- 1 Introduction
- 2 History
- 3 The city of the modern age
- 4 Significant Temples around the city
- 5 Famous Ghats
- 5.1 Panchganga Ghat
- 5.2 Manikarnika Ghat
- 5.3 Dasaswamedh Ghat
- 5.4 Rana Ghat
- 5.5 Kedar Ghat
- 5.6 Narad Ghat
- 5.7 Harishchandra Ghat
- 5.8 Hanuman Ghat
- 5.9 Assi Ghat
- 5.10 Tulsi Ghat
- 5.11 Man Mandir Ghat
- 5.12 Scindia Ghat
- 5.13 Chauki Ghat
- 5.14 Chausathi Ghat
- 5.15 Adi Keshav Ghat
- 5.16 Lalita Ghat
- 5.17 How to visit Varanasi
The ancient city of Varanasi, or Benaras, perched on the banks of the holy Ganges river, has been attracting pilgrims for centuries and is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited settlements. When the famous novelist Mark Twain visited India in the late 1800s, he described the city as “ancient than history, tradition, and even mythology.”
Varanasi is one of the country’s seven holiest towns and is said to be the home of Lord Shiva. Varanasi’s ambience has been layered with centuries of history, art, and culture, which is most brilliantly visible at its ghats (stepped banks of a river). The Ganges ghats are the focus of Varanasi’s spiritual landscape, attracting pilgrims in pursuit of sanctity and divine providence. The ghats are the scene of time-honoured rites that are still being conducted today, from the famed Ganga aarti (fire ceremony) to cremation ceremonies.
According to legend, Lord Shiva brought the heavenly Ganga to earth, which is why the river is revered. Thousands of devotees come from all across the nation to bathe in its waters, believing that a dip in the sacred Ganges can cleanse them of one of their sins. It is also thought that people who are cremated here get moksha (salvation). Many people consider the sacred Kashi Yatra (pilgrimage to Kashi, as Varanasi was once known) to be one of the most significant ceremonies they will ever perform.
In recent years, the city has become a centre for philosophy, yoga, Ayurveda (an ancient medical science), and astrology.
Varanasi is also one of Buddhism’s holiest locations, as Lord Buddha presented his first speech in Sarnath, which is only 12 kilometres away. Kashi is also referred to be a sacred city in Jain literature, as it is the birthplace of four Jain Tirthankaras (saints). Kabir, a 15th-century spiritual poet and saint, is also supposed to have been born in this city.
The city of Benaras is mentioned in the Upanishads (holy Hindu writings) as dating back to 1400 BC and is claimed to have been an important centre of trade and knowledge. It was subsequently given the name Varanasi and began to have a unique position in Indian culture, particularly as a link to the past. For centuries, scribes have attempted to capture the spirit of Varanasi in writings.
Literary and artwork
The city has inspired a great corpus of literary, biblical, lyrical, and historical works created by some of the most prominent Indian writers throughout centuries, from Kabir’s couplets to the works of prose writers like DN Khatri, Hazari Dwivedi, and Jaishankar Prasad. The city is known for its silk weaving and provides brocade sarees, which are a must-have in the trousseau of most Indian newlyweds. Copper pottery, brassware, wooden and clay toys, and jewellery are all popular in the city.
Famous melody-makers have called Varanasi home, from Mughal court musicians to modern-day figures like legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar, shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan, and late vocalist Girija Devi. Varanasi has such a profound effect on classical and modern music that it has been designated as one of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network’s ‘Cities of Music.’
Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. The earliest Aryan settlement in the middle Ganges valley is its early history. Varanasi was a seat of Aryan religion and philosophy by the 2nd millennium BCE, as well as a commercial and industrial centre known for its muslin and silk textiles, fragrances, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of the Buddha (6th century BCE), Varanasi was the capital of the kingdom of Kashi, and Sarnath was the site of his first sermon. The city remained a centre of religious, educational, and artistic pursuits, as testified by the famous Chinese Buddhist missionary Xuanzang, who visited it in around 635 CE and said that it stretched for nearly 3 miles (5 km) along the Ganges’ western bank.
