Posted 16 February 2023 in Culture and Heritage
Widely known as Banaras, the city of Varanasi is carpeted by the pious, tranquil water of the River Ganges. It is one of the seven blessed cities in Hinduism. During ancient times, the city was referred to as Kashi and was a centre for educational, artistic, cultural, and religious pursuits. In 1910, Varanasi was made a new Indian state by the British for a short period of time. However, post-independence, Varanasi merged to become a part of Uttar Pradesh.
With regard to the etymological significance, the term Varanasi is derived by merging the names of two tributaries of the River Ganges; Varuna and Assi. The city is situated on the banks of the River Ganges that is encircled by Assi and Varuna.
Varanasi has traditional and cultural treasures that have been preserved for a long time by people hailing from different faiths. It is here that Tulsidas wrote the epic Ramcharitmanas, Lord Buddha gave his first sermon that was recorded in the Pali Canon, and Emperor Akbar constructed two magnificent temples dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu in the 16th century.
Read more - Everything to explore on your trip to the mystical city of Varanasi
In addition to all these sites, Varanasi is popular for the many ghats. Domestic and international visitors come to Varanasi just to spend time at the ghats, each offering a unique experience. Here are the top five ghats you must head to, while in the city.
The Assi Ghat lies to the extreme south of Varanasi. According to Hindu mythology, the Assi Ghat came into being when Goddess Durga threw her sword in the River Assi after killing demon Shumbha - Nishumbha. A magnificent carving of a Shiva lingam sits under a peepal tree where devotees offer holy water. It is believed that with a dip in the pious waters of the river, devotees can get rid of their sins. The landmark also has some restaurants and eateries that make it convenient for tourists to stay for long. An aarti ceremony is also performed every day. During the evening, devotees and tourists can also enjoy various cultural events like live dance and music shows. The ghat also offers boat and hot-air balloon rides for an aerial experience. This landmark is a must-add to your travel itinerary if you want to experience both tranquillity and adventure.
This prime ghat of Varanasi is situated near Kashi Vishwanath Temple. In the year 1748, the ghat was built by Peshwa Balaji Rao who was the 8th Maratha emperor of India. Legend states that Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses while performing a yagna here and created the ghat while welcoming Lord Shiva. The famous ‘Ganga aarti’ is performed here during the evening which lasts for about 45 minutes. The ghat also has a market bustling with enthusiastic vendors selling from dawn till dusk. The entire ghat lights up like a starry sky during the evening and is a sight to behold. The evening aarti is not just a prayer ceremony but an entire performance that must not be missed if you ever travel to Varanasi.
Varanasi’s ghats are known all over the world for their mystic appeal. The Chet Singh Ghat is one that holds historical significance also. The ghat has been witness to one of the most gruesome battles in the history of India. The battle was fought between Raja Chet Singh and British troops in A.D. 1781. The landmark is a fortified ghat whose walls reveal the history, depth, and fierceness of its times. It is divided into four other ghats, namely Shivala Ghat, Niranjani Ghat, Chet Singh Ghat, and Nirrvani Ghat. Taking a dip here is not advisable as the current of the river tends to be quite strong.
The Man Mandir Ghat depicts a composition that is a blend of Rajput and Mughal motifs. Also known as the Someshwar Ghat, it was built in 1600. The ghat differentiates itself from other ghats of the city by encapsulating a stone-built solar observatory. The name Man Mandir is derived from the ancestor of the creator of the ghat, Raja Man Singh. A magnificent palace is also situated near the ghat. This landmark is a classic depiction of Rajasthani architecture. Tourists and visitors can enjoy the beautiful views of the city from the stone balcony of the observatory. Interested individuals can also look at the night sky through relevant astronomical equipment whilst enjoying a spectacular view of the River Ganges.
What makes Scindia Ghat stand out from numerous ghats in Varanasi? It has a Shiva temple that is partially submerged in the River Ganges. The temple is believed to have been submerged about 150 years ago, collapsing under its weight. According to the legend, it is believed that the Hindu God Agni was born at this place. The ghat is named after the Scindias, descendants of the Hindu Maratha dynasty who built it in 1830. People from all over visit this ghat to take a dip in the pious river. With a calm and positive atmosphere to it, you will find people sitting at the ghat in deep meditation, throughout the day.
Tourists can also look at particular events to plan their trips around to get the most of the visit. The following festivals are celebrated with much enthusiasm in the city: Makar Sankranti, Maha Shivratri, Shravan Maah, Karthikai Deepam, Annakut,
Rangbhari Ekadashi which is prominently celebrated in Kashi Vishwanath temple, Buddha Mahotsav, Holi, Diwali, Ram Leela, and Ganga Dussehra.
To commute in the city, auto rickshaws and electric rickshaws are widely used. Additionally, there are taxis and buses to take you around the city.
The city of Varanasi experiences a humid subtropical climate. The temperature ranges from 22°C to 46°C in summers. April to June is not recommended since the climate is very dry and is not very accommodating. The monsoon season starts from July till October and the climate during this time is moderate. The ideal time to experience the grandeur of the city is during the months of December till February, which is the winter season. It is the optimum time to explore the holy city as the average temperature is around 15°C.
Varanasi is often known to be an exuberant landmark brimming with culture. It is one of the most visited destinations for people looking for peace and serenity. This enchanting city, with its ghats and their beautiful architectural composition, brings in people from different parts of the city together. Visiting this city is an experience of a lifetime.
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