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Varanasi derives its name from the two rivers that flank the city, the Varuna to the north and the Asi to the south. However, pilgrims refer to it as Kashi, first used three tho...
Varanasi derives its name from the two rivers that flank the city, the Varuna to the north and the Asi to the south. However, pilgrims refer to it as Kashi, first used three thousand years ago to describe the kingdom and the city outside which the Buddha preached his first sermon; the "City of Light" is also called Kashika, "the shining one", referring to the light of Shiva. Another epithet, Avimukta, meaning "Never Forsaken", refers to the city that Shiva never deserted. Also referred to as Rudravasa, the place where Shiva (Rudra) resides, Kashi's associations with Shiva extend to the beginning of time: legends relate how, after his marriage to Parvati, Shiva left his Himalyan abode and came to reside in Kashi with all the gods in attendance. Temporarily banished during the rule of the great king Divodasa, Shiva ultimately returned to his rightful abode protected by his loyal attendants Kalabhairav and Dandapani. Over 350 gods and goddesses, including a protective ring of Ganeshaa form a mandala or sacred pattern with Shiva Vishwanatha at its centre.