The charm of Varanasi is endless, much like the variety of its names. Since time immemorial, pilgrims, monks, philosophers, and travelers have thronged in this timeless city, thanks to the countless temples, tranquil Ganga, and mystical spiritual ambiance.
The main attraction of Varanasi is, perhaps, the ghats of Ganga. Ghats are nothing but stepped embankments of rivers. According to estimates, there are about 84 ghats in Varanasi. The heart of Varanasi lies at these ghats. As such, the ghats of Kashi act as the stage where the cycle of life plays. The Hindu rituals, starting from birth and ending with death, are performed in the designated ghats. You can see myriad activities led by priests playing on a loop at the ghats.
Not only religious activities, but the ghats will also showcase you, a host of other activities such as people performing yoga at sunrise on the steps, devotees singing kirtans, monks meditating, artists capturing the spirit of ghats in their canvas as well as people chatting away idly, young lovers, lost in their world, and children running amok. In short, the ghats witness everything human.
The ghats become more captivating owing to the myths and stories that encompass them. A dip in some ghats like Dashaswamedh apparently bestows you with untold boons, while bathing in Narad Ghat leads to quarrels among couples (the reason why no one bathes here).
At first sight, you will be bewildered by the cacophony of the ghats. So many things are happening simultaneously there. But, as you walk along the ghats or sit and contemplate on the steps, you are bound to find peace and serenity even amidst the din of the ghats. And, here lies the magic of Varanasi’s ghats.
In this blog, we have listed 12 ghats that you must not miss. Surely, there are so many other beautiful and significant ghats in Varanasi other than the ones mentioned below. We are just providing you with an outline for helping you to plan your itinerary. Also, for a detailed blog on Varanasi, check out our post here.
Table of Contents
Top 12 Ghats to visit in Varanasi:
1. Dashashwamedh Ghat:
This is the most important as well as the most spectacular ghats of Varanasi. It is also the closest ghat to Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
According to Hindu mythology, Brahma sacrificed ten horses here and thus performed ten or “dasa” Ashwamedh Yajna here. Hence bathing here confers the benefit of ten Ashwamedha sacrifices. Alternatively, it is believed, that Brahma built this ghat to welcome Shiva. It is also known as Brahma Dwar or the doorstep of Brahma. Its old name is Rudrasarovar. Also, this ghat is one of the “Panch Tirtha” of Kashi.
Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao built the present-day ghat in 1748. Later, Ahilyabai Holkar, the Queen of Indore, renovated the ghat further in 1774.
Dashaswamedh is the busiest of all the ghats in Benaras. From sunrise to sunset, countless pilgrims take a dip in the holy Ganges here. You can find devotees performing pujas and sacred rituals, being helped by the priests.
One of the most important features of this ghat is the Ganga Arati. The Arati is a grand spectacle performed by several young priests after the sunset. Hundreds of people throng to the ghats to have this out-of-the-world experience.
2. Manikarnika Ghat:
This is a Hindu cremation ghat as well as one of the holiest ghats of Varanasi. According to Hindu belief, the souls of those who are cremated here attain ‘moksha’ and are thus relieved from the cycle of birth.
As per the legends, Sati’s earring has fallen in this place. Therefore, it got the name Manikarnika (literally meaning ear ornament). It is revered as one of the 51 “Shakti Peetha”s.
Contrarily, it is believed that, while Shiva and Parvati bathed together there, Parvati’s earrings fall into the water. Hence, the name of the ghat is Manikarnika.
3. Assi Ghat:
This is the southernmost ghat of Varanasi. It is located near Benaras Hindu University. As such, this ghat is mostly frequented by University students.
According to legends, Goddess Durga had thrown her sword or ‘asi’ here after slaying the demons, Sumbha – Nisumbha. Hence, the stream here was named Assi, and the ghat eventually got its name from the Assi river.