Varanasi fell into decay after three centuries of Muslim rule, which began in 1194. During the Muslim administration, many of the city’s Hindu temples were demolished, and erudite intellectuals fled to other areas of the nation. In the 16th century, the Mughal emperor Akbar provided some alleviation to the city’s religious and cultural activity. During the time of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the late 17th century, there was another setback, but the Marathas eventually financed a fresh renaissance. Varanasi established an autonomous kingdom in the 18th century, and it remained a commercial and religious centre during British control.
Varanasi became a new Indian state in 1910, with Ramnagar (on the other side) as its capital but no control over the city of Varanasi. After India’s independence in 1947, the state of Varanasi was annexed by Uttar Pradesh.
The city of the modern age
Varanasi features India’s most beautiful riverfront, with kilometres of ghats (or steps) for religious bathing and a tier-by-tier display of shrines, temples, and palaces rising from the water’s edge. The city’s inner streets are small, twisting, and inaccessible for motor vehicles; the newer outlying suburbs are wider and well-planned. The hallowed city is encompassed by the Panchakosi route; devoted Hindus aim to travel the road and visit the city at least once in their lives, and if feasible, to die there in old age. Every year, almost a million pilgrims visit the place. Thousands of domestic and international tourists visit the city each year, and tourism-related activities account for a considerable portion of the local economy.
The temples of Vishvanatha, devoted to Shiva, Sankatmochana, dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman, and Durga are the most revered among the city’s numerous temples. The swarms of monkeys that inhabit the big trees around the Durga Temple are well-known. Another notable religious structure is Aurangzeb’s Great Mosque. Tulasi Manas and Vishvanatha, both on the Banaras Hindu University campus, are two of the most prominent contemporary temples. Hundreds of more temples may be found across the city. There are remnants of old Buddhist monasteries and temples at Sarnath, a few miles north of Varanasi, as well as temples established by the Maha Bodhi Society and Chinese, Burmese, and Tibetan Buddhists.
Varanasi has long been regarded as a centre of Hindu scholarship. The maintenance of traditional learning is overseen by several schools and a large number of Brahman pandits (learned scholars). Three institutions, including the huge and significant Banaras Hindu University (1915), as well as more than a dozen colleges and high schools, are located in the city.
The city is known for its arts and crafts, as well as its music and dancing. Varanasi is well-known for its gold and silver threadwork on silks and brocades. Bhadoi is home to a well-known carpet-weaving centre. Varanasi also produces wooden toys, glass bangles, ivory carvings, and brass items.
Numerous religious festivals are held throughout the city. A procession from the Mahamrityunjaya Temple to the Kashi Vishvanath Temple is held to commemorate Mahashivaratri, Shiva’s magnificent night. The Ganga festival, which takes place in November or December, honours the goddess of the Ganges River, which is revered by all Hindus. Thousands of lamps are floated afloat on the river and placed on the ghats. The Bharat Milap celebration, held in October or November, commemorates Lord Rama’s reunification with his younger brother Bharat after a 14-year exile. In March, the city’s Tulsi Ghat beside the river hosts five-day dhrupad (traditional Indian vocal style) festival that draws renowned musicians from all across India.
Varanasi serves as a significant transportation hub for the region. It is a major railway junction with highway connections to other towns in Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring regions. The city centre is around 12 miles (20 kilometres) from the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport.
Significant Temples around the city
The Vishwanath Mandir, also known as Kashi Vishwanath Temple, is one of Varanasi’s most prominent tourist sites. It is devoted to Lord Shiva, the city’s presiding god. Due to its gold plating, this temple is also known as the golden temple, and it occupies a particular place in the hearts of Hindu believers. The temple’s renowned 15.5-metre-high gold spire and gold dome were presented by Ranjeet Singh, the king of Punjab in 1839 after it was given its current design in 1780 by queen Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore.
