Varanasi also known as Banaras is situated on the banks of river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh and is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is often referred to as the 'Religious Capital of India' and has been the cultural and religious centre of India for several years. It is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in India and is usually thronged by devotees throughout the year. Tourists coming here get to glimpse into the various religious beliefs of the people and also enjoy the beauty of the town.
There are nearly 100 ghats bordering the river Ganga in Varanasi. A walk along the ghats is a fascinating experience in itself and tourists coming here can learn more about the various beliefs that lie behind these ghats. Here is a guide to the six ghats in Varanasi that every tourist must visit.
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1. Assi Ghat
Assi Ghat is located at the confluence of River Ganga and River Assi, and is at the southern end of the various ghats. It is not as crowded and chaotic as some of the other ghats. However, it is an important ghat for the Hindus. Pilgrims coming to Varanasi bathe in the waters of this ghat before worshipping Lord Shiva. Travellers coming here can walk along the ghat and see the crowd of devotees taking a dip in the holy water and also visit the Shiva temple that is situated under a pipal tree here.
View of Assi Ghat.
2. Chet Singh Ghat
The Chet Singh Ghat is named after Maharaja Chet Singh who was defeated by the British here. There is an old fort at this ghat that is said to have been built by Maharaja Chet Singh to defend the region against invaders. Travellers coming to this ghat can explore the old fort and admire at its architectural beauty.
The fort built by Maharaja Chet Singh.
3. Dharbhanga Ghat
Darbhanga Ghat is a favourite among tourists, as it is one of the most visually appealing and architecturally impressive ghats. It features a majestic palace that is believed to have been built by the royal family of Bihar in the early 1900s. The ghat is usually seen crowded by tourists who come to explore the palace and marvel at its beauty.
The Dharbhanga Palace at the ghat.
4. Dasaswamedh Ghat
The Dasaswamedh Ghat is the heart of all religious activities in Varanasi. It is the oldest and holiest ghats and is famous for the Ganga 'aarti' that takes place here every evening. The evening 'aarti' here seems more like a festival of sorts as you get to see a crowd of devotees and tourists along the ghats, trying to catch a view of the puja being performed. Several priests light diyas and thank the holy River Ganga for having cleansed the devotees of their sins. It is also a hub for various vendors who walk among the crowds to sell their wares.
Ganga aarti being performed at the ghat.
5. Scindia Ghat
The Scindia Ghat is the only serene region among all the ghats of Varanasi. This practically untouched ghat is visited by travellers who want to enjoy some peace and the beautiful views of the surroundings. There is a partially submerged Shiva Temple here that attracts tourists. Devotees are not usually seen here as they believe that the ghat has some negative vibe around it. It is said the when this ghat was being built was when the Shiva temple became partially submerged.
View of the partially submerged Shiva Temple.
6. Manikarnika Ghat
The most discomfiting ghat at Varanasi is the Manikarnika ghat as it is the place where dead bodies are cremated. According to Hindu belief burning the dead's body here will liberate them from the cycle of rebirth. Piles of firewood can be seen lined along the shore and the fires from cremation continually burn here. If you're curious about the rituals, you can witness it after paying a small fee. It is among the holiest sites of Varanasi, as well as one of the most morbid sight to be seen in the city.
Bodies being burnt at the ghat.