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Patwant Singh

Sikh holy city in Punjab, northern India. Lying on a flat stretch of agricultural land between the rivers Beas and Ravi, close to the Pakistan border, Amritsar (Skt amrit sarowar, ‘pool of nectar’) is the location of the Harmandir, the holiest of Sikh shrines at the heart of the Darbar Sahib temple complex, also referred to as the Golden Temple (see also Indian subcontinent §II 8., (ii) and §III, 7(ii)(a), fig.). It was the third Sikh guru, Amar Das (1552–74), who was first drawn to the area by the peace and tranquillity of its forested terrain and the pool where the Harmandir was later built. His successor, Guru Ram Das (1574–81), bought the pool and the surrounding land. Some historians believe that the Mughal emperor Akbar (reg 1556–1605) offered the land as a gift, but that Ram Das declined in keeping with the Sikh tradition of self-reliance (...

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M. A. Claringbull

[anc. Kāsī: ‘City of Light’; Kashi; Vārāṇasī; Banāras; Benares]

Sacred city and pilgrimage centre on the banks of the Ganga River between the Barna, or Varuna, and Asi rivers in Uttar Pradesh, India. It is the most holy of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism (the others being Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Kanchipuram, Ujjain and Dwarka) and has been the focus of Brahmanical learning and religious pilgrimage from ancient times.

The existence of the city from earliest times is attested by myriad references in the sacred texts. The kingdom of Kashi is mentioned in the Vedas, and the kings of Kashi are referred to in the Mahābhārata, although not until the Puranas is Varanasi mentioned as the capital city of Kashi. Around the time of the Buddha (600 bc) 16 great city states flourished in north India, the three most prominent being Maghada, Koshala and Varanasi. Owing to its strategic position at the confluence of the Ganga and Varuna rivers, Varanasi was a significant trading and commercial centre. In many tales of the previous lives of Buddha (Skt ...