The temple is surrounded by numerous temples and narrow galis (walkways) dotted with shops selling sweetmeats, paan (betel leaf), handicrafts, and other trinkets. Darshan (general visit) is available from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. Annapurna Temple, devoted to the goddess of food, and Dundiraj Vinayak, dedicated to Lord Ganesha, are both nearby and are equally renowned. The jyotirlinga (devotional shrine of Lord Shiva) found here is said to be the 12th jyotirlinga. Jnana Vapi, or wisdom well, is located on the temple grounds. Many people think that the jyotirlinga was kept in the well to safeguard it from attackers and that the temple’s chief saint leapt into the well to defend it. Many renowned Hindu saints are said to have visited the temple to catch a glimpse of the jyotirlinga and bathe in the Ganga’s sacred waters, according to Hindu legend.
Kaal Bhairav Temple
The Kal Bhairav Temple is devoted to Lord Kal Bhairav, Lord Shiva’s deadliest form, as the name suggests. The temple’s primary idol is a guy wearing a garland with a skull for a face. According to local legend, Kal Bhairava chooses who remains in Varanasi, which may explain why visitors to the city must first visit the temple, and those departing must stop here to obtain permission from the deity. The temple’s entrance is tiny, yet it provides a clear view of the god. Devotees frequently present the god with sesame oil and flowers. Only priests have access to the rear entrance to the inner sanctuary. If visitors need to purchase offerings for the god, there are several stores lined up outside the grounds.
Due to the presence of a large number of monkeys, it is known as Monkey Temple. A kund (pond) is located within the compound and is surrounded on all sides by stone steps with watch pillars at each corner. The temple is a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus, especially during the Navaratri festival (a Hindu festival during which the goddess is worshipped). There is a prevalent notion among devotees that Goddess Durga’s idol appeared on its own, and that the temple’s crimson hues are a homage to the goddess who is connected with the colour. Many people think that the goddess shields her believers from harm.
In Varanasi, there is another renowned Durga temple known as Brahmacharini Durga Temple. It is next to the Durga Ghat (which means Durga Kund) on the Ganga’s bank.
Tulsi Manas Mandir
The Tulsi Manas Mandir was built in 1964 to honour the 6th-century Indian bhakti poet Goswami Tulsidas, the author of the epic Ramcharitramanas. The temple, which is made of white marble and features lyrics and scenes from the Ramcharitramanas carved on its walls, is wonderfully manicured. It has a lot of historic and cultural significance since Goswami Tulsidas is credited for popularising the Indian epic Ramayan by writing it in Awadhi, a dialect of Hindi, making it accessible to the public. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and is located near the well-known Durga temple. Beautiful idols of Lord Rama, Goddess Sita, Lord Lakshmana, and Lord Hanuman may be found within. There’s also a wonderful garden.
Sankat Mochan Mandir
The Sankar Mochan Mandir, one of the city’s oldest Hanuman temples, is located between Assi Ghat and Banaras Hindu University in the city’s southern outskirts. The temple, which was founded by saint Tulsidas, is immensely famous among followers. The word ‘sankat mochan’ means ‘one who aids in the removal of pains.’ Many worshippers think that paying a visit to this temple would end their suffering. Tuesdays and Saturdays, which are regarded holy days, attract the largest numbers to the temple to worship the deity. People worship Lord Hanuman’s idol with sindoor (vermilion) and ladoos (spherical sweets). The sindoor is subsequently placed on the worshippers’ foreheads. The temple also hosts various classical music events, notably the Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh, which takes place every April for a week.
