Varanasi is a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C.E. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the city draws pilgrims who bathe in the River Ganges' sacred waters and perform funeral rites. In Hinduism it is believed that those who die and are cremated here get an instant gateway to liberation from the cycle of births and re-births. Along its winding streets are some 2,000 temples, including Kashi Vishwanath, the "Golden Temple," dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
The holy city has been a symbol of spiritualism, philosophy and mysticism for thousands of years and has produced great saints and personalities like Guatama Buddha, Mahavira, Kabir, Tulsi Das, Shankaracharaya, Ramanuja and Patanjali.