Ghats in Varanasi
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Ghats in Varanasi are riverfront steps leading to the banks of the River Ganges. The city has 88 ghats. Most of the ghats are bathing and puja ceremony ghats, while a few are used exclusively as cremation sites.
Most Varanasi ghats were built 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. Morning boat ride on the Ganges across the ghats is a popular visitors attraction.
List of ghats
The ghats as named and counted by the city of Varanasi with supplementing links, listed in ascending order according to their location (from Assi Ghat to Adi Keshawa Ghat):
Part 1: from Assi Ghat to Prayag Ghat (1-41)
|2||Ganga Mahal Ghat (I)|
|3||Rewan (Reewa) Ghat|
|13||Chet Singh Ghat|
|15||Mahanirvani Ghat||not available|
|18||Dandi Ghat||not available|
|19||Hanuman Ghat||not available|
|20||Prachina (Old) Hanumanana Ghat|
|22||Harish Chandra Ghat|
|26||Caowki (Chauki) Ghat|
|27||Ksemesvara / Somesvara Ghat|
|30||Raja Ghat rebuilt by Amrut Rao Peshwa|
|31||Khori Ghat||not available|
|33||Sarvesvara Ghat||not available|
|36||Rana Mahal Ghat|
Part 2: from Prayag to Adi Keshawa Ghat (42-84)
|42||Prayag Ghat||not available|
|43||Rajendra Prasad Ghat||.|
|44||Man Mandir Ghat|
|45||Tripura Bhairavi Ghat|
|46||Mir (Meer) Ghat|
|47||Phuta/ Naya Ghat||old site of Yajnesvara Ghat|
|48||Nepali Ghat||not available|
|50||Bauli/ Umaraogiri/ Amroha Ghat||not available|
|51||Jalasen (Jalasayi) Ghat|
|52||Khirki Gaht||not available|
|54||Bajirio Ghat||not available|
|57||Ganga Mahal Ghat (II)|
|59||Naya Ghat||In Prinsep’s map of 1822 this was named as Gularia Ghat|
|61||Mehta Ghat||Formally this was part of the preceding ghat, but after the construction of V.S.Mehta hospital (1962) this is known to the name of latter one.|
|64||Raja Gwalior Ghat|
|65||Mangala Gauri Ghat (also known as Bala Ghat)|
|66||Venimadhava Ghat||part of the Pancaganga Ghat and also known as Vindu Madhava Ghat|
|70||Bundi Parakota Ghat|
|71||(Adi)Sitala Ghat||This is an extended part of the preceding ghat|
|75||Badri Nayarana Ghat|
|77||Gola Ghat||Since late 12th cent. this site was used as ferry point and was also known for a number of granaries (gold)|
|78||Nandesvara /Nandu Ghat|
|81||Naya/Phuta Ghat||During 18th century the ghat – area became deserted (Phuta), but later on it was renovated. This way the ghat was formerly known as phuta, and later as Naya.|
|83||Raja Ghat (Bhaisasur Rajghat) / Lord Duffrin bridge / Malaviya Bridge|
|84||Adi Keshava Ghat|
|Sant Ravidas Ghat|
|Nishad Ghat (divided from Prahalada)|
|Shri Panch Agni Akhara Ghat|
According to the puranic sources, there are five key ghats on the riverfront, important because of their association with a defining feature of the holy city of Kashi: Assi Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Panchganga Ghat and Adi Keshav Ghat. .
This ghat that used to lie at the confluence of the Ganges with the dry river Asi marks the traditional southern boundary of the city. Asisangameshwar Temple at the ghat finds mention in the Kashi Khand of Skandmahapuran.This ghat is very popular because it is one of the very few ghats that is linked with the city through a wide street.
Dashashwamedh Ghat is located close to Vishwanath Temple, and is probably the most spectacular ghat. Two Hindu mythologies are associated with it: According to one, Lord Brahma created it to welcome Lord Shiva. According to another, Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses, during Dasa-Ashwamedha yajna performed here. A group of priests daily perform in the evening at this ghat "Agni Pooja" (Worship to Fire) wherein a dedication is made to Lord Shiva, River Ganges, Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the whole universe.
