Picturesquely situated on the crescent shaped left bank of the holy Ganga, Varanasi, one of the ancient seats of learning in India, is said to be a compound of the names of two streams, the Varuna and the Assi, which still flow in the north and south of the city respectively. This name seems to have been corrupted, in medieval times to Banaras, which was in use till May 24, 1956 when it was changed to Varanasi, by an order of the Government of India. Varanasi is probably one of the most ancient living cities in India. From time immemorial it has been a great religious center for Hindus and one of their most sacred places of pilgrimage, being visited by millions of people every year.
At a distance of 12 km from Varanasi lies Sarnath, where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon. Here he revealed the eight fold path that leads to the attainment of inner peace, Enlightment and Ultimate Nirvana.