culture (Tandon, 2017). The pilgrims and visitors believe that taking bath in Ganga not only cures the disease (Agoramoorthy, 2014) but also liberates the person from the cycle of life and death (Gorman, 2005). The river Ganga is known as the holy mother for the Hindus. The popularity of the river Ganga is spread across the world  (austrobix, n.d.). There are many Ghats in Varanasi where the pilgrims visit and resurrect the history of the city. The saints are seen answering the questions of the international visitors in a way they can and giving them lots of blessings.

According to the Hindu belief system, Ganges is another method of spiritual liberation. People take bath into the river or dip their heads at least once in their life. Also dying near Ganges is believed in helping them in attaining ‘moksha’ (austrobix, n.d). The Ganges river is also famous for several religious festivals such as ‘Kumbha Mela’ that occurs in different cities beside the river Ganges, but especially in Varanasi, the festivals happens in a beautiful way.

Smoking Ganja and Drinking Bhang

The Aarthi ritual for Ganges happens when people let the lamp flow as a symbol of respect for the mother Ganges. This ritual primarily takes place on the river banks at night in Varanasi. There are several Indian and foreigner tourists who enjoy the warmth of the city while they ride the boats across the river for watching the riverfront (Alley, 1992). This ritual is considered to be one of the significant cultural and recreational experiences in Varanasi.

According to the Hindu belief system after a person dies, the deceased body of the individual should be burnt into ashes and the rest of the ashes should be put into the river Ganges for ending the ultimate cycle of birth and death. Therefore the soul of the individual gets the liberation from the constant birth and death cycle and known to receive the Moksha  (McBride, 2014). Therefore the Hindu people in all around the world believe to send the ashes of the deceased persons to be dipped or thrown in the Ganges. There are also some people who come to the holy river for dying near the holy river for attaining Moksha.

Therefore it can be seen in the river Ganges that several bodies are floating on the river. The data also shows that around 1, 00,000 bodies tend to be cremated into the river Ganges on an annual basis as in Hinduism the eternal journey of the human life gets instigated through the process of cremation (GESLER & PIERCE, 2000).

In the Hinduism, the meditation and Yoga is another part of the religion which is considered by most of the monks and sadhus who reside in Varanasi. They teach meditation and Yoga to other people. The sadhu or the monk is a holy person who is an austere, however not every one of them preaches Yoga. These sadhus contribute their entire life for achieving the liberation or Moksha from the eternal cycle of birth and death. In Hinduism death is considered as the final stage of life. The Hindu monks are generally seen to have worn the saffron clothes which is also a symbol of the Hindu gurus who have left their families and the past materialistic lives for the further growth of humanity. There are several pilgrims from other countries who tend to visit Varanasi due to experience the spiritual enlightenment with meditation and yoga. They tend to hire the local guides who help them in exploring the entire city. As stated by a foreigner tourist Andrea Bogart and her partner Eric, they did some meditation and Yoga along with the sadhus. They experienced the asana Utthita Padmasana and liked the trip very much (bogart, 2016).

There are several significant monks in India including Buddha, Sankaracharya and Babaji have lived in Varanasi. The Lahiri mahasaya have lived and performed the “yoga kriya” for several devotees in Varanasi. There are several hotels in the city that are located all around the river bank. The travelers are given permission for meditating and walking around the banks of the river which are called the ghats. Previously, a monk from Varanasi was asked that what his primary objective of life is, he has replied, “no matter what the religion, practice, we are all the same I want the universe to live in peace with ourselves and with the rest of the world. I want to teach the people to live in peace; yoga and meditation are the platform for them” (Jean-Philippe, 2003).


The political insinuations on the city, Varanasi has been considered to be a serious one after the last election of Varanasi in 2014 where the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi was the candidate of BJP party. He was contesting the election from this center; therefore almost everything has changed after his selection as the Prime Minister of India. The cleaning of Varanasi has started afterwards under the project named ‘Swatcch Bharat’, which was one of primary political agendas. Now the city looks very pretty and the ghats and the streets are cleaner. When the people from all over the world come to Varanasi they enjoy being in the city and experience the changed city all around.

