Benares State

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Kingdom of Kashi)
Jump to: navigation, search
Benares State
Princely State of British India

Flag of Benares


 -  Established TBD
 -  Accession to the Union of India 1948
 -  1892 2,266 km2 (875 sq mi)
 -  1892 115,773 
Density 51.1 /km2  (132.3 /sq mi)
Varanasi, capital of Benares State

Benares (Hindi: वाराणसी) was a princely state in what is today India during the British Raj. On 15 October 1948 Benares' last ruler signed the accession to the Indian Union.[1]

Its roots go back to the Kingdom of Kashi, which was an independent Brahmin - ( Bhumihar Brahmin) state until 1194. It became a British territory in 1775, and a state in 1911. It is the site of Ramnagar Fort and its museum, which are the repository of the history of the kings of Varanasi and, since the 18th century, has been the home of the Kashi Naresh.[2] Even today the Kashi Naresh is deeply revered by the people of Varanasi.[2] He is a religious leader and the people of Varanasi consider him an incarnation of Lord Shiva.[2] He is also the chief cultural patron and an essential part of all religious celebrations.[2] The ruling family claims descent from the God Shiva and benefits greatly from pilgrimages to Benares.


The earliest rulers of Benares were revenue contractors for the Awadh province of the Mughal Empire. As the Mughal suzerainty weakened, they declared themselves to the Maharajas of Benares between 1739 and 1760.[3] The region eventually ceded by the Nawab of Awadh to the British Raj in 1775, who recognized Benares as a family dominion. Benares became a state in 1911.[4] It was given the privilege of 13-gun salute.

The governor of Benares gave most of the area currently known as Varanasi to Mansa Ram, a zamindar of Utaria. Balwant Singh, the ruler of Utaria in 1737, received the territories of Jaunpur, Varanasi and Chunar in 1740 from the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah of Delhi. The Kingdom of Benaras started in this way under the Mughal dynasty. Other places under the kingship of Kashi Naresh were Chandauli, Gyanpur, Chakia, Latifshah, Mirzapur, Nandeshwar, Mint House and Vindhyachal.[citation needed]

With the decline of the Mughal Empire, the military strengthened their sway in the area south of Avadh and in the fertile rice growing areas of Benares, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Ghazipur, Ballia and Bihar and on the fringes of Bengal.[5] The strong clan organisation on which they rested, brought success to the lesser Hindu princes.[5] There were as many as 100,000 men backing the power of the Benares rajas in what later became the districts of Benares, Gorakhpur and Azamgarh.[5] This proved a decisive advantage when the dynasty faced a rival and the nominal suzerain, the Nawab of Awadh, in the 1750s and the 1760s.[5] An exhausting guerrilla war, waged by the Benares ruler against the Avadh camp, using his troops, forced the Nawab to withdraw his main force.[5]

According to Orthodox traditions, no one has seen Kashi Naresh eat food, and none of the kings have travelled abroad, in keeping with strict rules.[6] Kashi Naresh has played host to a list of dignitaries which includes King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev of Nepal, King Birendra Bir Birkram Shah Dev of Nepal, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Indira Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, President Kocheril Raman Narayanan and his Burmese wife.[6]

Throne of Raja of Benaras, at National Museum, Delhi.

Maharaja Bahadurs[edit]

  • 1 Apr 1911 - 4 Aug 1931 Sir Prabhu Narayan Singh (s.a.)
  • 4 Aug 1931 - 5 Apr 1939 Aditya Narayan Singh (b. 1874 - d. 1939) (from 3 Jun 1933, Sir Aditya Narayan Singh)
  • 5 Apr 1939 - 15 Aug 1947 Vibhuti Narayan Singh (b. 1927 - d. 2000)
  • 5 Apr 1939 - 11 Jul 1947 .... -Regent

Kashi Naresh[edit]

Main article: Narayan dynasty

The Kashi Naresh (Maharaja of Kashi) is believed to be a descendent of Lord Shiva. During the religious occasion of Shivratri, the Kashi Naresh is the chief officiating priest and no other priest is allowed entry into the garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum. Only after he performs his religious offerings may anyone else be allowed to enter.

