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Varanasi (Sanskrit: वाराणसी Vārāṇasī, pronunciation [ʋaːɾaːɳəsiː] (help·info)), also commonly known as Benares ([bə.naː.rəs]) or Banaras (Hindi: बनारस, Urdu: بنارس, Banāras pronunciation [bənɑːɾəs] (info)) and Kashi (Hindi: काशी Kāśī [kaː.ʃiː] (info)), is a city situated on the left (west) bank of the River Ganga (Ganges) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, regarded as holy by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, and one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.[3][4]

The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in northern India for several thousand years. The Benares Gharana form of Indian classical music developed in Varanasi, and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians resided or reside in Varanasi, including Kabir, Ravi Das, Munshi Premchand, Jaishankar Prasad, Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Hariprasad Chaurasia, and Ustad Bismillah Khan. Tulsidas wrote his Ramacharitamanas there, and Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath near Kashi.[citation needed] Ayurveda is said to have originated at Varanasi.[citation needed]

Varanasi is home to the Banaras Hindu University. Residents mainly speak Kashika Bhojpuri, which is closely related to the Hindi language. People often refer to Varanasi as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", "the city of learning" and the "culture capital of India".[5]

American writer Mark Twain wrote: "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together."[6]

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Additional Photos by Anamitra Chakladar (achakladar) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Silver Note Writer [C: 93 W: 13 N: 45] (786)
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