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Varanasi - India

Varanasi (also commonly known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi, is a city located on the banks of the Ganges River in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 320km (199 miles) southeast of the state capital Lucknow. It is regarded as a holy city by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India. Varanasi's Old City near the banks of the Ganges, has crowded narrow winding lanes that are flanked by road-side shops and scores of Hindu temples. There are nearly 100 ghats in the city. Among the famous and the oldest of these are the Dashashwamegha Ghat, the Manikarnika Ghat and the Harishchandra Ghat. Popular temples are Kashi vishwanath temple, Durga temple, Sankat mochan, Bharat mata, Tulsi manas. Tilbhandeshwar temple, one of the oldest temples in Varanasi. Across the river, Ramnagar Fort and its museum are the repository of the history of the kings of Benares and since the 18th century has been the home of Kashi Naresh. Even today the Kashi Naresh is deeply revered by the people of Benares. The Ramnagar Fort was built by Kashi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh with creamy chunar sandstone in the eighteenth century and is a typically Mughal style of architecture with carved balconies, open courtyards, and picturesque pavilions. The other fort of the Kashi Naresh is the Chet Singh Palace, near the Shivala Ghat. Varanasi is generally believed to be about 3000 years old and was famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautama Buddha (born circa 567 BCE), Varanasi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kashi. Varanasi became an independent Kingdom of Kashi in the eighteenth century, and under subsequent British rule, it remained a commercial and religious centre. In 1910, the British made Varanasi a new Indian state, with Ramanagar as its headquarters.