Varanasi: The City of Lord Shiva
Varanasi is perhaps the most important place of pilgrimage and is closely connected so Shiva. It also relates to the funeral ceremony .
Varanasi is situated on the bank of the River Ganges. The name “Varanasi” comes from the two rivers, Varna and Assi, which join the Ganges on the northen and southern borders of the city. The city was originally called Kashi, or “the city of lights” and is mentioned as the foremost city of Lord Shiva in the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavat Purana and the Puranas, which date back five thousand years.
Many older people come to Varanasi to die and be cremated at the burning ghats (places) along the river. Anyone who dies in Varanasi is said to attain moksha (liberation). Being cremated at Varanasi is considered to add to the pious credits of the individual, and for this reason, many corpses are brought here.
Many saints and sages have come to Varanasi including Budhha, Chaitanya, Shankaracharya and Shri Ramanuja.
A five mile parikrama (circumambulation) path encircles this sacred city. There are 81 bathing ghats and other holy kundas or sacred lakes. The three most important ghats are Manikarnika, Dasaswamedha and Panch-ganga. According to the Kasi-Khandha, if one gives up one’s body at Manikarnika, one is liberated simply by remembering Lord Shiva’s name.