ghats of benares

Dashaswamegh Ghat


This is the most busiest and the ancient most referred ghat. According to the myth related to Divodasa, Lord Brahma (" the creator" in the Hind trinity gods) performed the ten-horses sacrifice (dasa-asvamedha) at this site. The historical sources infer that at this site the revivalist Hindu dynasty of the second century, the Bhara Siva Nagas had performed ten-horses sacrifice. The KKh (52.1-10:61.38) records many verses describing glory of this ghat. The temple of Sulatankesvara, Brahmesvara, Varahesvara, Abhaya Vinayaka, the Ganga ("goddess"), and Bandi Devi are closeby at the top of the ghat. These shrines are linked to several important pilgrimage journeys. The southern part of the ghat was made pucca in 1740 by Bajirao Pesava-1, and late in c.1774 by Ahilyabai Holkar of lndore.


This ghat (old Prayaga Tirtha) together with shrine of Prayagagesvara replicates the existence of Prayaga/Ghats Of Varanasi Allahabad in Varanasi. Prayaga, known as "Tirtharaja" (king of Tirthas), lies at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati rivers. It is commonly believed that doing rituals and taking sacred bath here provide exactly the same religious merit as those at Prayaga (80 km away in the west). The merit of this ares is eulogized in the KKh (61.36-38). About the present condition, Eck (1982.228) remarks that "Today, however, the name Prayaga Ghat, while it is painted boldly on temple that sits between the two branches of Dasasvamedha, is not commonly used. And even the temple there is utterly defunct, used only by boatmen who store their gear in its sanctum". The temple and the ghat-area were reconstructed by queen of Digpatia state (West Bengal). For the whole month of Magha (Jan-Feb.) devotees, mostly, use to take bath at this site.


In 1979 in memory and honour of the first president of India (1950-1962). Rajendra Prasad (1884-1963) this ghat was renamed, and made pucca by the Municipal Corporation of Varanasi. In fact, this ghat was northern extension of Dasasvamedha Ghat. And until late nineteenth century a stone statue of horse was at the ghat witnessing the "ten-horses sacrifices" performed by Bhara Siva Nagas in second century, that is how the old name "Ghoda Ghat" ("Horse Ghat"). It is believed that same horse image is shifted to Sankatmochana temple. The myth refers that servants of Bhara Siva Nagas taken bath here.


The old name of this ghat was Somesvara, but in c.e. 1585 when Raja Savai Mana Singh (of Amber) made his palace and ghat this is named after him. This ghat is "known primarily for the magnificent building with exquisite, ornately carved window carvings" (Eck 1982:228). On the top of the floor is a Hindu Observatory built by Savi Ji Singh-11 (1686-1743: the other places where he established such observatories are Jaipur, Delhi, Mathura and Ujjain. Under the direction of this astrologer-minister, Jagannatha, the king built this observation during the period of 1710-1737. There are four main astronomical instruments and renovation were made in 1850s and again in 1912 under the patronage of the King of jaipur. The closeby shrines at the top of the ghat are Somesvara, Dalabhesvara, Remesvara and Sthuladanta Vinayaka. In the river lies the Prabhasa Tirtha. On the occasion of Holi the festival of colour, falling on the last day of Phalguna (Feb.-Narch), people perform celebration at the Dalabhesvara shrine.


This ghat is named after the Tripura Bhairavi Shrine, a female partner of Tripuresvara whose image also exists there. Another important shrine is of Varahi, one of the nine mother-goddesses. In late eighteenth century king of Banaras and pt. Mayananda Giri had patronize to make this ghat pucca.

46. MIR GHAT :

This ghat represents two old sites of Jarasandhesvara and Vrdhaditya, which were converted by Mira Rustam Ali in 1735. Presently, in the name of these two shrines pilgrims throw flowers and raw-rice in the Ganga and remember them. The shrines and images in the vicinity are Vrdhaditya, Asa Vinayaka, Yajna Varahaand Visalaksi("The Wide-Eyed ", one of the 52 Sakti-pithas of goddesses.) another important site is Dharmakupa consisting of a sacred well surrounded by five temple, and also Divodasesvara lingam. The temple of Dharmesa is associated to the myth of Yama's (Lord of Death) power over the fate of the dead everywhere on the earth, except in Kashi. With the notion that due to entrance of low castes ("untouchables") the temple of Visvesvara/ Visvanatha became impure, Svami Karapatri-Ji, a very conservative Brahmin and a cult-chief, has established a " New Visva’natha Temple" in 1956 at top of the ghat. On the steps, under a pipala tree, the water- pouring ritual in honour of ancestors in performed.


