Town and temple site in West Bengal, India, about 80 km north of Calcutta. Located on the banks of the Bhagirathi River, it was once an important port and commercial centre, but by the late 19th century its importance had declined owing to the silting up of the river and the opening of the East Indian Railway. It is now best known for several temples built during the 18th and 19th centuries by wealthy landowners, merchants and officers of local governors. Many are dated by inscription. Built of brick, they are decorated with dense arrangements of terracotta reliefs depicting scenes from the Rāmāya ṇa, the Krishna legend and scenes of everyday life, including figures in European dress. A variety of temple types are seen; the most common have squat, curvilinear superstructures, sometimes double-storey, or upper levels consisting of several towers (see Indian subcontinent §III 7., (ii), (d)). The Lalji Temple (...
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