The Parshavnath Jain Temple is located near Belapur, away from the city centre, and is dedicated to the 23rd Tirthankara (saint) of the Jain sect, Parshavnath. The temple, which is primarily run by the Digambara sect of Jainism, is a popular destination for Jain pilgrims. It is said to have been built during the reign of Bhagawan Adinath. The svayamvar of the king of Kashi’s daughter, Sulochana, is reported to have taken place here. The tirth is also mentioned in the Vividh Tirth Kalpa, which was authored in the 14th century by scholar Acharya Jinaprabhsurisvarji. The temple’s latticework is delicate and detailed, and the carvings on the structure’s walls add to its worth.
Bharat Mata Temple
The Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, along with Banaras Hindu University, is Varanasi’s other important educational institution. This university’s campus is home to the Bharat Mata Temple. In 1936, Mahatma Gandhi dedicated this one-of-a-kind temple to Bharat Mata (Mother India), which worships no other gods or goddesses. A marble figure of Bharat Mata (Mother India), intended to represent India, is housed at the temple. Its design represents the goddess of India, who is the patroness of all religious deities, leaders, and liberation fighters in India. A marble relief geographical map of undivided India, depicting plains, mountains, and seas, is also on display.
Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt designed and built the temple. It is an eight-story building with a height of approximately 180 feet.
The confluence of five important rivers, the Yamuna, Saraswati, Dhutpapa, Kirana, and the Ganges, gave this ghat its name. Devotees from all over the world go here to bathe in the sacred Ganga. The ghat is incredibly deep and wide, with stone towers and stairwells.
The Alamgir Mosque is next to the ghat, which Aurangzeb erected after destroying the Bindu Madhava temple that had stood where the mosque now stands. This ghat also gives witness to Hindu-Muslim interactions, since it is recognised as the location of Sufi-Sant tradition initiation.
Manikarnika Ghat is one of Varanasi’s oldest ghats, and according to Hinduism’s sacred texts, it has the highest status among all ghats. It is thought that if a person is burned here, he will achieve moksha right away (salvation). The Scindia Ghat and the Dashashwamedh Ghat encircle it on all sides. The Manikarnika Ghat, like all the other ghats in Varanasi, is surrounded by a fascinating mythical narrative that also explains how it got its name.
Lord Shiva is said to have brought Goddess Adi Shakti, or Goddess Sati, to the Himalayas when she leapt into the flames and immolated herself. He was engulfed in interminable grief there. Lord Vishnu was touched by his misery and unleashed his Divine Chakra (one of his weapons), which slashed Goddess Adi Shakti’s body into 51 pieces. Each of the places on Earth where her parts landed was designated as a Shakti Peeth. Because her earrings dropped at this ghat, it was designated as a Shakti Peeth and given the name Manikarnika, as Manikarna means earrings in Sanskrit.
Dashashwamedh Ghat is one of Varanasi’s oldest and most prominent ghats. It attracts both believers and tourists in huge numbers, despite being overshadowed by the architecturally spectacular Vishwanath Temple.
Its name is associated with two mythical concepts. One claims that Lord Brahma built it to welcome Lord Shiva, while the other claims that at the Ashwamedha Yajna, Lord Brahma sacrificed (medh) 10 (das) horses (aswa). According to historical records, Bajirao Peshwa I erected the ghat around 1740 AD, while Ahilyabai Holkar, Queen of Indore, restored it in 1774 AD.
Due to its tremendous religious importance, the Dashashwamedh Ghat attracts a huge number of people. The evening aarti, which is done every evening and attended by both locals and international tourists, is a big attraction. The aarti begins with the blowing of the conch and is performed by pandits draped in saffron robes. Following that, incense sticks are lit and waved in specific patterns. The illumination of big brass lights, which are waved in exact circular patterns, follows. The air is filled with the rhythmic chanting of mantras. It draws enormous crowds because it is beautifully coordinated and aesthetically stunning.
