Positioned on the left bank of the Ganges River, Varanasi is commonly referred to as Benares or Banaras, and sometimes Kashi. Not only does this city possess significance for Buddhists, but also for Hindus and Jains. In this article, you will also learn about other Buddhist pilgrimage sites, Vesali and Sankasia.
Varanasi is also known as one of the oldest cities in the world that has been continuously inhabited throughout history. The Ganges River itself holds great religious importance, where most of the Varanasi culture is centered on. For several thousand years, the city has served as a cultural and religious hub in northern India. The holy city is also known as one of the most sacred of pilgrimage sites for Hindus no matter what their denomination. Each year, more than 1,000,000 pilgrims pay a visit to the city.
Varansi is home to the holy shrine of Lord Kashi Vishwanath (which is regarded as a manifestation of Lord Shiva), which attracts many people to the city. It is in a residential neighborhood in Varanasi that you will find Sarnath , the site where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon pertaining to the foundation of Buddhism. The city is also a pilgrimage site for Jains who believe to be the birthplace of Parshvanatha, known as the twenty-third Tirthankar , an individual that achieves enlightenment and then becomes a teacher (or role model) for those who are in search of spiritual guidance.
In the past, Vesali was known as the capital of the Licchavis and the Vajjian Confederacy, which produced some of the first flashes of democracy that the world had ever seen. During the time of the Buddha, Vesali was a rather large city that catered to a great deal of wealthy and successful inhabitants. The city was crowded with happy residents that had plenty to eat and plenty to do.
During his fifth year after his Enlightenment, the Buddha paid his first visit to Vesali and decided to spend the rainy season there. Over the years, it is not known how many times the Buddha traveled to Vesali, but some texts suggest that he made several journeys to the city.
This ancient city in India is known by a variety of different names, such as Sankassa, Sankissa, and Sankasya. During the time of the Buddha, Sankasia grew in importance. It is said that the city is home to the one spot in the world that all Buddhas descend. A shrine was constructed on the spot where the Buddha’s right foot first touched the ground at Sankasia. Today, visitors find the ruins of old monasteries and Buddhist monuments, but not many people make the journey to the site because it is difficult to reach and not many facilities are in existence.