Two legends are associated with Manikarnika Ghat. According to one, it is believed to be the place where Lord Vishnu dug a pit with his Chakra and filled it with his perspiration while performing various penances. While Lord Shiva was watching Lord Vishnu at that time, the latter's earring ("manikarnika") fell into the pit. According to the second legend, in order to keep Lord Shiva from moving around with his devotees, his consort Goddess Parvati hid her earrings, and asked him to find them, saying that they had been lost on the banks of the Ganges. Goddess Parvati's idea behind the fib was that Lord Shiva would then stay around, searching forever for the lost earrings. In this legend, whenever a body gets cremated at the Manikarnika Ghat, Lord Shiva asks the soul whether it has seen the earrings.
According to ancient texts, the owner of Manikarnika Ghat bought King Harishchandra as a slave and made him work on the Manikarnika at Harishchandra Ghat. Hindu cremations customarily take place here, though a majority of dead bodies are taken for cremation to the Manikarnik Ghat. According to other sources that Manikarnik Ghat is named after Jhansi ki Rani Laxmibhai.
Scindia Ghat also known as Shinde Ghat borders Manikarnika to the north, with its Shiva temple lying partially submerged in the river as a result of excessive weight of the ghat’s construction about 150 years ago. Above the ghat, several of Kashi’s most influential shrines are located within the tight maze of alleys of Siddha Kshetra (Field of Fulfillment). According to tradition, Agni, the Hindu God of Fire was born here. Hindu devotees propitiate at this place Vireshwara, the Lord of all heroes, for a son.
Mana-Mandir Ghat: Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur built this Ghat in 1770, as well as the Jantar Mantar equipped with ornate window casings along with those at 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.
Lalita Ghat: The late King of Nepal built this Ghat in the northern region of Varanasi. It is the site of the Ganges Keshav Temple, a wooden temple built in typical Kathmandu style,The temple has an image of Pashupateshwar, a manifestation of Lord Shiva. Local festivals including musical parties and games regularly take place at the beautiful Assi Ghat which is at the end of the continuous line of ghats. It is a favorite site of painters and photographers. It is here at the Assi Ghat that Swami Pranabananda, the founder of Bharat Sevasharam Sangh,attained 'Siddhi' (fulfilment/success) in his 'Tapasya' (endeavor) for Lord Shiva, under the auspices of Guru Gambhirananda of Gorakhpur.
The Jain Ghat or Bachraj Ghat is a Jain Ghat and has three Jain Temples located on the banks of the River. It is believed that the Jain Maharajas used to own these ghats.Bachraj Ghat has three Jain temples near the river's banks and one them is a very ancient temple of Tirthankara Suparswanath.
Cremation on ghats
In Hindu traditions, cremation is one of the rites of passage and the Ghats of Varanasi are considered one of the auspicious locations for this ritual. At the time of the cremation or "last rites", a "Puja" (prayer) is performed. Hymns and mantras are recited during cremation to mark the ritual. The Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghats are dedicated to the cremation ritual. Annually, less than 2 in 1000 people who die in India, or 25,000 to 30,000 bodies are cremated on various Varanasi Ghats; about an average of 80 per day. This practice has become controversial for the pollution it causes to the river. In 1980s, the Government of India funded a Clean Ganges initiative, to address cremation and other sources of pollution along the Ghats of Varanasi. In many cases, the cremation is done elsewhere and only the ashes are dispersed into the river near these Ghats.
Pollution of ghats
- Rob Bowden (2003), The Ganges, ISBN 978-0739860700, Heinemann
- Diana Eck, Banaras: CITY OF LIGHT, ISBN 978-0691020235, Princeton University Press
- Shankar, Hari (1996). Kashi ke Ghat (1 ed.). Varanasi: Vishwvidyalaya Prakashan.
- Mishra, Rajnish (2017). Ghats of Varanasi (1 ed.). New Delhi. p. 51. ISBN 978-1521414323.
- Diana Eck, Banaras - City of Light, ISBN 978-0231114479, Columbia University Press
- S. Agarwal, Water pollution, ISBN 978-8176488327, APH Publishing
- Flood, Gavin: Rites of Passage, in: Bowen, Paul (1998). Themes and issues in Hinduism. Cassell, London. ISBN 0-304-33851-6. pp. 270.
- O. Singh, Frontiers in Environmental Geography, ISBN 978-8170224624, pp 246-256
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