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Banaras: The Ancient City With A Twist

A sense of historic relevance floats around Banaras and you will found it everywhere you go

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Banaras has a heritage which is more than 3000 years old. Wikimedia Commons
Banaras has a heritage which is more than 3000 years old. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma 

  • Banaras is one of the oldest cities in the world
  • It is a historic, cultural and religious hub
  • The ancient city is full of fascinating places and stories

Banaras or Varanasi is considered one of the oldest cities in the world. It is situated in Uttar Pradesh, India. It is a city on the banks of the river Ganga and is one of the seven sacred cities of India.

Banaras is undoubtedly one of the most interesting cities in India. It is a historical, religious and political hub. The city combines all the major aspects of India beautifully in one place. One side, where there are religious ghats, on the other, there are streets full of political discussions. It is one colourful city, in all aspects possible.

Banaras – A city with a rich culture and history 

In Banaras, there are stories everywhere you look. Stories and myths about gods, royalties, politicians, there is nothing which you won’t hear here.

There is also a story behind the city’s famous other name, Varanasi. It starts with the two rivers, Varuna and Assi, which meet in this city, hence the name, ‘Varanasi’. During the Mughal rule, they changed the name to ‘Banaras’.

Banaras has a rich historic and religious heritage. Wikimedia Commons
Banaras has a rich historic and religious heritage. Wikimedia Commons

A sense of historic relevance floats around the city and you will found it everywhere you go. Whether it is, you’ll find traces of history and culture in every nook of Banaras.

 Famous Places in Banaras 

Banaras is full of places which will interest not only a travel enthusiast but also, any normal person. Whereas, Sarnath will acquaint you with the birthplace of Buddha. Ramnagar Fort will acquaint yo with a impressive vintage cars, clocks, and pictures. And who can miss the famous ‘Aarti’ on the banks of river Ganga, it is one of the most enchanting experiences one could have.

Also Read: The land that has conserved the essence Hinduism for over 3000 years 

And also, the famous hindu temple, Kashi Vishwanath. It is one of the greatest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Also, the Banaras Hindu University or BHU, which is a dream college for many and the political hub for its students. The markets are also very colourful and full of great deals.

the famous Banaras Hindu University is one of the most premium institutes in India, Wikimedia Commons
the famous Banaras Hindu University is one of the most premium institutes in India, Wikimedia Commons

The city of Varanasi has you covered for food too. The ‘Chaats’ are a must try. And the ‘Kulhaad Chai’ is another quintessential  delicacy you can find in the ancient city.

Banaras is undoubtedly is a small but a great city which is ancient, but with a twist of modernity.

Next Story

The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

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Gulyana, Pakistan

By: Wali Imran (Hindu Council of Australia)

900 years old Gulyana town of about a 50,000 people, just a few kilometers South of Gujar Khan, was raised to the ground once several centuries ago, by raiders from the West. The second time it was destroyed during the 1947 partition riots.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Before 1947, the Gulyana town center was mostly Hindu and Sikh. The Hindus and Sikh owned all the businesses in the town center and Muslims were their tenants, peasants and laborers. Muslims sold their lands to pay off their debts and also handed over their crop of wheat. The Dewan, Dutt, Mohyal Brahmin, and Singh families were always part of royal elite.

Bollywood Star Sanjay Dutt is from the same branch of warrior Brahmin Dutt and belongs to the same place.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Land owners were guaranteed protection from military’s presence in Gujar Khan from the North and a rivulet from the south. This land produced sheer gold and wealthy Sikhs and Hindus lived like kings in mansions make of stone, several storey high.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Bakshi Tek Chand, Dewan Prithvi Chand Dutt, Bakshi Moti Ram and Tara Singh were the dominant names of those times.  They built temples, dug up wells for the 30-50 kanal holdings each and distributed these lands amongst their permanent serfs. They did however, treat their serfs with respect and gave them a good share of the crop — what do you expect from absentee landlords.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The Sikh had a timber business. Logs from Kashmir valley were dumped into Jhelum River and recovered downstream near Jhelum city to be sold at Gujar Khan.

The Hindus were mostly traders, money lenders and retailers.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Muslims were mostly illiterate and poor and were destined to stay that way considering the only quality boarding school in nearby Gujar Khan had 95% non-muslim attendance.

During the 1947 riots, one Sikh Bali Singh and one Hindu Lady Banto were killed in the riots but the rest were whisked away with their gold, in the safety of Gorkha soldiers. The Muslim riot crowd burnt to the ground the several symbols of oppression and got rich in the process, during the looting.

One Hindu tehsildar had the magistrate’s powers to jail someone for 6 months.

Gulyana, Pakistan

When the British left suddenly in 1947, the carefully crafted social experiment in native subjugation came crumbling down within days.

Otherwise, one 100 years old resident of Gulyana tells me, “the Hindus and Sikh were very friendly towards the Muslims, their women played around with the boys, molvi were not trouble makers then; they cared about their serfs and neighbors’, built schools, hospitals and wells for the general public. No Muslim was allowed into their kitchen however. Balraj, Sita, Beera, Ramu Shikari, Gujrati, Peecha Singh, Mangat Singh, Jawals Singh, Raab Singh, Gurdyal, were the well-known Hindus and Labbu, Gurra, Jagdev, Santa, Paacha, Chatru were the known Sikh of the time. One Tek Chand Never left for India and embraced Islam. His wife and three sons left for India. Tek Chand married a Muslim lady and had seven children. They are all in poverty now. Several of the old mansion, one dhramsala, one temple, several bowlis (watering hole) have been lost to time.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The surrounding farms around Gulyana were refreshing. The old styled spoke wells, Sikh Samadhi, Hindu temple and 100 years old Gujarati’s mansion still survives.Gulyana, Pakistan

I went into the temple inner sanctum and saw the most beautiful frescos of mixed Hindu and Sikh religious figures like hanuman, Krishna, Sita, Baba Guru Nanak, Bala, Mardana, etc.

Gulyana, Pakistan

 

Pakistan government build a dam 5 km upstream, called the Ugahaun; it’s a lovely place to fish and boat around.

The union council in 1947 had more financial powers than it does today.

In short, all the entrepreneurs, educators, administrator, jurisprudence people, revenue people, land record people and large scale farmers left in 1947.

Gulyana, Pakistan

I am astonished how Pakistan survived with an illiterate mass of people, steeped in poverty — traumatized by exploitation and mass killings.

Other interesting places in Potohar region are:

Also Read: Protecting The World, The Hindu Way

Bedi Mahal, Pharwala fort, Malot fort, Sangini fort, Rawat fort and Mankial Stupa. (Hindu Council of Australia)