By Rituparna Chakrobarty
Varanasi has been a famous centre of Hindu religion for at least three thousand years. In the ancient Hindu literature also Varanasi has invariably been dealt with as the Dharma-Kshetra which means the religious area.
It is not for nothing that Varanasi has been called India in miniature. A bird’s-eye-view of Varanasi as a center of religion and monastic aspect reveals that practically all religious sects have their branches in this city. From Buddhism to Islam, all the religions have been able to exist here in harmony,
It may not be possible to describe in detail the various centers and monastical establishments connected to various communities and sects. But a general survey reveals that practically all ancient and modern persuasions have their representation in this holy city.
Why Varanasi has so much influence on people?
Most people from across the globe come to visit the Kashi Vishawnath temple. According to Hindu mythology out of 12 Shivlingam disseminated one of its linga is situated here in Vishawnath.
According to the Kashi khand- the so called directory of Kashi, there are 811 temples and 288 tirthas in Varanasi. Out of it 513 are Shiva lingas, 49 Vishnu temples, 75 temples of Devis and 71 idols of Lord Ganesha and rest consists of Surya, Bhairava, Yoginis and many others.
It is believed that the city was devotee of Lord Vishnu as it was ruled by the emperor Adi Keshav who belongs to Vaishnva sect and there was no existence of Lord Shiva. But with due change in time Shiva liked the place and he invited all the other Hindu gods-goddesses to have a stay at Kashi.
In puranas the four names used to describe the religious state viz: Kashi, Varanasi, Avimukta and Antargriha.
Religious and monastic Institutions
Beyond Hinduism it adds more religious fervour to followers of Buddhism and Jainism.
Buddha had met the five Brahmans whom he preached his sermon known in Buddhist phraseology as Dharama-chakara-Pravartana, after attaining Nirvana here in Sarnath. Ashoka later built a Stupa at this place which is known as Chaukhandi Stupa.
The countries like Tibet, Myanmmar, Sri lanka, Thailand and Japan have built their own monasteries in the place.
People from various countries come to visit the city to rejuvenate their lives as they gain mental peace and sanity from visiting this religious place. Also they found themselves closer to the god as it is believed that this land is pathway to the heaven.