The city of Varanasi along the western bank of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh is an incredibly important pilgrimage center for Hindus. This city which even finds mention in the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana was a prosperous trade center in 500 BC. According to Mark Twain, Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together. Varanasi stands as a symbol of the Hindu renaissance and preserves the traditions of Hindu philosophy. Summers are quite harsh in Varanasi with temperatures soaring up to 45°C. The monsoons set in by late June or early July, bringing torrential rains and high humidity. Winters are quite pleasant with temperatures around 20°C.