A photographer’s delight, the Ghats of Varanasi depict the traditional India at its best. The Ghats lining the Ganges in Varanasi can very easily qualify as the most colorful, lively, spirited and picturesque places in India.
Varanasi is the city of Shiva and one of the holiest places in India. Kashi or the city of life was so called because Varuna and Asi rivers meet here. Pilgrims by and large flock the holy city in the hope of achieving salvation and absolving themselves from a lifetime of sins.
The enchanting activities on the Ghats of Varanasi involves bathing or the holy dip in Ganges, cremation of bodies, washing clothes, performing yoga, offering pujas, buying world famous’ banarasi paan’, selling flowers, washing buffaloes, getting massages, donating to the beggars and even playing cricket.
The ancient city of Varanasi has been a cent re of learning and civilization for over 2000 years and is one of the oldest cities in the world.
With buildings which are more than 200 years old, the history of this holy city can be traced back 1400 B.C. Adi Shankaracharya, a Hindu guru of the 8th century AD made the city as principle sect for Shiva worship. The spiritual, religious and even trader’s life of the city revolves around the Ghats which are over 80 in number. The Ghats can be easily described as a long flight of steps down to the water of Ganges on its western banks. The best time to visit the ghat is at dawn when the pilgrims and the priests come for a holy dip in the river and to offer Puja (prayer) to the sun god and at sunset when the Ganga arti is performed at the Dasaswamedha ghat.
A walk around the string of river Ghats is a unique and world class experience. Even a boat ride from Dasaswamedha ghat and back gives an enchanting insight into the magical river side.
The southernmost ghat is the Assi ghat. A Siva lingam under a pipal tree is the major attraction here. Close by is the Tulsi ghat, named after Swami Tulsidas, a Hindu poet of the 16th century. There are three Jain temples at one of the Ghats called as Bachraj ghat. A number of Ghats are owned by many princely states such as Shivala Ghat, Dandi ghat. Close to these is the Hanuman ghat.
There are two cremation Ghats, of which the Harish Chandra ghat is the smaller and lesser important one, though it is one of the oldest Ghats in Varanasi. Close to this lies the Kedar ghat and Mansarovar ghat which was constructed by Raja Man Singh of Amber, the Ahilya bai ghat is named after the brave Maratha ruler of Indore while Someshwar ghat is considered to heal diseases. The Munshi ghat can easily pass off as the most aesthetic ghat.
Dasaswamedha ghat is undoubtedly the most colorful and lively Ghats of Varanasi. It is the best ghat to be around to observe the life of Sadhus and pilgrims and feel the positive and religious vibes. The evening Ganga arti ceremony is staged here. It also has a holy shrine of Goddess Shitala Devi.
Man mandir ghat was built by Raja Man Singh in 1600 and has a stone facade and an unusual observatory built by Raja Jai Singh II of Jaipur. A Nepali temple with erotic sculptors is standing tall on the Meer ghat.
Manikarnika ghat is the prime ghat for cremation and is considered the most auspicious place for a Hindu to be converted to ashes. This ghat also has a Manikarnika well and a charan paduka.
A small temple built in the honor of saint dattatreya is the highlight of Dattatreya ghat. Other Ghats lining up the river side banks are Scindia ghat, Ram ghat, Panchganga ghat, Gai ghat, Trilochan ghat and Raj ghat.
A quintessential Varanasi experience is the boat trips along the Ganges to view the Ghats and royal forts and see the vivid spirituality of saffron and inspiring serenity of the blue unfold before your eyes!