"As Ramakrishna approached Benares in a boat, crossing the Ganges, he saw in a vision that the city was made of gold; that is to say, he saw that the subtle form of the city had been made golden by the love and faith of its innumerable devotees throughout the ages. Ramakrishna had such a strong sense of the sacredness of Benares that he was even careful not to relieve himself within its limits. Nevertheless, he was disappointed. 'I had expected,' he said later, 'to find everybody in Benares merged in Samadhi, contemplating Shiva twenty-four hours a day; and everybody in Vrindavan wild with joy in the company of Krishna. But, when I got to those places, I found it all different.'

-Ramakrishna and his Disciples
Christopher Isherwood

 Hindus offer their morning prayers in the Ganges on one of over 100 ghats in the City of Shiva. Also known as Benares and Kashi, Varanasi is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India. Many believe that the soul is immediately liberated if one dies and is cremated in Kashi. This has been an important center of education and commerce for over 2500 years.