Rana Mahal Ghat was created in 1970 by Rajput Chieftain and Maharana of Udaipur on the southern end of Dashaswamedh Ghat. It is noted for having some of the most opulent palaces that showcase Rajputana architecture at its finest. With time, these palaces began to lose their allure, so Rana Jagat Singh ordered that they be renovated in order to restore their ethereal beauty.
Because this ghat is thought to be haunted, worshippers avoid visiting there late at night. The ghat is at its most beautiful in the morning, when you may witness saints praying and people meditating to achieve serenity.
Kedar Ghat is one of Varanasi’s most popular ghats for a variety of reasons. Apart from the spectacular vistas, the ghat is home to the famed Kedareshwar Temple (after which the ghat is named) devoted to Lord Eshwar (Shiva) and the Gauri Kund (pond) at the temple’s foot. The temple is supposed to be a duplicate of Uttarakhand’s famed Kedarnath Temple. After Dashashwamedh Ghat, it is thought to be Varanasi’s second most populous ghat.
If you go to the ghat on any given day, you will see a large number of devotees from South India bathing and praying at the temple. Because of its distinctive South Indian style, it stands out among the numerous temples dotting the many ghats in Varanasi. Except during monsoons, when it is filled to the brim, the Gauri Kund (pond) that is part of the temple complex remains mainly dry. The wooden shoes (called Khadau in Sanskrit) worn by Saint Tulsidas (a prominent Vaishnavite saint and Ramayana composer) are said to be buried here.
The ghat is especially worth seeing on the nights when the aarti is done. During the holy month of Sravan (July/August), it is bustling with pilgrims and visitors. The chanting of rhythms in unison, the burning of diyas, and the ringing of bells cleanses the air and generate a spiritual aura. If you enjoy photography, you will be able to take some fantastic shots.
Narad Ghat is one of 88 ghats in Varanasi, located between the rivers “Varuna” and “Assi,” each having its own distinct and intriguing narrative. It has its own distinct personality and history. Narad Ghat is named after the Hindu mythological sage Narad. He is thought to have arisen from Lord Brahma’s (the universe’s creator) forehead and is his son. He was a wise man. He practised sagehood and celibacy, which he related to self-cultivation and self-growth in the end.
Preachers say he committed his life to discover the true meaning of life for himself and other human beings. He wants more structure in his life. He is regarded as the messenger of all the loks, including ‘Swarg Lok,’ ‘Dharti Lok,’ and ‘Paatal Lok,’ among others. He always repeated ‘Narayana,’ another name for Lord Vishnu (the universe’s operator), demonstrating that he was a sincere follower of him. He is the one who first introduced the ‘Veena’ musical instrument.
Harishchandra Ghat is also one of Varanasi’s oldest ghats, according to residents. It is greatly venerated by both residents and visitors, and it is thought that, like Manikarnika Ghat, being cremated here leads to salvation. The ghat, like many such sacred sites, has a gloomy appearance most of the time. Boats ready to transport travellers to the opposite side of the sacred River Ganga may be seen at the bottom of the steps leading to it. Smoke rises with seriousness somewhere else before mixing with the air above. The entire image serves as a reminder of your mortality and how fleeting everything is.
The origin of the name Harishchandra Ghat is a fascinating storey. Ruler Harishchandra, a mythological king of Varanasi, is said to have laboured in the cremation grounds to promote truth and justice. A sage named Rishi Vishwamitra, on the other hand, asked the king to pay him a ritual fee known as Rajsuya Dakshina one day.
The king, who was famed for his kindness, handed up his whole kingdom, as well as all of his money and possessions. The sage, still unsatisfied, requested that he pay for the ceremony for free. He made his way to Kashi, dejected and powerless. He enslaved his wife and son and offered himself up for bondage here. He never met his son or wife until his wife, who had been broken down by years of toil, hardship, and suffering went to the cremation ground with their son’s body in her arms, who had died from a snake bite. His mother didn’t have enough money to meet his funeral expenses. This was Harishchandra’s final test, which he passed with remarkable strength, honesty, and courage. God ultimately repaid him for his honesty by returning his throne, country, and son to him. The legends of King Harishchandra are spoken with the same passion now as they were thousands of years ago, and his character is used as a standard to judge a man’s honesty and moral integrity. The ghat now has an electric incinerator as well.