Also the recent Note ban in India created a disorder in the entire market as the main sales of the Vanarasi shares got highly hampered due to the sudden ban of the notes. The Note ban has also affected the medium and small scale industries in Varanasi, particularly the textile industries. The textile industry is the center of the Varanasi as several women from all around the world come to Varanasi for buying the sarees and experiencing the Indian tradition. However due to the note ban the textile industry has faced almost no clients at all during a specific time. If the domestic and the international tourism in the country gets hugely hampered due to the note ban as the pilgrimage sites and the tourists spots were almost empty and several people were unemployed due to that reason (times of india , 2016).


Varanasi is a city in Uttar Pradesh state. The state has seen a huge surge in the local tourists as the state has moved to the second position in the tourist attracting list. It was at the second position in the top ten states and attracted around 22.2 crore local Indian tourists in 2013 in the year 2012 (Bhandari, 2015). The state was in the third position and attracted around 17 crore domestic tourists that year. Varanasi is considered to be the second most visited place due to its unique combination of having oldest pilgrimages on the earth which are old around 5000 years. Varanasi has several temples of lord Shiva and other Hindu deities. There are old spiritual temples that have attracted tourists all around the world from its inception age. The inflow of tourists has increased in Varanasi not only from India also from all over the globe. Only in the Varanasi city, the inflow of tourists was nearly 53 lacks in the year 2013 (Bhandari, 2015). The increasing inflow of tourists in Varanasi not only increased the contribution of Varanasi to the GDP of the country, but also it increased the foreign exchange earnings because of the global inflow of tourists and their spending of money in Varanasi.


The tourism can have huge impact on the contemporary society of Varanasi; therefore there can be several positive and negative impacts of the global tourism. The arrival of international tourists can create a huge wealth for the hotel industry and other related industries involving the spiritual and the yoga centers. There has a huge boom in the yoga industry in Varanasi due to the visits of international tourists. The data also shows that there has been an unfavorable impact on the standards of living of the population of Varanasi.

It is not only the a place of visit for the Hindus, but also for the other religions such as Islam, Christianity, Jews and Buddhism where other followers of these religions also came together and resided here for millions of year in a peaceful manner and took their spiritual guidance from the spiritual gurus of Varanasi.


Varanasi has been known for being a very dirty city due to not cleaning the trashes and throwing several things on the roads, particularly in the holy Ganges River (O’Donnell, 2012). According to the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) this issue has turned into quite a serious issue for the well being of the individuals in the city and had a huge nehgative impact. The air in Varanasi was very much polluted due to the burning of the dead bodies of people and the huge population has worsened the entire situation. The pollution level of the water in the river Ganges in Varanasi was also high due to putting the industrial wastages in the river. In addition to that, people coming from several corners of the country in Varanasi for throwing the ashes in the river made in more polluted. The city regional liabilities and the domestic liabilities were extreme (ALLEY, 2017). The government of the state has tried their best to improve the situation. However on the global level it was never added as an ecological harm (Amina-Laura Schild, 2011).


The Kumbh fair held once in a decade, therefore there have been several guides from the Varanasi city who had helped the devotees to reach the pilgrimage. The government has passes a license for the guides so that the tourists do not fall into traps of the fake guides. The ban on big notes of Rs500 and Rs1000 on the date November 08 had created the confusion in Varanasi and the global tourists had to face the enormous deficiency of the money (times of india, 2012). Therefore it had left the people dry and the tourist had to face the heat without any money.


The tourism in Varanasi requires a greater transformation in the infrastructure as it will be helpful for the domestic people along with helping the global tourists in gaining fame from all over the world. Weed is also a significant part of the culture of Varanasi. Therefore the government should promote the culture and legalize it as when the foreigners are coming to the city they can get weed without any kind of legal harassments (Korepela, 2010). The river Ganges should also clean and the issue of throwing dead bodies should be stopped immediately for preventing the pollution in the river.


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