Varanasi boasts of almost 87 ghats most of which are used for pujas & bath and some are exclusive cremation sites. Most of these ghats were made by the rich and royal, while the city was ruled by Maratha Empire, like Marathas, Scindias, Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwas.
Among the very well known are –
Dashashwamedh Ghat, located close to the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple, is probably the most spectacular ghat. According to a legend Brahma created it to welcome Shiva. Another legend says Brahma sacrificed ten horses in a yajna here, hence the name. Agni Pooja (offering to Shiva, Ganga, Surya, Agni and the whole universe) performed here in the evening is very famous and lot of people come daily to watch it. I love sitting here in the evening, enjoying the sun going down in the Ganga and the beautiful happenings on the ghat.
Maan-Mandir Ghat, is a beautiful ghat made by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in 1770. There is a stone balcony on the ghat.
Manikarnika or Harishchandra Ghat, is the place where cremations take place as in Hindu mythology this ghat is especially sacred and it is believed that people cremated here receive moksha.
There are a lot of stories associated with this ghat. According to one, the owner of Manikarnika Ghat bought King Harishchandra as a slave and made him to work on the ghat hence the name.
According to another it is named after Jhansi ki Rani Laxmibhai. Another legend is after Brahma’s son humiliated Shiva in a Yagya practice, Sati set herself on fire and sacrificed her life. Shiva took her body to the Himalayas. During his travel, Sati’s body parts fell on earth so Shiva established Shakti Peeths and on this ghat her earring fell giving the ghat it’s name, Manikarnika. A total of 51 Shakti Peeths, corresponding to alphabets in Sanskrit were established. Being near to Kashi Vishwanath temple it is an important place of worship for Shaktism. The Shakti, derived from the falling of body parts of Sati is called Vishalakshi & Manikarni.
Yet another says, Vishnu, after several thousand years of tapasya managed to please Shiva and convinced him to not destroy the holy city of Kashi when he destroys the world. Shiva, himself along with Parvati came to Kashi to grant Vishnu his wish. Vishnu dug a kund (well) on the bank of Ganga for the bath of the couple. When Shiva was bathing a Mani (Jewel) from his earring fell into the kund, hence the name Manikarnika.
Scindia Ghat is next to Manikarnika with its Shiva temple lying partially submerged in the Ganga as a result of excessive weight of the construction carried out here about 150 years ago.
Lalita Ghat was built by the late King of Nepal. He built a wooden temple like the one in Kathmandu called the Ganges Keshav temple, inside is an idol of Pashupateshwar which is a manifestation of Shiva.
On Assi Ghat local festivals and classical musical performances parties are held as it is the last ghat.
Other ghats are Maan-Sarowar Ghat built by Man Singh of Amber, Darbhanga ghat built by Maharaja of Darbhanga, Tulsi ghat where Tulsidas wrote Rāmacaritamānasa. Munshi ghat was built in 1912 and is named after Sridhara Narayana Munshi, finance minister in the Nagpur estate. In 1915 the king of Darbhanga purchased and extended it calling it Darbhanga Ghat.