The residential palace of the Naresh is the Ramnagar Fort at Ramnagar near Varanasi, which is next to the river Ganges.[7]

On January 28, 1983, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple was taken over by the government of Uttar Pradesh and its management was transferred to a trust, with the late Vibhuti Narayan Singh, then Kashi Naresh, as President, and an executive committee with the Divisional Commissioner as Chairman.[8]

History of Ramnagar[edit]

The Ramnagar Fort was built by Kashi Naresh Raja Balwant Singh with creamy chunar sandstone in the eighteenth century.[9] It is a typically Mughal style of architecture with carved balconies, open courtyards, and picturesque pavilions.[9]

Ram Leela at Ramnagar[edit]

When the Dussehra festivities are inaugurated with a colourful pageant, the Kashi Naresh rides an elephant at the head of the procession.[10] Then, resplendent in silk and brocade, he inaugurates the month-long folk theatre of Ramlila at Ramnagar.[10]

The Ramlila is a cycle of plays which recounts the epic story of Lord Rama, as told in Ramcharitmanas, the version of the Ramayana written by Tulsidas.[10] The plays, sponsored by the Maharaja, are performed in Ramnagar every evening for 31 days.[10] On the last day the festivities reach a crescendo as Rama vanquishes the demon king Ravana.[10] Maharaja Udit Narayan Singh started this tradition of staging the Ramleela at Ramnagar in the mid-nineteenth century.[10]

Over a million pilgrims arrive annually for the vast processions and performances organized by the Kashi Naresh.[11]

All India Kashi raj Trust[edit]

Serious work on the Puranas began when the All India Kashiraj Trust was formed under the patronage and guidance of Dr. Vibhuti Narayan Singh, the Maharaja of Kashi, which, in addition to producing critical editions of the Puranas, also published the journal Puranam.[12]

Saraswati Bhawan at Ramnagar Fort[edit]

A rare collection of manuscripts, especially religious writings, is housed in Saraswati Bhawan. It includes a precious handwritten manuscript by Goswami Tulsidas.[13] There are also many books illustrated in the Mughal miniature style, with beautifully designed covers.[13]

Vyasa Temple at Ramnagar[edit]

According to a popular Puranic story, when Vyasa failed to receive alms in Varanasi, he put a curse on the city.[13] Soon after, at a house where Parvati and Shiva had taken human form as householders, Vyasa was so pleased with the alms he received that he forgot his curse.[13] However, because of Vyasa's bad temper Shiva banished him from Varanasi.[13] Resolving to remain nearby, Vyasa took up residence on the other side of the Ganges, where his temple may still be seen at Ramnagar.[13]

1.Vyasa-Kasi location and significance: Vyasa Kasi, the name by which it is called by the pilgrims to Kasi, through ages, is located near Ramnagar. A temple for Sage Vyasa is located here facing Kasi on the opposite side of the river Ganga herI The temple is at a distance of 19 K.M by road from Kasi. Once upon a time the whole area was covered by a forest of Badari trees. ( Badari is callel’ Bel’ or ‘ber’ in Hindi and’ Jujube’ in English). Badari is a thorny bush- like tree which gives small sweet and sour fruits. Since Vyasa lived among the Badari trees, he was also called ‘BaadarayanaI’ ( a person who moved among the badari bushes ( 2). People who go on pilgrimage to Kasi will not fail to visit Vyasa Kasi. They travel through boats that ply on the river. But when once they reach Vyasa- Kasi they finish their tour of the place very quickly and return to Kasi. Nobody makes a night halt at this place. Sage Vyasa who had to live in this forest along with his disciples some 2000–2500 years ago is also called by other names such as – Veda Vyasa, Krishna Dwaipayana, Paarasarya( son of Rishi Parasara) and Saatyavateya ( son of mother Satyavati). He had to live there as he was banished from the city of Kasi by Lord Viswanath, the reigning deity of Kasi. An interesting episode is narrated in this regard in the’ Kasi-Khanda’ of ‘Skanda Purana’. The details of the episode regarding the banishment of Sage Vyasa from Kashi are as follows-. CONTENTS 1. Vyasa- Kasi –Location and significance 2. Vyasa’s declaration in the Naimisharanya 3. Vyasa’s visit to and declaration at Kasi 4. Punishment meted out to Vyasa 5. Vyasa’s repentance and worship of Shiva 6. Vyasa gets no food for two days 7 Vyasa’s curses the citizens of Kasi 8 Invitation by Mother Visalakshi 9 Interrogation of Sage Vyasa by the old couple 10 Banishment of Vyasa from Kashi 11 Concession given to Vyasa 12 References

