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Varanasi, often anglicized to Benares, is Hinduism's most sacred city. Its name is derived from the fact that it was originally situated between two small tributaries to the Ganges, the Varna and the Asi. To die in Varanasi or to bathe in the Ganges there is the goal of every devote Hindu.

In the Tipitaka Varanasi is called Kasi, the city’s oldest name, or Baranasi (D.II,146). The city has long been a center of religious learning, culture and trade, especially trade in luxury goods.

The Buddha said that before he renounced the world he only wore clothes made from Kasi cloth and used sandalwood from Kasi (A.I,145). Archeological investigations have shown that there was a Buddhist presence in Varanasi in ancient times but it was always overshadowed by Hinduism. Isipatana, where the Buddha preached his first and second discourses and now called Sarnath, is just beyond Varanasi’s outer suburbs.