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 two ghats are used exclusively as cremation sites.
Most Varanasi ghats were rebuilt in the 18th century, when the city came under Maratha rule. 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 visitor attraction.
Ghat, a term used in the Indian subcontinent, depending on the context could either refer to a range of stepped-hill such as Eastern Ghats and Western Ghats; or the series of steps leading down to a body of water or wharf, such bathing or cremation place along the banks of a river or pond, Ghats in Varanasi, Dhoby Ghaut or Aapravasi Ghat. Roads passing through ghats are called Ghat Roads.
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 Keshava Ghat):
Part 1: from Assi Ghat to Prayag Ghat (1–41)
|2||Ganga Mahal Ghat (I)|
|13||Chet Singh Ghat|
|15||Mahanirvani 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 Keshava 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 Gate||not available|
|54||Bajirao 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 the late 12th cent. this site was used as ferry point and was also known for several granaries (gold)|
|78||Nandesvara /Nandu Ghat|
|81||Naya/Phuta Ghat||During the 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 Dufferin 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, Rajendra Prasad Ghat, 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. It is also the major ghat that is closest to Banaras Hindu University. Assi ghat name is derived from the river Assi. PM MODI launched water ATM on 17th Sep 2015 on the occasion of PM birthday.
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, 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 Manikarnika Ghat.
Situated near to Kashi railway station, this is one of the famous ghats of Varanasi. This is next to the Raj Ghat bridge. Famous Ravidas temple is located on this ghat. It is also famous for Pind Daan and asthi-visarjan. Famous priests of Kashi are based here. The ghats can easily be accessed through any kind of vehicles and parking facilities are also available here. This ghat is also friendly for disabled people who can not walk through narrow lanes of Kashi. They can easily reach here by car or bike.
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 favourite 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' (endeavour) for Lord Shiva, under the auspices of Guru Gambhirananda of Gorakhpur.
Jain Ghat or the Bachraj Ghat
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 they are a very ancient temple of Tirthankara Suparswanath.
- The Maan-Sarowar Ghat was built by Man Singh of Amber.
- the Darbhanga Ghat was built by the Maharaja of Darbhanga
- Raj Ghat
- Tulsidas wrote Rāmacaritamānasa at Tulsi Ghat.
- The Chet Singh Ghat, with a magnificent fort-like palace, is named after Chait Singh. The first raja of Benares was Balwant Singh, and his illegitimate son was Chet Singh. Chait Singh became Maharaja by bribing the Nawab of Awadh and secured his legacy over Balwant Singh's nephew Mahip Narayan Singh. Chet Singh's legacy followed by political squabbles with Governor-General Warren Hastings. In the year of 1781, Warren Hastings sent his army to Chet Singh's fort and Chet Singh managed to escape, while Hastings's army was fighting outside the fort.
- The headquarters of the Sri Kashi Math Samsthan, a spiritual school followed by the Konkani speaking Goud Saraswat Brahmins, is located in Brahma Ghat.
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 practise has become controversial for the pollution it causes to the river. In the 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
Untreated sewage is a pervasive source of the river pollution in India. City municipal waste and untreated sewage is the largest source of pollution of the Ganges river near the Ghats of Varanasi.
- Rob Bowden (2003), The Ganges, ISBN 978-0739860700, Heinemann
- Diana Eck, Banaras: CITY OF LIGHT, ISBN 978-0691020235, Princeton University Press
- Jaini, Padmanabh S. (2003). Jainism and Early Buddhism. Jain Publishing Company. pp. 523–538.
- Sunithi L. Narayan, Revathy Nagaswami, 1992, Discover sublime India: handbook for tourists, Page 5.
- Ghat definition, Cambridge dictionary.
- 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.
- Varanasi Guru (5 September 2020). "Manikarnika Kund" – via Varanasi Guru.
- 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
- "Ghats of Varanasi".
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