Religions in Varanasi


Varanasi is one of the holiest cities and centres of pilgrimage for Hindus of all denominations. It is one of seven Hindu holiest cities (Sapta Puri), considered the giver of salvation (moksha). Over 50,000 Brahmins live in Varanasi, providing religious services to the masses. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a person's soul from the cycle of its transmigrations. Thus, many Hindus arrive here for dying.

As the home to Kashi Vishwanath Temple Jyotirlinga, it is very sacred for Shaivism. Varanasi is also a Shakti Peetha, where the Temple to goddess Vishalakshi stands believed to the spot where the goddess Sati's earrings fell. Hindus of the Shakti sect make a pilgrimage to the city because they regard the river Ganges itself as the Goddess Shakti. Adi Shankara wrote his commentaries on Hinduism here, leading to the great Hindu revival.


Interwoven within one million Hindus are two hundred and fifty thousand Muslims who have made Varanasi their home for more than thousand years. Muslims live in the close-knit communities which was founded in the days of the Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire. The Muslim call to prayer, Azaan from the Gyanvapi Mosque five times a day. The other important Mosques in Varanasi include: Alamgiri Mosque, Ganj-e-Shaheedan Mosque and Chaukhamba Mosque.


Varanasi is a pilgrimage site for Jains along with Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed to be the birthplace of Suparshvanath, Shreyansanath, and Parshva, who are respectively the seventh, eleventh, and twenty-third Jain Tirthankars and as such Varanasi is a holy city for Jains. Shree Parshvanath Digambar Jain Tirth Kshetra (Digambar Jain Temple) is situated in Bhelupur, Varanasi. This Temple is of great religious importance to Jain Religion.

Sarnath, a suburb of Varanasi, is a place of Buddhist pilgrimage. It is the site of the deer park where Siddhārtha Gautama is said to have given his first sermon about the basic principles of Buddhism. The Dhamek Stupa is one of the few pre-Ashokan stupas still standing, though only its foundation remains. Also remaining is the Chaukhandi Stupa commemorating the spot where Buddha met his first disciples in the 5th century. An octagonal tower was built later there.

Guru Nanak Dev visited Varanasi for Shivratri in 1507 and had an encounter which with other events forms the basis for the story of the founding of Sikhism. Varanasi also hosts the Roman Catholic Diocese of Varanasi, and has a significant Jewish expatriate community. Varanasi is home to numerous tribal faiths which are not easily classified.


Name of Religion Percentage to total population
Hindus 80.5
Muslims 13.4
Christians 2.3
Sikhs 1.9
Buddhists 0.8
Jains 0.4
Other Religions 0.6