Varanasi Things to Do

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    Take part in an evening ceremony on the Ganges.

    by Herkbert Updated Nov 4, 2014

    Each evening there is a religious ritual called an Aarti along the shore of the Ganges at the holy Dashashwamedh Ghat. Our group was in a boat watching the ritual and took part by making an offering, called a diyas. It is a lamp made out of a banana leaf, inside of which is a candle and flower that was floated in the river. It is an offering seeking a blessing in the memory of a departed loved one.

    These diyas are sold by many people around the ghats, especially young children. It is not expensive and it is truly a good feeling to take part in the ceremony no matter what your religious beliefs.

    Our ceremony on the boat Our offerings in the river
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    Visit Bharat Mata Mandir

    by Herkbert Written Nov 4, 2014

    The Bharat Mata Mandir is a temple dedicated to the Bharat Mata or Mother India. It is a temple with a large relief map of India on the floor. It is said to depict India as a Hindu goddess implying that it is not just the patriotic but also the religious duty of all Indians to participate in the nationalist struggle to defend the nation.

    Bharat Mata Temple - Mother India Mother India - Bharat Mata
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    Ganges River Boat Ride

    by Herkbert Written Nov 3, 2014

    We took a boat ride on the Ganges River late in the afternoon and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset. The Ganges is the holiest river in India and brings many worshippers to Varanasi. It is said to bathe in the Ganges is to wash away all your sins and opens the door to heaven. To die and be cremated on the Ganges breaks the reincarnation cycle and sends one to heaven.

    Along the way you will see the many Ghats, which are essentially stairs down to the riverbanks. These provide access to people to the river where they pray, bathe, wash clothes and meditate. A few of the Ghats are special, such as the Dashashwamedh Ghat near the Vishwanath Temple. This is where the evening Aarti takes place. And the Manikarnika Ghat, the main cremation ghat in Varanasi.

    As a first time visitor to Varanasi and India, it was a very eye opening experience and almost too much to take in all at once. But the feeling that we had floating down the river was a very peaceful and serene one. Maybe Mother Ganga was watching over us.

    When going down the Ganges, please be respectful of the people bathing and taking photos of the cremation ghat is highly disrespectful - Don't do it!

    Sun setting on the Ganges Boats along the banks Ghats Ghats Ghats
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    See the evening Aarti

    by Herkbert Written Nov 3, 2014

    Each evening at dusk, a religious ritual is performed along the banks of the Ganges River. Five young priests perform the ritual using fire and chants to ask Mata Ganga for blessings. The ritual takes place at the Dashashwamedh Ghat near the Vishwanath Temple.

    Worshippers and tourists fill the ghat and it is quite spectacular to see. Many others will watch from boats floating on the river. The ceremony takes about 45 minutes. At the end of the ceremony, many people will float small lamps made from flowers and a lit candle in the river to ask for blessings.

    Aarti preparation People filled boats waiting for the ceremony Ghat lit
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    Evening Aarti on Dasaswamedh Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Each evening at dusk on the banks of the Ganges the Ganga aarti - a devotional ritual - is performed in three of India's hoilest cities: Varanasi, Rishikesh, & Haridwar. The aarti in Varanasi is performed facing the river from the Dasaswamedh Ghat. Although it seems very touristy and less spiritual (more so than in Haridwar or Rishikesh) it is a must see when in Varanasi.

    The aarti is performed by five young pandits/priests on elevated planks. They wear a dhoti and saffron colored kurta, bound with a long towel. The aarti starts with the blowing of a conch shell. Sticks of incense are waved circling large flaming lamps. The rhythmic chants and the smell of incense are almost hypnotizing.

    The aarti starts at 6:45-7:00 although people start to arrive much earlier to ensure a good view. Another way to see the aarti is from a boat in the river. Since the aarti is performed facing the river, I thought this was a much better option. Be advised that there are many boats and you will be "stuck in the middle" of them all until the aarti is over and the boats start to clear out. And...look out for the many bats flying above your head.

    Evening Aarti on Dasaswamedh Ghat
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    Vishwanath Temple

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    The most popular Hindu temple in Varanasi is the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir (Vishwanath Temple). The temple is dedicated to lord of the universe, Shiva. Enshrined in the temple is a Jyotirlinga of Shiva (one of only twelve in all of India) where Shiva "is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam. 'Jyothi' means 'Radiance' and Lingam, the Shiva Lingam-'the mark or sign' of The Almighty or the phallus symbol. Jyotir Lingam means the The Radiant sign of The Almighty." (Source: wiki)

    Another unique feature of the temple is 800kg of gold plating on the tower and dome. Since Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple, a small glance of the gold is all you're likely to get if you go through the security (no cameras, mobile phones, show passport) just to enter the outside secured area - you won't even be able to enter the gates of the temple ground.

    For darshan/aarati schedule see website below. Be sure to take a look at the "live" Darhan feed... http://www.shrikashivishwanath.org/en/online/live.aspx.

    **Be advised that if you come up on the path from the Dasaswamedh Ghat it's a nasty route strewn with garbage, urine, dead rats, etc.**

    Starting up the Path to Vishwanath Temple
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    Kshameshwar Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Kshameshwar Ghat is located south of Dasashvamedha Ghat. A small faded yellow temple/shrine sits on top of the steps.

