Varanasi

Name & History of Varanasi… Banaras, Kashi:

“Varanasi… Banaras, Kashi” is derived from the river flowing in the city. As city is situated between Varuna River and Assi River, so the name is derived from rivers and jointly called Varanasi… Banaras, Kashi.

Mark Twain once very famously remarked that Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old with all of them put together. This is so very true for this quaintly charming land is indeed very old and takes pride in a History that dates back to 2500 years. The History of Varanasi begins with the settling of some Aryan tribes out here. They came from the north and made this land their home.

According to popular religious legend Lord Shiva made Varanasi… Banaras, Kashi his home after marrying Parvati.

In the 1400's however the city was completely routed by the Afghans and it had to be totally rebuilt. Actually on account of its enviable location and prosperity Varanasi was the target of many rulers. The list of Muslim rulers to have invaded Varanasi includes Mahmud of Ghazni, Mahmud of Ghori, Sultan AllaudinKhilji and Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

As a result of these raids many temples and other ancient structures were destroyed. This is indeed very unfortunate but there is no denying that the History of this land flanked by the stretch of the sacred River Ganges continues to live.

We come to know that Varanasi was the prime center of the Bhakti movement. Spear headed by the likes of Ramananda and Kabir, this devotional movement took place in the 15th century. The latter was highly respected by Hindus and Muslims alike. Tulsidas credited with the translation of the Ramayana from Sanskrit to Hindi belonged to Varanasi.

 

Varanasi Ghats:

Ghats in Varanasi are riverfront steps leading to the banks of the River Gangas. The city has 84 Ghats. Most of the Ghats are bathing and puja ceremony Ghats, while two Ghats are used exclusively as cremation sites.

Most Varanasi Ghats were rebuilt after 1700 AD, when the city was part of Maratha Empire. The patrons of current Ghats are Marathas, Shindes (Scindias), Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwes (Peshwas). Many Ghats are associated with legends or mythologies while many Ghats are privately owned.

Few Important Ghats of Varanasi starting From Assi Ghat:

  1. Assi Ghat
  2. Tulsi Ghat
  3. Panchkote Ghat
  4. Chet Singh Ghat & Fort
  5. Harish Chandra Ghat (Creamition Ghat)
  6. Kedar Ghat
  7. Chousatti Ghat
  8. Darbhanga Ghat
  9. Dashaswamedh Ghat
  10. Dr. Rajendra Prasad Ghat
  11. Manmandir Ghat
  12. Manikarnika Ghat (Creamition Ghat)
  13. Panchganga Ghat
  14. Rajghat

Assi Ghat

Assi Ghat” is said to be the place where Assiriver meets the river Ganges. It is said in old text of Puranas that after slaying Shumbh-Nishumbh, goddess Durga has thrown her sword away, which has resulted in emeregence of big stream, i.e. Assiriver. It is also said that taking a dip at confluence of Assi and Ganges (i.e. AssiGhat) can results in punyas of 100s of such dips at other holy places. “Assi Ghat” is the southernmost ghat in Varanasi. To most visitors to Varanasi, it is known for being a place where long-term foreign students, researchers, and tourists live. “Assi Ghat” is one of the ghats often visited for recreation and during festivals. On typical days about 300 people visit every hour in the mornings, and on festival days 2500 people arrive per hour. Most of the people visiting the ghat...Read more>>

Tulsi Ghat

Tulsi Ghat” is one of the ghats in Varanasi. It is named for Tulsidas who lived there while he wrote the Ramcharitmanas. Earlier, “Tulsi Ghat” was known as Lolark Ghat. It was in the year 1941 that “Tulsi Ghat” was made pucca (cemented) by the famous industrialist, Baldeo Das Birla. Tulsi Ghat is the office base of Sankat Mochan Foundation, a nongovernmental organization working to clean the river Ganga since 1982. Sankat Mochan Foundation is one of the biggest names associated with the Ganges cleaning project. Prof. Veer Bhadra Mishra, an environmentalist and social activist who is also the manager of Sankat Mochan Foundation, lives at Tulsi Ghat. Prof. Mishra was awarded the United Nations Environment Program's the Global 500 Roll of Honour in 1992.   ...Read more>>