The Assi Ghat finds its mention even in the Skanda Purana. In this Purana, this ghat has been referred to as “Saimbeda Tirtha”. It is believed that taking a dip here bestows the blessings of every Hindu ‘tirtha’ or pilgrimages to the devotees.
The Assi Ghat is poles apart from the bustling Dashashwamedh Ghat. The ghat is peaceful and serene. It is perfect for watching the sunset on the horizon here and relaxing after exploring the nooks and crannies of Varanasi.
The most significant spectacle of Assi Ghat is the Subah – e – Benaras. It starts with the salutation of the Ganga through morning arati, followed by a performance of classical music and yoga.
4. Tulsi Ghat:
This ghat lies just beside the Assi Ghat. It is named after Tulsidas, who composed Ramcharitmanas and Hanuman Chalisa here.
Tulsi Ghat is another of the quieter ghats of Varanasi, perfect for relishing the solitude that this holy city also offers.
The ‘akharas’ or wrestling centers are located near the Tulsi Ghat, especially the Tulsi Akhara.
Also, the Lolark Kund, a giant stepwell constructed by the royal family of West Bengal’s Cooch Behar is situated near an alley here.
5. Janaki Ghat:
This is one of the less frequented ghats of Varanasi. It was built in the 19th century by Maharani Kunwar of Sursand.
We loved this ghat for the nostalgic charm it exudes owing to the adjacent buildings built in vintage style. Also, the colorful steps of this ghat deserve special mention.
The Janaki Ghat lies near the Tulsi Ghat.
6. Chet Singh Ghat:
This is one of the most visually appealing ghats of Varanasi. It is characterized by a fortress, built by Raja Chet Singh. The Raja used to live here also.
Later he was arrested from this fortress on 16th August 1781 on the orders of Warren Hastings. As a result, a fierce battle ensued in which two companies of native troops with their British officers were destroyed. The Raja was, then, rescued by his followers.
At present, some ‘sadhus’ reside here. It is also a favorite spot for cinema shooting.
7. Maa Anandamayi Ghat:
This ghat is named after Anandamayi Maa, the Indian saint and yoga guru. She used to stay here in Varanasi and later founded an ashram to organize and spread her religious activities.
This ghat, though small, is worth a visit owing to graffiti works on the walls.
8. Darbhanga Ghat:
This is one of the most picturesque ghats of Varanasi. It is also one of the most photographed ghats.
The impressive fort, which has now been converted into a luxury heritage hotel, was built by Sridhara Narayan Munshi, who was the minister of the Nagpur estate. It was later acquired by Raja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur of Darbhanbga in 1915.
9. Manmandir Ghat:
Manmandir is another beautiful ghat. It’s attractive owing to the presence of ornate Rajput architecture. It was built by Raja Man Singh of Amer in 1600 CE.
Later, Sawai Jai Singh II built an observatory here in 1710 CE. It is now known as Jantar Mantar.
At present, the ASI Museum is situated here.
10. Lalita Ghat:
One of the main ghats of Varanasi, it is named after Goddess Lalita. Rana Bahadur Shah, the king of Nepal built this ghat.
It is known for the wooden temple, constructed as a replica of the Pashupatinath Temple of Kathmandu. Locally, it is called Nepali Temple.
11. Scindia Ghat:
It lies next to the Manikarnika Ghat. According to Hindu legends, Agni, the Fire God, was born here.
This ghat was built by the Scindias in 1830 CE. It is now famous for the tilted Shiva temple, which became partially submerged in the Ganga owing to its excessive weight.
12. Bhonsle Ghat:
Bhonsle Ghat is another attractive ghat of Varanasi. It was built in 1780 CE by the Maratha rulers of Nagpur. The ghat has stunning fort-like structures. Two important temples are located near this ghat – Yamaditya Temple and Yameshwara Temple.
So, there goes our listicle of the 12 must-visit Ghats of Varanasi. Tell us in the comment box below, which among these have you already visited and which you are planning to visit next.