Kasi or Varanasi is one of the most ancient, famous and holiest of the holy Hindu pilgrim centres. It is situated between two small streams that flow into the river Ganges, Varana on its northern border and Asi (or Assi) on its southern border, from whom it derives its name Varanasi. The name Kasi is derived from either its original founder or a dynasty that ruled it or the kingdom with which it was associated. According to another theory the place might have got its name from a grass named Kusa that grew wildly in the region where the city was built.
Varanasi has been a sacred place since ancient times. It is mentioned in the Vedas, Puranas, the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and also many Jain and Buddhist texts. It also goes by its more popular name Kasi and the lesser known bur spiritually more significant name Avimukta. During the British rule, like many place names in India, it was anglicized into Benares, the holy city of “Hindoos”.
During the course of its 3000 or more years of history, the city of Varanasi witnessed many important events and movements of Hindu religion and Indian civilization. The city passed through several tumultuous phases starting from the ascendance of the Vedic culture around 1000 BC. It bore witness to the transformation and integration of the Vedic tradition in the Gangetic valley, the teachings of the Buddha on the banks of the Ganges to the new converts, the wanderings of the much revered Jinas and Ajivakas begging for alms, the construction, expansion and consecration of its many temples by generous patrons, the religious animosity that led to the desecration and destruction of its gods and temples from time to time, and its reemergence in modern times into a famous Hindu pilgrimage center.