Panchkote Ghat

“Panchkota Ghat” is, though, of some historical relevance but, in relation to religious importance, it has lesser relevance. King of Panchkota (Bengal) constructed the ghat and a palatial building on the top of the “Panchkot Ghat” in the later half of 19th century. The ghat lies on the northern end of Prabhu Ghat of Varanasi. Adjacent to the palatial building are two temples as well. ...Read more>>

Chetsingh Ghat & Fort

Chet Singh (1770-1781) built the palatial building of “Chet Singh Ghat & Fort” in mid the 18th century as a small fortress, which witnessed the fierce battle between the troops of Warren Hastings and Chet Singh in 1781 that resulted to the defeat of Chet Singh. Thus this fortress went under the control of British. In late 19th century the King Prabhunarayan Singh had again took the possession of this fort. The northern part of it was donated to Naga group of ascetics who late on built their monasteries and ghats, called Niranjani Ghat and Nirvani Ghat.   Description & History: This palace has been his principal residence. This building composed of (a) a palace with pavilions, built on the terrace overlooking the Ganga, (b) a group of buildings for the women (demolished), and (c) a Mughal garden with darba...Read more>>

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 sometimes referred as Adi Manikarnika (the original creation ground). Hindus from distant places bring the dead bodies of their near and dear ones to the Harish Chandra Ghat for cremation. In Hindu mythology it is believed that if a person is cremated at the Harish Chandra Ghat, that person gets salvation or "MOKSHA". The Harish Chandra Ghat was somewhat mod...Read more>>

Kedar Ghat

The Kedar Ghat houses the Gauri Kund, a small water pool which has an image of Gauri, Lord Shiva’s wife in the eastern wall. It is said that the water in this kundhas healing properties. The Kedareswara Shiva Temple, at the “Kedar Ghat” has great mythological importance and it is believed that anyone who visits this temple gets blessings as the same after visiting Kedarnath Temple. According to mythology, the Kedar Ghat was the original site of Manikarnika Ghat and the Gauri Kunda on the ghat steps is referred to as “Adi Manikarnika.” These riverfront steps are referred to as greatest of the bathing tirthas in Kashi. Kedareshvara is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in India. A puccaghat was constructed at this spot by the Government of Uttar Pradesh in 1958. It finds mention in the Puranas and is believed to be...Read more>>

Chousatti Ghat

“Chousatti (Chausatthi) Ghat” is located south of Dasaswamedh Ghat next to Digpatiya Ghat. It is named after 64 (chausatha) goddesses. The steep steps lead to the Chausath Yogini Temple. A yogini is an assistant goddess and 60 of the 64 are enshrined in the temple. The temple is dedicated to the Goddess Kali, one of the most misunderstood Hindu goddesses, likely due to her wild and fearsome appearance. Kali has been called the goddess of death, destruction, and darkness. She is actually the mother goddess, with whom her devotees share a loving bond. Many Hindus come to the temple during the new moon day of the month of chaitra, an auspicious day when they take a dip in the Ganga. Non-Hindus are not permitted to enter the temple at any time. ...Read more>>

Darbhanga Ghat

Darbhanga Ghat” which is located south of Dasaswamedh Ghat next to Rana-Mahal Ghat. This imposing palace with its towers and turrets was built in the early 1900s by the royal family of Bihar. One of the highlights of this palace is the very early lift that was operated by hand, now said to be out of operation. Darbhanga Ghat has a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. There is also a building nearby that is used for performing religious rituals. ...Read more>>

