Banaras, Varanasi, Kashi: These are names used in India to refer to the pilgrimage city that is arguably the heart of Hindu South Asia. Located in the middle Ganga Valley between the Varana and Asi rivers in India's eastern Uttar Pradesh, it is one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities. Kashi (“luminous”) is its oldest moniker, first associated with the kingdom of the same name 3,000 years ago. Varanasi is another designation, found in the Buddhist Jataka tales and in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, and indeed today, Varanasi is the city's revived, postindependence designation, which combines the names of the two rivers on either side of it. The city was identified in the Pali language as Baranasi, from which emerged the corrupt form of ...

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