Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and Shiva was said to have walked here at the beginning of time. Legends go back 10,000 years, and archaeological findings date back to 2000 BC, at which time Varanasi was a busy urban area. Around 700 BC to 500 BC, Varanasi was the center of the Kingdom of Kashi. During this period, Buddhism also began flourishing in the neighboring region of Sarnath. As a capital and cultural center, Varanasi was famous for its silk, muslin, sculpture, and fragrances. Varanasi remained a cultural center for centuries after the Kingdom of Kashi.
After the Muslim conquest in 1194 AD, temples were destroyed, and many scholars left Varanasi. During the rule of the Mughal emperor Akbar, Varanasi experienced a revival as Akbar built temples. Varanasi continued to maintain its religious importance over the following centuries. Tourism began to increase in the 18th century, and a Sanskrit college was established. Tourism and education continue to remain important today. Varanasi is home to IIT-Banaras and draws many tourists every year, both national and foreign.
The multitude of influences brought with it a mixed personality to the city. The confluence of cultures at the banks of the river Ganga orchestrated a societal harmony that is visible in modern day Varanasi. As a city, Varanasi is typical of any other medium-sized Indian city – crowded, congested, polluted; in spite of all this, it is functioning. There is a palpable sense of resilience and hope among the people. It is this positivity that has encouraging signs for any proposals that we, as city planners will make. The studio has been built around an idea to provide implementable solutions to the problems that plague Varanasi.