Dashashwamedh Ghat

This is the busiest and the ancient most referred ghat. According to the myth related to Divodasa, Lord Brahma (" the creator" in the Hind trinity gods) performed the ten-horses sacrifice (dasa-asvamedha) at this site. The historical sources infer that at this site the revivalist Hindu dynasty of the second century, the Bhara Siva Nagas had performed ten-horses sacrifice. The records many verses describing glory of this ghat. These shrines are linked to several important pilgrimage journeys. The southern part of the ghat was made pucca in 1740 by Bajirao Pesava-1, and late in c.1774 by Ahilyabai Holkar of lndore. Dashaswamedh Ghat is the main ghat in Varanasi Ganga River. It is near at Kashi Viswanath Temple .it’s most popular ghat in Varanasi. Two Hindu legends are associated with it: According to one, Lord Brahma crea...Read more>>

Dr. Rajendra Prasad Ghat

In 1979 in memory and honour of the first president of India (1950-1962). Rajendra Prasad (1884-1963) this ghat was renamed, and made pucca by the Municipal Corporation of Varanasi. In fact, this ghat was northern extension of Dasasvamedha Ghat. And until late nineteenth century a stone statue of horse was at the ghat witnessing the "ten-horses sacrifices" performed by Bhara Siva Nagas in second century, that is how the old name "Ghoda Ghat" ("Horse Ghat"). It is believed that same horse image is shifted to Sankatmochana temple. The myth refers that servants of Bhara Siva Nagas taken bath here.   ...Read more>>

Man Mandir Ghat

Man Mandir Ghat was built in 1600 by Maharaja Man Singh of Amer along with a palace known for the magnificent building with exquisite ornate window carvings and also for a very interesting observatory on the roof. Observatory at Man Mandir Ghat was built by Savai Jai Singh II in 1710. Observatory has huge instruments made from stone and was once used to study the movement of sun, moon, star and other heavenly bodies. Jantar Mantar is the highlight of the observatory which is similar to Jantar Mantar located in Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain and Mathura. There is a fine stone balcony in the northern part of the Ghat. Devotees pay homage here to the lingam of Someswar, the Lord of the Moon. Dom Raja’s house is next door, with painted tigers flanking the terrace. Doms, who handle the corpses at cremation grounds, are untouchables. Though the Do...Read more>>

Manikarnika Ghat (Burning Ghat)

It is one of the oldest Ghats in Varanasi. The Manikarnika Ghat (Burnig Ghat) is mentioned in a Gupta inscription of 5th century. It is revered in Hindu religion. When Mata Sati (Aadishaktimata) sacrificed her life & set her body ablaze after Raja Daksh Prajapati (one of the sons of Lord Brahma) tried to humiliate Lord shiva in a Yagya practiced by Daksh. Lord Shiva took her burning body to the Himalaya. On seeing the unending sorrow of Lord shiva, Vishnu sends the Divine chakra to cut the body into 51 parts which fall on earth. They are called "Ekannya Shaktipeeth". Lord Shiva established Shakti Peeth wherever Sati's body had fallen. At Manikarnika Ghat (Burnig Ghat), Mata Sati's Ear's ornament had fallen. Hindu mythology teaches that the ghat is especially sacred and that people cremated there receive “MO...Read more>>

Panchganga Ghat

Panchganga Ghat”, is the sacred ghat located at the confluence of five holy rivers (panchganga) namely, Ganga, Saraswati, Yamuna, Kirana, Dhutapapa. Overlooking the ghat, there is a small Alamgir Mosque locally known as Beni Madhav-ka-Darera, built by Emperor Auangazeb. The mosque is constructed on a place where there were ruins of a large Vishnu temple erected by the Maratha chieftain Beni Madhav Rao Scindia. Panchganga Ghat is credited with eight water front locations for doing religious rituals. ...Read more>>

Rajghat

“Raj Ghat” is a Ghat of river Ganga located in Varanasi. This jetty was constructed by the Municipal Corporation. Raj Ghat is located in the back of the Malviya Setu (Dufferin Bridge) adjoining Kashi Railway Station. There is also a magnificent temple of Saint Ravidas. Varanasi (Kashi) has many beautiful ghat on the Ganges coast, all these ferries are related to some mythological or religious legend. ...Read more>>

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