Sage Vyasa who is also called Vyasa Mahamuni was a great scholar of his times. He is credited to have gathered a group of scholars and classified the Vedas, which were lying as a Conglomeration of Richas ( mantras) of different categories. He classified all these mantras into four different Vedas. He is also credited to have written 18 Puranas and the great epic ‘Maha Bharata’. He was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu (who is also called Lord Narayana). He is also known by several names-Veda Vyasa, Sri Krishna Dwaipayana, Paarasarya ( son of Rishi Paraasar), and Saatyavateya ( son of a fisher woman named Satyavati). He used to travel from one hermitage to the other during his travels to holy places, along with his 10,000 disciples.

2. Vyasa's declaration in Naimisaranya During one of his journeys, it so happened that Vyasa was travelling through the famous Naimisharanya . (Located in Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh and is about 50 K.M. from the state capital Lucknow ). At that time a group of great sages were discussing about various religious and theological issues. When Vyasa, along with his 10,000 disciples entered the conference, he enquired what they were discussing about. The sages gave due respect to him and told him that they were discussing about the relative merits of worshipping Lord Vishnu and Lord Maheswara. They said that according to some, Lord Vishnu is more amenable to worship (of his devotees) than Lord Shiva. But according to the majority Lord Viswanatha (Lord Shiva) is the only God who can be pleased easily, and is the only God who grants all wishes of the devotees without a second thought about the propriety of granting such a wish. They asked Vyasa Muni to express his opinion on the subject. Vyasa Muni who was a staunch devotee of Lord Narayana (Lord Vishnu) raised his right hand and told them –“Please listen to me carefully. Lord Vishnu is the only God who has been hailed as the supreme deity in the Vedas, the epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the eighteen Puranas. He is the only God who is at the root of Creation, sustenance and destruction. He is the ‘ Adi Purusha’, ( the first Male). So he alone is competent to award salvation. It is not Lord Shiva or any other God. “ All the sages were surprised after listening to the above statement. They replied, “Great scholar, you know everything. There is nobody who is more knowledgeable than you. But we will appreciate your statement, if you could kindly make the above declaration in front of Lord Visweswara, the presiding deity of Kasi and the scholars of Kasi. Sage Vyasa agreed to do so and asked everybody to follow him to Kasi.

3.Sage Vyasa’s visit and declaration at Kasi : Sage Vyasa reached the holy city of Kasi along with his disciples and many sages of the forest. He took his holy bath in the river Ganga and directly went to the temple of Lord Bindu Madhava (Lord Vishnu) and worshipped him as the Lord who has 1000 heads and who is the giver of happiness to all. Afterwards he entertained the Lord with songs, and dance accompanied by musical instruments. Then he raised his right hand and declared that Lord Madhava is the only God who is competent to grant Salvation to human beings..

4.Punishment meted out to Vyas and his repentance: As he was making the above declaration his hand became numb and remained stationery in the same position and he lost his voice too. Lord Madhava appeared before him immediately and admonished him, “Dear Vyasa, you have made a great blunder. Don’t you know that there is only one Supreme lord of the Universe, and nobody else? I became a ‘’Chakri’ ( one who wields the invincible disc that can cut anything or anybody to pieces), and the husband of Goddess Lakshmi and also the protector of the three worlds, only by the grace of the true Lord of the Universe, who is none other than Lord Shiva ? Please worship Lord Shiva if you want to live peacefully and attain Salvation”. Then Vyasa signalled to Lord Madhava to touch his throat which had stopped producing any sound, because of the wrath of Nandi ( the great bull which is the vehicle on which Lord Shiva travels). Lord Bindu Madhava helped him in regaining his voice and restoring the movement of his hand.

