BENARES, a DISTRICT of British India, in the division of the same name, under the jurisdiction of the Lieutenant-Governor of the N.W. Provinces, lies between 25° 7' and 25° 32' N. lat., and 82' 45' and 83° 38' E. long. It is bounded on the N. by the British district of Jaunpur, on the N E. by Gliazipur, on the S.E. by Shahabad, on the S. and S.W. by Mirzapur, and on the W. by Mirzapur and Jaunpur. The surface of the country is remarkably level, with numerous deep ravines in the calcareous conglomerate. This substratum when burnt affords good lime, and forms an excellent material for roads in its natural state. The soil is a clayey or a sandy loam, and very fertile, except in the tracts called Usur, which are impregnated with soda, nitre, and other salts.
Principal rivers - the Ganges ; the Karamnasi, which separates Benares district from that of Zilialtilaid; the Gumti, separating it from Jaunpur and Ghazipur; the Barna-nahi, which falls into the Ganges near Benares city. Area, 91619 square miles, of which 738 are under cultivation, 33'39 cultivable but not actually under cultivation, and the rest uncultivable waste. Population in 1872, 793,699, - 90 per cent. being Hindus, 10 per cent. Mahometans, and Christians, &c., numbering 345. Principal crops - wheat, barley, pulse of various ldnds, millet, maize, oil-seeds, tobacco, safflower, opium, sugar-cane, and castor-oil seed. Manufactures - sugar, opium, indigo, cotton cloth, coarse woollens, silk, and leather. Principal roads - (1), From Calcutta to Benares, and thence towards Allahabad ; (2), a continuation of the Calcutta road through the town of Benares to the Sikrol cantonment, and thence towards Jaunpur ; (3), from Ghazipur to Mirzapur by Sikrol; and (4), from Benares city to Chahar. The East Indian Railway passes through the district, and the Ganges is navigable all the year round. Gross revenue in 1870-71, £140,617, of which £89,286, or 63 per cent., was derived from land. In 1872-73 the district contained 542 schools, attended by 12,782 pupils. Only two towns in the district contain above 5000 inhabitants, viz., Benares and Ramnagar. The climate of Benares is cool in winter, but very warm in the hot season. Mean temperature in 1372, 77-6' Fahr.; average annual rainfall for the nine years ending 1872, 34.03 inches.
From a very remote period Benares formed the seat of a Hindu kingdom, said to have been founded by one Kasi Raja, 1200 years B.C. Subsequently it became part of the kingdom of Kanauj, which in 1193 A.D. was conquered by Muhammad of Ghor. On the downfall of the Pathan dynasty of Dehli, about 1599, it was incorporated with the Mughul empire. On the dismemberment of the Dehli empire it was seized by Safdar Jang, the Nawab Vazir of Oudh, by whose grandson it was ceded to the East India Company by the treaty of 1775. The subsequent history of Benares contains two important events, - the rebellion of Chait Sinh, occasioned by the unjust demands of Warren Hastings for money to carry on the Marhatta war ; and the mutiny of the Native regiments in 1857, on which occasion the energy and coolness of the European officials (chiefly of General Neill) carried the district successfully through the storm.