हरिहर यहीं पर आन बसे
जिनकी कृपा से जिनकी दया से
काशी अजर है काशी अमर है
ऋषि मुनि सुर नर ध्यान धरत हैं
Kashi – The Eternal City. A city that is believed to have existed since the beginning of time, and will continue to exist even after the Mahapralay.
In Mark Twain’s words: “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together…"
In Hinduism, Kashi is considered to be the holiest of holy cities. It is believed to be the center of the earth. A dip in the Ganga at Kashi is believed to be a sure shot path to moksh (salvation). From its genesis from the ‘cow’s mouth’ in the Himalayas as the playful and noisy Bhagirathi, it merges with Alaknanda at Devprayag to take on the name Ganga, and as it matures and slows down while traversing the path across the plains of Uttar Pradesh it takes on the role of the ever benign and all-forgiving mother. By the time it reaches Kashi it has brought many other rivers and tributaries within its fold and attains the role of mokshdayini.
I am reminded of a recent song welcoming Maa Ganga to Kaashi . The song is in Hindi, but is taken from a Tamil Film – Naan Kadavul. Literally translated, it would sound almost blasphemous – I am God. But in the context of Hindu spirituality it implies the ultimate stage of enlightenment where you’re one with the Supreme Being. In Sanskrit it equates to Aham Brahmasmi or Shivoham, or in the words of sufi Mansoor Al-Hallaj, Ana al-haqq.
Interestingly, Adi Shankaracharya in his Kashi Panchantak (five verses) embodies the same philosophy and implies that Kashi is synonymous with ultimate enlightenment and exists within the enlightened one. The first verse reads:
मनोनिवृत्ति:परमोप्शान्तिस्सा तीर्थवर्या मणिकर्णिका च
ज्ञानप्रवाहा विमलादिगङ्गा सा काशिकाहं निजबोधरूपा
(I am that city of Kashi in the form of my own pure awareness. The supreme peace that is the quietude of the mind is that Manikarnika ghat, the holiest of the holy. The flow of the waking consciousness is the divine Ganges)
… Source: Kashi Panchakam of Sri Shamkaracharya by Swami Tattvavidänanda Sarasvati
So here you go:
Kashikaham… Aham Brahmasmi …. Shivoham …. Ana al-haqq… Naan Kadavul