Varanasi, one of world's oldest living cities, is rightly called the religious capital of India. Also known as Banaras or Benaras, this holy city is located in the south-eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. It rests on the left bank of the holy river Ganga (Ganges), and is one of the seven sacred spots for Hindus. Every devout Hindu hopes to visit the city at least once in a lifetime, take a holy dip at the famous 'Ghats' of the Ganga, walk the pious Panchakosi road that bounds the city.
Both Hindus and non-Hindus from around the world visit Varanasi for different reasons. Although Varanasi is popularly called the city of Shiva and Ganga, it is at once the city of temples, the city of 'ghats', the city of music, and the center for moksha or nirvana.
For every visitor, Varanasi has a different experience to offer. The gentle waters of the Ganges, the boat ride at sunrise, the high banks of the ancient "Ghats", the array of shrines, the meandering narrow serpentine alleys of the city, the myriad temple spires, the palaces at water's edge, the ashrams (hermitages), the pavilions, the chanting of mantras, the fragrance of incense, the palm and cane parasols, the devotional hymns - all offer a kind of mystifying experience that is unique to the city of Shiva.