Hanuman Ghat lies near Varanasi’s Juna Akhara, a well-known religious group. It was previously called Rameshwaram Ghat, as it is said that Lord Rama erected it to honour his devoted follower Lord Hanuman. The ghat is a popular resort for bodybuilders and wrestlers since Lord Hanuman is a deity of physical strength. A court or a dedicated ground where wrestlers and bodybuilders practise their workouts and hold competitions is also known as an akhara. Hanuman Ghat was also the home of Vallabhacharya, a prominent Vaishnava saint and a devoted devotee of Lord Krishna. The ghat is home to a shrine built by Tulsidas, the world-famous poet who composed the Ramayana epic. Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam of Sri Shankaracharya Matha at Varanasi is also located on the ghat. The Sri Kamakoteeswar Mandir is a large temple with frequent devotional sessions.
Assi Ghat is one of Varanasi’s most famous ghats, with both tourists and residents flocking to it on a daily basis. It is situated at the confluence of the Ganga and Assi rivers in the southern section of Varanasi’s holy city. People come to Assi Ghat for a variety of reasons, including to soak up the spiritual ambience, to see the famed evening aarti, and to learn about the local culture. Kurma Purana, Matsya Purana, Padma Purana, and Agni Purana are among the Hindu scriptures that reference this ghat.
What is the origin of the name Assi Ghat? Goddess Durga hurled her sword after defeating the demon Shumbha-Nishumbha, according to Hindu mythology. The sword’s landing site resulted in the formation of a river known as Assi at the time. Another legend claims that Lord Rudra (a form of Lord Shiva) got enraged at the Asuras and slew 80 of them at this location. Assi was born as a result of this (which means 80 in Hindi). Lord Rudra, on the other hand, felt bad about murdering the asuras and wished he hadn’t. After this occurrence, he renounced all sorts of violence and declared Varanasi to be a symbol of nonviolence.
Taking a plunge at Assi Ghat (where the two rivers, Ganga and Assi, meet) is considered similar to taking a dip in hundreds of other sacred rivers, according to devotees. There are times when tens of thousands of worshippers go to the temple. Natural occurrences such as lunar and solar eclipses, Makar Sakranti, and Probodhoni Ekadashi are among them. Under the peepal tree at the ghat, there is a Shivlinga. After taking a swim in the Ganga, people donate holy water here. A second linga may be seen within a little marble temple beside the temple.
People come to Assi Ghat, one of Varanasi’s most well-known tourist sites, for a variety of reasons. Some come to take a holy swim, while others come to relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings. Spending time at the ghat is thought to have a relaxing effect on both the mind and the body. Early in the morning, when the morning aarti, also known as Subeh Benares, is held, is one of the ideal times to visit the ghat. During festivals like Mahashivratri and Ganga Mahotsav, Assi Ghat is overrun with tourists.
Varanasi’s Tulsi Ghat is another notable Ghat. Tulsi Ghat is named after Tulsidas, a famous Hindu poet from the 16th century. Tulsi Ghat is a significant portal into Hindu mythology. At Varanasi, Tulsi Das wrote the classic Indian epic Ramcharitmanas. When Tulsi’s book fell into the Ganga, legend has it that it did not sink but instead floated. It is also thought that the Ramlila (the narrative of Lord Rama’s life) was first performed here. Perhaps a temple to Lord Ram was constructed on the Tulsi Ghat to commemorate this. At the Tulsi Ghat, several of Tulsi Das’ artefacts are preserved. Tulsidas’ samadhi, wooden clogs, pillow, and the image of Hanuman, which Tulsi adored, have all been kept in the home where he died.
