The religious and cultural heartbeat of India can be found in Kashi, the most sacred city for Hindus, and the oldest living city in the world, dating back to 2,000 BCE.
It is so known as Benares, Banaras or Varanasi, Kashi is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism.
It is believed that if you die here, you will be forever liberated from the endless cycle of death and rebirth.
But kashi is not just about death. Here, both life and death are celebrated with equal reverence and gusto. People also flock to this place for its splendor and grandeur. Kashi in many ways is a microcosm of Indian civilization center of India.
The word Kashi means light. The city is a tower of light in spiritual sense.
It has also been a great centre of learning for ages. It is associated with the promotion of spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit, yoga and Hindi language and honoured authors such as the ever-famous novelist Perm Chand and Tulsi Das, the famous saint-poet who wrote Ram Charit Manas. Aptly called as the cultural capital of India, Kashi has provided the right platform for all cultural activities to flourish. Many exponents of dance and music have come from here.
The city of Kashi is demarcated by a large perimeter that is known as the Pancha Kroshi route, creating a vast schematic circle. It is approximately 84 kms long. Traditionally people believed Kashyam Maranam Muktih which means that anyone who dies within this perimeter is believed to attain mukti.
Shiva takes the form of Kalabhairava in Kashi, it is the mostly deadly form of Shiva, he is supposed to be in destructive form, the one destroying time. All physical realities exist within the ambit of time, if time is destroyed, everything is over.
Kalabhairava is supposed to personally bestow liberation by imparting Taraka mantra to all who die there, it is said that Yama has no jurisdiction within this perimeter of Kashi.
People also want to live the last part of their life in Kashi because there is a lot of enlightened and spiritually evolved people there.
Kashi is also known as Mahasmashana, or great cremation ground.
In the spiritual path, especially the ones new to it, the masters always advise them to spend some time in the cremation grounds and familiarize yourself with the concept of death.
In Kashi, bodies are being burnt around the clock 24X7. Sometimes there are more bodies than places to burn them, hence sometimes the people throw them into the river before completely burning them. And it is important for a seeker to see that someday he/she might be treated the same way. That is the prior significance of Kashi.
That is the glory of Kashi that here, with the necessary spiritual help and a consecrated atmosphere, the necessary preparations could be made for living a great life and dying a great death.