Varanasi Ghats – place to go in India
Varanasi is symbolized by its Ghats. There are as many as 81 Ghats in Varanasi for different purposes. Some of them are related to particular deity while others are simply to bathe. Some of the important Ghats of Varanasi include Assi, Dasaswamedh, Manikarnika, Tulsi and Panch Ganga among others. Tulsi Ghat is named after the famous 16th century poet Tulsi Das, who spent many years on this Ghat composing the Ram Charit Manas. A temple dedicated to Lord Ram stands on the Ghat. Another historically important Ghat is Panch-Ganga Ghat. Panch -Ganga Ghat as its name indicates, is where five rivers are supposed to meet. Dominating the Ghat is Aurangzeb’ s smaller mosque popularly called Alamgir Mosque. Following are other important Ghats in Varanasi: –
Dasaswamedh Ghat falls second in line of the Panch-Tirtha Yatra. When you start moving from Assi towards North then falls past the plain, flat-roofed building that houses the shrine of Shitala. The name of Dasaswamedh Ghat indicates that Brahma sacrificed (medh) 10 horses here. Conveniently central, it’s one of the most important and busiest ghats and therefore is a good place to linger and soak up the atmosphere.
Dasaswamedh is an extremely popular pilgrimage. Even in the rainy season when Ganges is on spate, people can be seen visiting the temple on boats. It is interesting to know that Shitala represents both benign and malevolent aspects of life; ease and succor as well as disease.
Dasaswamedh can be safely adjudged as the most popular and easily accessible Ghat of Varanasi. It is very easy to locate this Ghat because of its typical environment that consists of rows of pandas sitting on wooden platforms under bamboo umbrellas. This is the most featured scene of Varanasi all over the world. This place is featured in every possible paintings and stills of Banaras. The place looks like a mini India in itself. Masseurs share space with sometimes irritating boatmen who jostle for customers all along.
Manikarnika Ghat has a great significance not only in Hindu mythology and way of life but also in the philosophies of life and death. Manikarnika is basically a cremation Ghat. It is interesting to know that cremation Ghats are usually placed outside the main town, as they are considered inauspicious. Nevertheless this doesn’t stand true in the case of Varanasi where Manikarnika is situated quite in the middle of town itself. This is precisely because the entire city of Varanasi is considered a “Maha-Shmashan” or the Great Cremation Ground.
Manikarnika Ghat is perpetually crowded with funeral parties. You will find shops lined up with things used during the cremation such as Ghee, wood, offerings and clothes. These cremations are felicitated by Doms who are considered the guardian of dead. Seeing bodies being cremated so publicly has always exerted a great fascination for foreign visitors to the city who find it utterly amusing and deviated from the one practiced in Semitic religions. It is worthy to note that photography is strictly considered a taboo. So please avoid doing that as this might be seen as a provocation and act of hostility and might lead to unwanted troubles.
The philosophical aspect of Manikarnika lies in the fact that this Ghat is an optimal amalgamation of both life as well as death. Manikarnika that lies at the center of the Panch-Tirtha symbolizes both creation and destruction, epitomized by the juxtaposition of the sacred well of Manikarnika Kund and Manikarnika Ghat. While Vishnu has dug the former at the time of creation of earth Shiva, the destructor, inhabits the hot and sandy ash-infused soil of the later. Manikarnika Kund is considered to be even older than Ganges and as legend has it, Vishnu cared the kund with his discus, and filled it with perspiration from his exertions in creating the world, at the behest of Shiva. When Shiva quivered with delighted, his earning fell into this pool, which as Manikarnika – “Jeweled Earring” – became the very First Tirtha in the world.
Assi is a clay-banked Ghat that stands at the southernmost part of Varanasi where river Assi meets Ganges. This Ghat is the first when you start walking from South towards the Manikarnika. It is mandatory for the pilgrims to bathe at this Ghat before worshipping at a huge lingam under a Peepal tree. There is another Lingam that is worth visit.
Harish Chandra Ghat
Harish Chandra Ghat is one of the oldest Ghats of Varanasi. Harish Chandra Ghat is name after a mythological King Harish Chandra, who once worked at the cremation ground here for the perseverance of truth and charity.
It is believed that the Gods rewarded him for his resolve, charity and truthfulness and restored his lost throne and his dead son to him. Harish Chandra Ghat is one of the two cremation Ghats (the other being Manikarnika Ghat) and is some times referred as Adi Manikarnika (the original creation ground).
Tulsi Ghat is another important Ghat of Varanasi. Tulsi Ghat is named after the great Hindu poet of the 16th century, Tulsidas. Tulsi Ghat is an important window into the Hindu mythology. Tulsi Das composed the great Indian epic, Ramcharitmanas at Varanasi. According to mythology, when Tulsi’s manuscript fell into the River Ganga it did not sink and kept floating instead.
Pancha-ganga Ghat & Bindu Madhava Temple
Beneath this ghat the Ganges, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Kirana, and Dhutapapa Rivers are said to meet. It is one of the five main ghats in Varanasi. It is considered especially auspicious to bathe here during the month of Kartika (Oct-Nov), and even more so on the full moon day of Kartika.
At this ghat is the large Alamgir Mosque built by Aurangzeb in the 17th century, after he destroyed the major Bindu Madhava Temple that used to be here. The present Deity of Bindu Madhava is in a small temple by the mosque. It is located just above the Pancha-ganga Ghat. If you are taking a boat by yourself, you can have the boat stop here and walk up to the temple.