Tulsi Ghat was once known as Lolark Ghat (mentioned in Gaharwa Danpatra and Girvanapadamanjari). Baldeo Das Birla, a prominent businessman, constructed Tulsi Ghat pucca (cemented) in 1941. Tulsi Ghat is linked to a variety of major rituals, including the Lolarkkunda bath (to be blessed with sons and long life) and the holy bath (to be cleansed of leprosy). Tulsi Ghat is also a hub for cultural events. Krishna Lila is performed here with tremendous pomp and dedication during the Hindu lunar month of Kartika (October/November).
Man Mandir Ghat
The Man Mandir Ghat is as beautiful as it is massive. It is also known as Someswara Ghat, as it is located north of the Dashashwamedh Ghat and has a lingam of Lord Someshwar (another form of Lord Shiva). Maharaja Man Singh of Amer constructed the ghat around 1600 AD, along with a splendid palace in the near vicinity. With its exquisite window carvings and other magnificent features, the palace is a notable tourist destination in and of itself. The Jantar Mantar, a royal observatory erected by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1710 AD, is located on the roof of the palace. You will be treated to some fantastic views of the surroundings if you move over to the northern half of the balcony with its stone balconies.
Rameshwara Temple, Sthuladanta Vinayak Temple, and Someshwara Temple are among the Hindu temples on the Man Mandir Ghat. During the evenings and early mornings, the ghat takes on a new appearance. Visitors can be seen lounging and taking in the beauty that the ghat has to offer.
The half-flooded Lord Shiva temple distinguishes Scindia Ghat from the other notable ghats in Varanasi. Its submersion has an intriguing narrative behind it. The Manikarnika Ghat is located to its north, while Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi’s other prominent ghat, is located around 1.2 kilometres away. Ratneshwar Shiva Shrine, or just leaning Shiva Temple, is a temple that is half immersed in the River Ganga. The temple is thought to have been buried for about 150 years due to the ghat’s weight. People believe it has been drowning since then and will be entirely submerged at some point. The temple’s submergence also has a legendary explanation.
Man Singh had a mother who was in love with a man and wanted to marry him, according to the storey. The young man despised the connection and desired to repay his mother for any amount he thought he owed her. He assumed he’d broken all links with her once he’d accomplished this. The mother refused to quit the relationship on her own and instead requested that he do so. He landed at Kashi with that goal in mind and constructed a Shiva temple. He thought he had paid off all of his debts to his mother by doing so. His mother, however, became outraged after visiting the shrine and said that nothing could ever replace a mother’s love for her kid. The temple has been cursed ever then, and it has stayed submerged in water. The garbagriha (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple is visible during the summers, when the waters of the River Ganga fall a little, making it a great attraction for worshippers.
Tourists come to the ghat in search of serenity and tranquilly. Come here early in the morning and you’ll see individuals of all ages, young and old, meditating and admiring the scenery.
Chauki Ghat is near two of Varanasi’s most renowned ghats, the Harishchandra Ghat and the Kedar Ghat. It was thought to have been constructed around 1970. It deserves as much attention as the other ghats as a tourist destination. Its wide-open platforms, iron fences, and vast open space make it an ideal location for relaxing, hanging out, and taking in the scenery. A massive pipal tree greets you as you mount the Chauki Ghat’s steps. A variety of wonderfully carved stone figurines of nagas and snakes, as well as other artefacts thought to date from the Buddhist period, may be found here. The highly respected temple of Rukmangesvara is located beside the tree. Another shrine, Naga Kupa, is a little distance ahead. Devotees visit these temples to seek blessings during Nag Panchami (a Hindu festival in which snakes are venerated).