    Kshameshwar Ghat is another ghat frequented by South Indians. Although it is a wide ghat, is it very overshadowed by neighboring Raja Ghat.

    Kshameshwar Ghat
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    Prayag Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Prayag Ghat is just south of - and next to - Dasaswamedh Ghat, considered the most important section of the ghats in Varanasi. This means that Prayag Ghat is usually crowded with the overflow of people especially during daily early morning and evening pujas.

    The ghat was built by Balaji Bajirao in 1778 and replicates the Prayag holy city in Allahabad.

    There is a yellow-brown colored Hindu shrine at the ghat. Holy men who sit in front of the shrine under rattan umbrellas provide fortune-telling services to the pilgrims.

    Many devotees will bathe in the Ganga from here.

    Prayag Ghat
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    Chet Singh Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Chet Singh Ghat is located south of Dasashvamedha Ghat. This ghat is easily recognized by the beautiful red fort, Shivala, atop the stairs. Originally known as Khirki Ghat, it is now divided into 4 parts: Chet Singh, Niranjani, Nirrvani and Shivala. The ghat also has 3 Shiva temples.

    The fort was once the palace of the Maharajas and is where Chet Singh fought a fierce battle with British troops and was imprisoned by them. He escaped by climbing down to the river and swimming away.

    The Ganga's current is very strong here so most people avoid bathing here.

    Chet Singh Ghat
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    Raja Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Raja (Raj) Ghat is north of Dasashvamedha Ghat and most likely that last ghat you will see on your boat trip. It was built in the early 1700s, but Gahadavala inscriptions date back to the 10th century.

    Raja Ghat was a ferry peir until the late 1800s, when Lord Duffrin built a bridge - for road and rail travel. In 1948 the bridge was named Malaviya Bridge after the founder of Banaras Hindu University, Madan Mohan Malaviya.

    There are four teerthams (holy water) - Sankhya, Uddalaka, Hayagriva and Nilagriva - associated with Raja Ghat. Four temples of Amritesvara, Vinayakesvara, Nayanesvara and Gangesvara and four auxiliary shrines are located on top of the ghat.

    Raja Ghat
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    Ganesh Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Ganesh Ghat is north of Dasashvamedha Ghat. It was previously known as Agnisvara Ghat. Built in 1807 , it is the location of Peshwa's Shree Ganesh Mandir (temple).

    Two important shrines - Bhadresvara and Nagesa Vinayaka - are at the top.

    Ganesh Ghat
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    Panchaganga Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Panchaganga Ghat is located north of Dasashvamedha Ghat. It is also the location where five rivers - Ganga, Yumana, Saraswati, Kirana, and Dhupapapa - are supposed to meet. There is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Ganga here.

    The Alamgir mosque, a blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture stands - looms - over the ghat. It was built by Aurangzeb on the site of a large Vishnu temple which was destroyed. The temple was built by Maratha chieftan, Beni Madhav Rao Scindia.

    Panchaganga Ghat
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    Scindia Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Scindia Ghat (also known as Scindias/Shinde), located south of Dasashvamedha Ghat, was built in 1830. It was so heavy and ornate that it collapsed and fell in the river. It was then rebuilt. Its tilted Shiva temple still lays partially submerged in the Ganga.

    The shrines of Vashishta, Vamadeva and Atmavireshvara and Paravata Teerth - some of the city's most important - are located above the ghat in an area known as Siddha Kshetra, which means the field of fulfillment.

    Scindia Ghat
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    Jalasen Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Built by the King of Gwalior in the mid 19th century, Jalasen Ghat is north of Dasashvamedha Ghat. Along with Manikarnika Ghat, Jalasen makes up the cremation ghats with Jalasen being the principal burning ghat.

    It is also known as Jalasayi Ghat, which means "putting dead body in water", which is part of the ritual before the body is placed on the funeral pyre.

    Please do be respectful when taking photos of the ghat and refrain from taking close-up photos of a funeral or mourners.

    Jalasen Ghat
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    Manmandir Ghat

    by Donna_in_India Updated Sep 1, 2013

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    Manmandir Ghat is just north of Dasashvamedha Ghat. It was built during the 1600s by Raja Man Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur. An intricate structure of Rajput architecture, it is befitting a maharaja.

    Originally known as Somesvara/Someshwara (the Moon's Lord) Ghat, it is one of the oldest ghats in Varanasi and was renovated in the 19th century. A stone balcony and a top floor observatory are two of the highlights here. The observatory is open to visitors but check before you go.

    Manmanddir Ghat has a long flight of stairs leading up from the river and seems to change colors depending on the lighting/time of day.

    Famous temples such as Sthuladanta Vinayaka, Rameshwara and Somesvara/Someshwara are located here. Somesvara/Someshwar lingam is the replica of Somesvara/Someshwar lingam in Somanath, Gujrat, one of the nine Jyotirlingas in India. Many Hindu devotees visit this Ghat to offer prayers and bathe in the Ganga.

    The house of the Dom Rajas with painted tigers on the terrace is located nearby. Considered untouchables, Doms handle the corpses at the cremation grounds.

    Manmandir Ghat
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Varanasi Things to Do

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