3. Varanasi, India
This city, also known as Benares, is a city in India that, according to Hindu legend, is more than 5000 years old and it is considered to be the oldest city in the world. However, there is no firm evidence for this claim, and it remains on the level of presupposition and belief. The evidence of the city being inhabited goes back 3000 years.
Varanasi is one of the holiest Hindu pilgrim centers, besides being one of the most ancient ones. The city is located between two small streams that merge together into the rivers Ganges, Varana and Asi (and that is how the city got its name). It has been a holy place since ancient times and remains as such in the present. Its holiness has been described in many Buddhist texts, epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata), and many other texts. Its name was anglicized during the rule of the British, similarly to other names of places in India, and acquired a name “Benares” as well, which means the holy city of Hindus people.
The city’s glory was untouched until 1194, when Kutubudin Aibak, the first ruler of the Slave Dynasty and founder of the Delhi Sultanate destroyed close to a thousand temples and build mosques on top of them, thus ruining the temple traditions. However, this didn’t ruin the city’s spirit, and it was able to rebuild and regain its strength. Varanasi remains fascinating to the world for its diverse cultural heritage and its 4000 years long history, its strength of will and resilience and the ability to adapt to all conditions and preserve spirituality regardless of all the hardships that struck its residents.