The Ganges (pron.: /ˈɡændʒiːz/GAN-jeez) or Ganga (IPA: [ˈɡəŋɡaː] ( listen), Sanskrit: गङ्गा, Hindi: गंगा, Bengali: গঙ্গা), is a trans-boundary river of India and Bangladesh. The 2,525 km (1,569 mi) river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India into Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. It is the longest river of India and is the second greatest river in the world by water discharge. The Ganges basin is the most heavily populated river basin in the world, with over 400 million people and a population density of about 1,000 inhabitants per square mile (390 /km2).
Varanasi (Hindustani pronunciation: [ʋaːˈraːɳəsi] ( listen)), also Benares, Banaras (Banāras[bəˈnaːrəs] ( listen)) or Kashi (Kāśī[ˈkaːʃi] ( listen)), is a city on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, 320 kilometres (200 mi) southeast of the state capital, Lucknow. It is holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism. Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India.
Many of its temples were plundered and destroyed by Mohammad Ghauri in the 12th century. The temples and religious institutions in the city now are of 18th century vintage.
The Kashi Naresh (Maharaja of Kashi) is the chief cultural patron of Varanasi, and an essential part of all religious celebrations. The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the Ganges. The city has been a cultural center of North India for several thousand years, and has a history that is older than most of the major world religions. The Benares Gharana form of Hindustani classical music developed in Varanasi, and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians live or have lived in Varanasi. Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath located near Varanasi.