Chausathi Gath is a renowned spiritual location to visit among Varanasi’s various ghats. The phrase Chausathi comes from the word Chausath, which means “sixty-four.” The name comes from a temple devoted to 64 Hindu deities that is located near this renowned tourist attraction in Varanasi. This temple may be reached by rising a few steps from Chausathi Ghat. This ghat is where devotees take a sacred plunge in the river. Whether or not you are religious, a visit to this well-known tourist site in Varanasi is a necessity, owing to its tranquil atmosphere.
Adi Keshav Ghat
Adi Keshava Ghat, located 3.5 km east of Panchganga Ghat, is probably one of the calmest spots to visit in Varanasi. Adi Keshava is one of the few ghats in Varanasi that is rarely crowded, making it a perfect place to visit if you have a limited amount of time in the city. The River Varuna meets the Ganges at this renowned holy location in Varanasi. Adi Keshava Perumal Temple, a well-known tourist attraction in Varanasi, is also conveniently accessible. The temple of Adi Keshava is reached after a short climb up a few stairs.
Lalita Ghat is a one-of-a-kind ghat. Unlike the other ghats in Varanasi, which were created by Indian monarchs, this one was erected in the 19th century by Rana Bahadur Shah, King of Nepal. Two temples, Nepali Mandir and Lalita Gauri Mandir are located on the ghat. The Nepali Mandir is a popular tourist attraction in Varanasi since it is not only one of the oldest temples in the city, but also because the wood used to construct it is claimed to be termite-free.
The ghat is named after Goddess Lalita, who is one of ten goddesses known as Dasha-Mahavidyas or Mahavidyas in Hinduism. She is also regarded as the ultimate manifestation of Goddess Adi Shakti. The history of the ghat is as intriguing as the temple’s design.
When Rana Bahadur Shah, the King of Nepal, came to Varanasi during his exile in the early nineteenth century, he planned to build a temple that would resemble Nepal’s famed Pashupatinath Mandir. Despite the fact that the temple’s construction began in earnest, he returned to Nepal in the middle of it. Girvan Yuddha Bikram Shah Deva, his son, took it upon himself to complete the project, which included a Dharamshala and Lalita Ghat. The complete temple complex, including the ghat, is thought to have taken more than 20 years to build.
In the imaginations of devotees, Lalita Ghat has a specific religious significance. Because it is blessed by Goddess Lalita, the greatest manifestation of Adi Shakti, it is claimed that performing rituals here brings wealth and pleasure. Visitors to the ghat may take a boat ride, soak in the scenery, and take photographs. Exploring the Nepali Temple may be a wonderful experience, not only because of its distinctive architecture but also because of its sculptures, which are very similar to those seen at Khajuraho.
How to visit Varanasi
The only way to view the shoreline and the ghats are on foot, but be prepared to be hot, sweaty, and lost. Locals will typically gladly put you in the proper direction. Ghat names and signs directing to eateries and hotels are frequently painted in Roman letters on the walls. To have a better sense of where you’re going, go to any bookstore and pick up a compact guide/map book with a list of all the ghats and their historical context.
Many businesses, like Prayag Pandits, provide walking tours. Walking tours are a terrific opportunity to view some of the more obscure places, such as the Flower Market and the Ayurvedic Herb Market.
By cycle rickshaw and auto-rickshaw
Varanasi’s bustling streets might be difficult to navigate on foot at times. As a result, travelling by cycle rickshaw or auto-rickshaw will be quite convenient. A short trip of a few kilometres should cost less than $50, and a lengthier trip within the city, such as between the ghats and the train station, should cost more than $100. Auto-rickshaw rides to places like Sarnath (10km) cost $200 each way. You can travel everywhere for $20 if you use a “Shared rickshaw.” Be patient and insist on a shared one.
At the Varanasi Junction (Cantt) railway station, there is a pre-paid auto-rickshaw stop.
Maharaja Rickshaw (or Mr Rickshaw Wala) is a new firm that offers a customised luxury experience at a very low price in the city (starting at INR250 per person). This results in a unique way of seeing the city, and the drivers are really kind.