5.Vyasa's repentance and worship of Lord Shiva : Then sage Vyasa started taking bath daily in the holy river Ganga, and reciting hymns to the effect that ‘’ Lingeswara’ is the only Lord and ‘ Manikarnika, is the best of the Ghats in Kasi. He wrote the famous hymn called Shivashtakam during this period ( Kasi Khandam-Chapter-95). He spent a few days teaching his disciples about the great power of Lord Shiva, in addition to teaching the usual lessons on the Vedas.

6.Vyasa gets no food for two days : One day Lord Shiva wanted to test the devotion of Vyasa and his love of the city of Kasi. He asked his wife Annapurna, who was also called Visalakshi during those days, to ensure that sage Vyasa and his disciples do not get any alms from the households of Varanasi. Goddess Annapurna entered the heart of every house-wife and ensured that sage Vyasa or his disciples are not given any alms under one excuse or other. So Vyasa and his disciples had to remain hungry for the whole day. Same thing happened during the second day also. Sage Vyasa was surprised that he and his students could not receive even a morsel of food for two days continuously in the sacred city of Kasi, whereas the disciples of other sages are getting plenty of food. He sent his disciples to find out whether anybody was stopping the house-wives from giving alms to them. They went out and made enquiries but found that nobody was stopping the women from giving alms and also that everybody was rich enough and living happily. They also found that all the people are virtuous and following the path of Dharma and that all of them were devotees of Lord Visweswara (Shiva). They reported the matter to the great sage and told him that that they could not find out the reason why they were not given any alms.

7.Sage Vyasa curses the citizens of Kasi : Sage Vyasa came to the conclusion that the citizens of Kasi had deliberately insulted him and there by neglected their Dharma as natives of a holy pilgrim center. He became mad with rage and he said, “This holy city of Kasi is the center of all branches of knowledge, it is the house of the Goddess of wealth and prosperity and it is the place where every resident is assured of Salvation after death. That is why perhaps these people have become proud and arrogant.” Saying these words Vyasa began to curse the residents of Kasi, “These people of Kasi should be deprived of all Knowledge for three generations, they should be deprived of wealth and riches for three generations, and also they should be deprived of Salvation for three generations”. After delivering the above curse the great Sage again went out with his disciples seeking alms. But he did not get any alms on the third day also. So he threw down the begging bowl so fast that it broke down into several pieces. After that he began to return to his hermitage feeling helpless.

8.Invitation by Mother Visalakshi While Sage Vyasa was returning to his hermitage along with his students, an elderly - house wife, with a bright golden face and wide eyes appeared from a house nearby. She called out for the sage and requested him to come near her. When the great sage approached her, she told him, “Great sage, my husband is very old. He does not take any food until he feeds a guest every day. But unfortunately no guest has arrived to-day to our house, asking for food. He is sitting hungry in the house. Could you please accept my invitation and come as a guest to our house? “ Sage Vyasa was surprised very much and told the elderly woman – “Mother, nobody in Kasi cared to look at our faces to-day. I am happy that you have invited me to your house for lunch. But I am not alone, and I cannot eat without providing food for my ten thousand disciples. They are also starving for the last two days.” Then the old lady asked Vyasa to come with all of his disciples without any delay. Sage Vyasa and his students arrived at her house happily, washed their hands and feet and sat for lunch. They could not control their pleasure after looking at various dishes served before them and about the general code of conduct ate to their stomachs full. After finishing their lunch they washed their hands and feet, blessed the old lady and her husband and stated their journey back to the hermitage.

9.Interrogation of Vyasa by the old couple: When sage Vyasa was about to leave the house of the old lady, She asked him to wait and clear certain doubts that were lurking in the mind of her husband, regarding the general code of conduct. The first question she asked was about the main duty of the resident of a pilgrim - center. Vyasa replied, “Mother what answer can I give you, I am an ignorant man. You know the answer, but since you have asked me I am giving this reply, “The most sacred dharma or duty is to provide sufficient food to a hungry man and receive his blessings after satisfying him with food”. The lady replied- If that is the most important Dharma, I am following it to the best of my ability”. Then she asked him, “My husband would also like to know about the duties or Dharmas of a human being in general. “Then Vyasa replied that the generally accepted code of conduct for a gentle man is as follows- 1. To speak without hurting the feelings of others 2. Not to feel jealous at the progress of others 3. To think well before you act 4. To wish for the development of the place where you live, and which has provided food and shelter to you.

