Benares the holy city of the Hindus, is the ecclesiastical metropolis of India, and the resort of pilgrims from all quarters. It is situated on the north bank of the river Ganges, in the province of Allahabad and presidency of Bengal. It may be said to form the grand depository of the religion and learning of Hindustan. This city is accounted so sacred that all who die within its precincts are assured of salvation, and for that reason it is a scene of extensive resort. There are said to be eight thousand houses in Benares occupied by Brahmins, who live upon the alms and offerings of the pilgrims. The banks of the river at this place are studded everywhere with shrines and temples, and in the city itself domes and minarets are seen in vast numbers. The greatest of these structures was levelled to the ground by Aurengzebe, who erected in its stead a mosque, which now forms the principal ornament of Benares. The houses of the mendicants are adorned with idols, while the principal streets are lined with mendicants of various Hindu sects, presenting every conceivable deformity. Some are seen with their legs or arms distorted by long continuance in one position; others with their hands clenched until the nails have grown through at the back. A stranger passing through the streets is saluted with the most pitiful cries from these swarms of beggars. Besides these there are many wealthy devotees, who have secured their wealth by dishonesty or oppression, or have come under political censure, who come to Benares to wash away their sins in the sacred waters of the Ganges, or expiate their crimes in gaudy ceremonies and extensive charity. Many thousands of dollars are given away by a single individual in the course of a year. Bulls are reckoned sacred among the Hindus, and are numerous in the streets of Benares; no one being permitted to disturb them in their occupancy of any part of the city. Monkeys are also held sacred, and may be seen clinging to the roofs and projections of the temples.
There are three missions in Benares — the Church of England, the London, and the Baptist Missionary Society. The mission in connection with the Church of England was established in 1817, and has a church capable of holding three or four hundred persons, two normal schools for training Christian teachers, a large college, and several girls' schools. The mission of the London Missionary Society' was founded in 1821, and is situated in the suburbs of the city. A substantial church was erected about 1846. The mission of the Baptist Missionary Society originated in 1817, as an outpost of the Serampore mission. It maintains an orphanage for the support and education of native children. See Gardner, Faiths of the World, s.v.; Encyclopoedia Britannica (9th ed.), s.v.