Varanasi or Benares (Skt. Vārāṇasī), is medium-sized modern city by Indian standards (1.4 million) located at the confluence of the Varuna River and the Ganges River in modern day Uttar Pradesh, India. It has been a major centre for pilgrimage, trade, art, and education for millennia. Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world with an archaeological record spanning four thousand years, and is the most important place in India for followers of Hinduism. The heart of the city, Kashi (Skt. Kāśi), is the dense warren of seemingly ancient houses and twisting alleys that radiate out from the banks of the vast Ganges River. For Hindus, to bathe in the Ganges on Kashi’s ghats (‘river banks’) washes away all accumulated sins, and to die in Varanasi ensures liberation from cyclic existence. Buddhist travel to Varanasi especially to visit nearby Sarnath, where in the nearby Deer Park the Buddha first turned the wheel of the Dharma (see Three Turnings).
Tibetan translators, in an attempt to render Indian names of places into Tibetan have, ‘translated’ Varanasi as Khormojik (Wyl. ‘khor mo ‘jig). Similarly they have translated Kashi as Salden (Wyl. gsal ldan). This is a literal translation of the name Kashi, “the splendid.”
- Gold, Jonathan. The Dharma’s Gatekeeper: Sakya Paṇḍita on Buddhist Scholarship in Tibet. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.
- GPS: 25.28°N 82.96°E
- Jonathan Gold, The Dharma’s Gatekeeper: Sakya Paṇḍita on Buddhist Scholarship in Tibet (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007), 29. See for example: Nāgārjuna, “Great Praise of the Twelve Acts of the Buddha,” Lotsawahouse, 2016, http://www.lotsawahouse.org/indian-masters/nagarjuna/great-praise-twelve-acts-buddha.