Varanasi is one of the ancient cities on earth, endowed with beautiful shrines and ghats. The ghats are steps that lead to the banks of the sacred Ganga river, where Hindus perform various rituals and ceremonies. There are about 100 ghats in Varanasi, but the main group has around 25 of them, stretching from Assi Ghat to Raj Ghat.
Most of the ghats were constructed in the 14th Century and were renovated in the 18th century by Maratha rulers, who also patronized many temples in Varanasi. The ghats have different owners or associations with legends and myths.
Two of the ghats, Manikarnika and Harishchandra, are exclusively used for cremation. The ghats of Varanasi are a witness to the evolution of humanity. They are believed to be the gateways to salvation or liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
In this article, you will get to know about the following ghats in Varanasi that you can visit,
Let’s see each of these in detail.
1. Dasaswamedha Ghat
One of the most vibrant and captivating places to visit in Varanasi is the Dasaswamedh Ghat. This ghat is situated near the Vishwanath Temple and has a rich history and mythology. According to one legend, Lord Brahma created this ghat to welcome Lord Shiva.
The ghat was rebuilt by the Maratha rulers in the 18th century. The ghat is full of life and color, with flower sellers, boatmen, and sadhus. You can see the huge lingam of Lord Shiva under a pipal tree and the Jantar Mantar observatory nearby.
The highlight of the ghat is the Ganga Aarti, a sacred ceremony that takes place every evening after sunset. A group of priests in saffron robes offer prayers to the Ganga River, Lord Shiva, the Sun God, and the whole universe. They commence the arati by blowing a conch shell and waving the incense sticks in intricate patterns. The ghat is illuminated by thousands of earthen lamps that float on the river.
Many people gather at the ghat or take a boat ride to witness this divine event. The ghat radiates a spiritual aura and a stunning view over the Ganges. This ghat is considered one of the most sacred places in Varanasi.
2. Manikarnika Ghat
Nestled between the majestic Scindia Ghat and the lively Dashashwamedh Ghat lies Manikarnika Ghat, one of the most sacred places for Hindus to end their earthly journey.
Legend has it that this is where the earrings or “Mani Karna” of Goddess Sati fell. This marked the spot as a Sathi Peeth, a powerful shrine. Many devout Hindus believe that this is an auspicious place to attain salvation and escape from the cycle of reincarnation.
The funeral pyre burns at this ghat all day as numerous cremations take place here every day with solemn rituals. It is one of the 84 ghats that line the holy river Ganga in Varanasi and is believed to be the ultimate destination for those who seek moksha.
3. Assi Ghat
Assi Ghat is a vibrant and sacred spot in Varanasi, where the mighty Ganga and the serene Assi rivers converge. It attracts both tourists and locals, who come to experience the spiritual energy and the local culture of this ancient city. This ghat is famous for its evening aarti, a spectacular ceremony of fire and music that honors the river goddess and her blessings.
The ghat has a rich history and mythology, as it is said to be the place where Devi Durga threw her sword after killing the demon Mahishasura and created the Assi River. Another legend says that Lord Rudra(Shiva) unleashed his wrath here and destroyed 80 Asuras, giving the place its name Assi (80).
Assi Ghat is also revered as a holy site in many Hindu scriptures, such as the Kurma Purana, Matsya Purana, Padma Purana, and Agni Purana. Devotees come here to take a dip in the sacred water of the Assi River and offer it to Lord Shiva, who is believed to reside here. On auspicious days like Sankrantis and Ekadashis, the ghat is visited by pilgrims who seek salvation and blessings.
During Ganga Mahotsav and Mahashivratri, the ghat is transformed into a festive hub, with colorful decorations and cultural performances. Subeh Benares or Morning Arati is a unique event that takes place here every day at dawn, when the sun rises over the horizon and illuminates the ghat with its golden rays. Make sure to add this to your Varanasi trip itinerary.
4. Man Mandir Ghat
Man Mandir Ghat, one of the oldest and most splendid ghats in the city, is notable for its intricate Rajput architecture. This ghat dates back to 1600 when Rajput king Man Singh of Jaipur built his palace on the banks of the sacred Ganga river.
The palace has a majestic terrace that overlooks the serene waters of the Ganga. You can watch the sunrise over the river and paint the sky with golden hues from this vantage point. The stone balconies on the northern side offer lovely views of the nearby ghats, where you can see people bathing, praying, and performing rituals.
In the 1730s, Sawai Jai Singh II added another attraction to the ghat: the observatory called Jantar Mantar, which houses well-preserved astronomical instruments that can be used to observe the celestial bodies.
The ghat is also home to a magnificent lingam of Lord Someshwar, the god of the moon. This is why it is also known as Someshwar Ghat. The lingam is worshipped by devotees who flock to the ghat to seek blessings and peace. You can stroll around and visit some of the other temples in the vicinity, such as the Rameshwara Temple and Sthuladanta Vinayak Temple. These temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha respectively and are adorned with beautiful sculptures and paintings.
Man Mandir Ghat is a place where you can immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage of Varanasi.
5. Lalita Ghat
Lalita Ghat stands out among the other ghats on the Ganges River in Varanasi, as it was built by Rana Bahadur Shah, the king of Nepal who resided in India for a while. The ghat, which has a history of over two centuries, hosts two temples: the Nepali Temple and the Lalita Gauri Mandir.
The Nepali Temple is an ancient and unique attraction in Varanasi, with its wooden structure and intricate carvings that echo the style of Khajuraho. It is said that the wood used to build it is miraculously free from termites. The other temple, Lalita temple, is devoted to the Hindu Goddess Lalita Sundari, one of the 10 Mahavidyas. She is revered as the supreme form of Adi Shakti, the primordial energy.
Performing religious rites here helps one to attain happiness and prosperity in life. The ghat is also a favorite spot for painters and photographers, who capture the natural beauty and cultural diversity of Varanasi.
The ghat offers a unique view of the rising smoke from the Manikarnika Ghat. It is also the place where Hindu priests offer prayers, devotees take dips, and tourists enjoy boat rides.
6. Harishchandra Ghat
Harishchandra Ghat is one of the oldest ghats in Varanasi and one of the two cremation grounds in addition to the Manikarnika Ghat.
The ghat is named after a mythical king who exemplified the virtues of truth and justice. He was kind-hearted and once gave away his wealth, kingdom, and family to a Rishi Viswamitra who asked the king for Rajsuya Dakshina. Unsatisfied, the sage insisted he pays the ritual fee. Therefore helplessly he kept himself in bondage and became a worker at the ghat, where he had to perform the last rites for the dead.
One day, he faced the ultimate test when he had to cremate his own son, who had died from a snake bite. He did not waver from his duty and honesty and was rewarded by the gods who restored his family and kingdom. The ghat still bears the legendary history of Raja Harishchandra.
As you observe the boats ferrying passengers across the river and the smoke billowing from the pyres, you are struck by the contrast between the transience of life and the enduring values of virtue.
These are some famous ghats in Varanasi that have their own unique charm and beauty.
Walking along the Varanasi ghats is an amazing experience, but you may encounter poverty and vendors.
If you want a guide to making your walk more enjoyable and hassle-free, you can book this riverside walking tour by Varanasi Magic.
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