Nicknamed the “City of Light,” Varanasi makes up one of the seven sacred cities and scholars believe that it is one of the oldest in existence. Established in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the city consists of passageways and maze-like corridors. Hindu legends illustrate the formation of Varanasi by the hands of the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva thousands of years ago. Historians believe the history of Varanasi dates back 3000 years. Its population is roughly 1.2 million, with the city spanning over an area of 82.1 Km. Four eras, including the Vedic, Buddhist, Muslim Invasion and British Invasion have made significant contributions that shaped Varanasi into the India’s cultural capital.  Varanasi lies on the edge of the Ganges River; the name originated from the confluence of Varuna and Asi, two rivers that merge with the Ganges.


The Ganges is 1,569 miles (2,525 km) in length, stretching through the nations of India and Bangladesh. Many incorporate the Ganges into their daily rituals, such as bathing, making offerings of oil and flower petals and paying homage to the gods by cupping water in one’s hands and letting it fall back into the river. Those who travel from far lands to visit the Ganges often carry small amounts of river water back home to use for other rituals. Bathing in the sacred waters is believed to wash away one’s sins and help the soul transition into the afterlife or gain acceptance into the cycle of reincarnation.