Varanasi is a historical city in the state of Uttar Pradesh and historically known as Kashi. Situated on the banks of the holy River Ganges, it is commonly known as Benares or Banaras. The city has many titles like "The City of Temples", "The City of Learning", "The Holy City of India", "The Religious Capital of India" and "The City of Lights".
Hindus regard this city as one of the most sacred cities in India. It is said that the city was found 5000 years ago by Lord Shiva. The existence of the city has been noted in many Hindu scriptures like Rig-Veda, Skanda Purana, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Historically, Varanasi is at least 3,000 years old. In 567 BC, during the time of Gautama Buddha, Varanasi was the capital of the kingdom of Kashi. The city was a commercial and industrial centre, particularly famous for its muslin, perfumes, ivory works, sculpture and silk fabrics.
The Ramnagar Fort at Varanasi needs a special reference. It was here, the Maharaja of Banaras resided for centuries. The fort is actually a fort cum palace; a masterpiece built by Maharaja Balwant Singh with red stone. The fort has a famous temple dedicated to Vedavyasa who was the writer of the famous epic Mahabharata and a Hindu figure of yore, divinity, whose status in Hinduism is equal to that of the gods.
Varanasi has always attracted thousands of visitors not only because of its religious significance, but also for it historic heritage. Jantar Mantar is an observatory which was built along with those of Jaipur, Delhi, Ujjain and Mathura. It was built in the year 1737 by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur, who was a great patron of science and technology and he was very passionate about astronomy.
Another great site to visit is the Archaeological Museum Sarnath founded in 1904. It is the oldest site museum of the ASI and houses exhibits which date from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD. There are five galleries which have been named according to their contents. Some of the main displays of the museum include the Lion Capital of the Mauryan Pillar, images of the Buddha in different postures, inscriptions of Kumardevi etc.
The historical city of Varanasi is also famous for its many cultural events. One upcoming event is the Sankat Mochan Music Festival which will be held from 10th-14th April 2012. Organised by the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department, this annual event is held in the premises of the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple to mark the birth of Hanuman, the monkey god. Renowned artists from all over India like Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Ravi Shankar and others perform here voluntarily. Plays based on works like Hanuman Charitra, Ram and Saraswati are also staged. Entry to this event is free.