There is hardly any city in the world that can claim greater antiquity, greater continuity and greater popular veneration than Banaras.
P. V. Kane
History of Dharma Shastra
Kashi is not of this earth, they say, no part of the terrestrial globe, for that rests on the thousand headed serpent Ananta; whereas Benares is fixed on the point of Shiva's trident. While it is in the world and at the very center of the world, it is not attached to the earth. No earthquake is ever felt within its holy limits, and in consequence of its peculiar position it escaped destruction during a partial overwhelming of the world.
Robert G. Varady
Culture and Power in Banaras
Geographically, Varanasi is located in the in the middle valley of Ganga. The 6.5km (4 miles) long riverfront of Ganga in Varanasi possesses a unique history, and an unparalleled visual landscape of magnificent architectures of rows of lofty buildings, palaces, and holy sites. The city is situated in the east part of the state of Uttar Pradesh and around 320 kilometers southeast to the city of Lucknow; 797 km towards southeast of the New Delhi; 121 km towards east of Allahabad; and 63 km towards south of Jaunpur.
Geologically it is situated in the fertile alluvial Gangetic plains and is under laid with sediments deposited in successive stages. Layers of clay, fine sand, clay mixed with kankar and stone bazari is met with during drilling operations. There is a long history of the evolution of the city associated with the mythology of the descent of Ganga from the Celestial plane. The probability based on the mythological of Ganga avatarana is that, the advent of the river Ganga in Kashi region was a geological event. *This was tested earlier by Shukla and Jayswal through geomorphological and archaeological field studies, around Varanasi and Ramnagal (Srivastava, P.and U.K.Shukla, 2009; and Jayaswal, V. and M. Kumar, 2005-6). Of account of absolute dating methods and archaeological findings, it was possible to conclude that advent of the river Ganga in this region was around 40,000 years ago. The present morphology of its banks was formed around 7,000 years ago (Srivastava, P.and U.K. Shukla, 2009). But, its banks were inhabited only in the middle of 2nd millennium BCE (Jayaswal, V.and M. Kumar, 2005-6). [jnana-pravaha; research journal No.XVI-2012-13]
Physical structure of the city
It is considered that people make a Panch koshi Parikrama between the Varuna and Assi ghat (a five mile, 8.3 km distance) which ended at the Sakshi Vinayak Temple. Existing national and international consciousness of Banaras needs to be directed towards the city’s architectural heritage. (1) the tangible heritage, especially the built architectural heritage (temples, shrines, palaces, monasteries, mosques, ashrams, water bodies, old age home etc.) and art and craft heritage (paintings, architecture, folk art forms, silk weaving, wood, terracotta handicrafts, toy making, metal crafts, etc.); (2) the intangible heritage, covering the local religious and cultural fife of the city and related activities (pilgrims’ rituals, traditional schools, music, forms of dance and folk theatre, study centres, monastery and ashram life, religious teaching, etc.); and (3) the cultural landscape heritage, in particular the unique identification of the natural setting of the Ganga with the specific religious importance of the ghats area and religious buildings and places there, as well as the natural preservation of the eastern riverbanks and rural area beyond it. There is, however, another Banaras beyond this sacred scape.