After listening to these answers the husband of the old woman asked Sage Vyasa, “out of the four qualities you have mentioned, Can you tell me how many qualities do you possess?” Sage Vyasa was astonished to listen to the question asked by the old man. The old man continued his admonition in a sarcastic manner, “You are the fittest person to speak about these Dharmas. Who Other than you can possess such a sweet style of speaking? Who else would think well before he acts? Who else would wish that the place he is staying should prosper? Who else is there who does not feel jealous of the prosperity of others? You alone can speak about these great qualities because you are really great. You are a great man because you implement whatever you say”. The old man continued his tirade. “You did not get any alms because of your misfortune. It is not the fault of the residents. You cursed them unnecessarily”.

10: Banishment of Vyasa from Kasi : Lord Shiva told the sage Vyasa, “This is my Capital. Curses given by people like you won’t work here. An intolerant and angry man is not fit to live in ‘a center of Salvation like Kasi.. So get out of this city immediately. Also remember that whoever thinks ill of this city will become a Rudra Pishacha (a demon who feeds on the remains of the dead bodies, from a cremation ground or a burial ground)”.

11: Concession given to Sage Vyasa : Sage Vyasa began to tremble with fear and fell at the feet of Lord Viswanath and his consort Mother Annapurna. Then he looked at Mother Annapurna and entreated the Great Mother of the Universe, “Dear Mother, I am an orphan and an ignorant fellow. I am seeking your protection. Please protect me from this great curse delivered by Lord Viswanath. I can’t live if I am asked to leave Kasi. Please see that I am permitted to enter Kasi at least on every Ashtami day ( eight day after the new moon day) and also on every’ Shiva Ratri’ day (which comes sometime around the new moon day)”. The great merciful mother looked at her husband and accorded necessary permission to sage Vyasa. Afterwards the ancient couple disappeared from there. Sage Vyasa left the city immediately. He crossed over to the other side of the river Ganges. There he established his Ashram in a forest of thorny bushes which are called Badari trees. It seems that he spent the rest of his life always looking towards Kashi and accusing himself for his foolish acts. The place where sage Vyasa settled after his departure from Kasi, was called Vyasa Kasi. Now there is a small temple which reminds the people that Sage Vyasa lived at this place long time ago.


  1. ^ Benares Princely State
  2. ^ a b c d Mitra, Swati (2002). Good Earth Varanasi city guide. Eicher Goodearth Limited. p. 216. ISBN 978-81-87780-04-5. 
  3. ^ C. A. Bayly (19 May 1988). Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770-1870. CUP Archive. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-0-521-31054-3. 
  4. ^ Benares (Princely State) - A Document about Maharajas of Varanasi
  5. ^ a b c d e Bayly, Christopher Alan (1983). Rulers, Townsmen, and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770-1870. Cambridge University Press. p. 489 (at p 18). ISBN 978-0-521-31054-3. 
  6. ^ a b Mark Manuel. "Nobody's Seen The Gourmet Maharaja Eating!". Upper Crust. Archived from the original on 2007-11-10. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  7. ^ A review of Varanasi
  8. ^ Official website of Varanasi
  9. ^ a b Mitra, Swati (2002). Good Earth Varanasi city guide. Eicher Goodearth Limited. p. 216. ISBN 978-81-87780-04-5. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f Mitra, Swati (2002). Good Earth Varanasi city guide. Eicher Goodearth Limited. pp. 216 (at p 126). ISBN 978-81-87780-04-5. 
  11. ^ Banham, Martin (1995). The Cambridge Guide to Theatre (second ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 1247. ISBN 978-0-521-43437-9. 
  12. ^ Mittal, Sushil (2004). The Hindu World. Routledge. p. 657. ISBN 978-0-415-21527-5. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f Mitra, Swati (2002). Good Earth Varanasi city guide. Eicher Goodearth Limited. pp. 216 (at p 129). ISBN 978-81-87780-04-5. 


References: 1. temple at Ramnagar 2. Ibid 3. 4. books-Skanda purana 5. Kasi Khandamu by the Telugu Poet Srinatha

Coordinates: 25°16′55″N 82°57′23″E / 25.282°N 82.9563°E / 25.282; 82.9563