This was and old site of Yajnesvara Ghat and was made pucca by Svami Mahesvarananda in mid nineteenth century. In the closeby stream lies the Visala Gaja Tittha.


Havell 1905:130) described this ghat: "where, recessed in the stone embankment, and completely covered by the river in the rainy season, is a pretty little shrine of Ganga, the Ganges, represented as a female figure seated on crocodile. Above it a stair- case leads to the Nepalese temple, a very picturesque building, half-hidden by magnificent tamarind and pippal trees. It is built chiefly of wood and brick; the double-storied roof, with great projecting eaves supported by brackets, is characteristic of the architecture of Nepal and of other sub-Himalayan districts". The great is patronized by a Nepalese, and was built pucca in c.1902 by Nanhi Babu. The area is dominated by Nepalese residents (Nepali Khapra).


This ghat is named after the famous goddess Lalita in Kasi and also in Prayaga. The well known lingam of Ganga Kesava and shrines of Gangatitya, Kasi Devi, Lalita Devi and Ghagirath Tirtha are affiliated to this site. People believe that a glimpse of Lalita Devi brings the same revard as circumambulating the entire world. At the top of the ghat, close to the Nepali Ghat, as described earlier, lies the Nepali Temple built in c. 1841 under the patronage of king of Nepal and assumed that the lingam there replicates the famous Pasupatisvara at Kathmandu. The temple has some wooden carving of the erotic scenes, and all the four gateways and doors are fully decorated with geomagnetic architectural frame.


: The old name of this ghat was Raja Rajesvari Ghat and was made in early nineteenth century by a rich merchant, Babu Kesava Deva. In the nearby stream lies the Bramhanala tirtha.


Somehow in diverted from this ghat is also called as Jalasen Ghat. In fact and the followed one both are part of the cremation ghat. The name it self indicates "putting dead body into water" as part of ritual before putting the corpse on the funeral pyre. In the mid- nineteenth century the nearby building and the ghat were built.


The name of the ghat literally means "the windows" (Khirki) from where attendants can watch the cremation. Close to in 1940 Baldeo Dasa Birla has built a pilgrims rest house. Under a deserted pipal tree there are five Sati shrines. Presently both of the above ghats are defuntional and present a view of nuisancesmoke-scape and deathscape!


Two ancient sacred waterfront sites make this ghat, viz Sidha Vinayaka and Swargadvaresvara. Among the is popularly called as " the great cremation ground" (Mahasmasana). A myth mentions that Lord Siva gives Taraka mantra ( "Prayer of the crossing") in the ear of the dead, therefore the form of Siva as Tarakesvara, (the temple is at the ghat), is propitiated whenever a Hindu dies. The name Manikarnika derives its origin from the dropping rings of Siva dyring His transcendental dance here. The historical sources mention this site in the Gupta inscriptions of C.E.4th century. This is the first ghat made pucca by the two king brothers in C.E.1302; and was rebuilt and repaired in 1730 under the patronage of Bajirao Pesava, and in 1791 Ahilyabai Holkar rebuilt the entire ghat. Again in 1872 repairing and renovations were done.

In the vicinity are shrines of Manikarnikesvara (a little far in the upper side of the lane), Mahesvara (open air lingam at the ghat) and Siddha and Manikarna Vinayakas. The temple of Manikarnikesvara is the approachable from the ghat by taking a steepy ascending lane south of the Kunda. "The lingam of this temple-set dramatically underground at the bottom of a deep shaft – could at one time be reached by a tunnel originating on the ghat".

There also exists a sacred pond, Cakra- Puskarini Kunda ("Discus Lotus- Pool") and Visnu’s feet impression Carana Paduka. According to puranic myth long before the Ganga arrived at the heels of Bhagiratha, the Cakra-Puskarini Kunda was present. Says the KKh(60.137-138) . For the benefit of the three world king Bhagiratha brought the Ganga to the place where Manikarnika is –to Shiva’s Forest of Bliss ("Annandavana"), to Visnu’s Lotus Pool (Chakra-Puskarni Kunda). Presently the Kunda surrounded by a cast-iron railing , is some (60 ft) at the top, narrowing to about (20ft) it) at the water’s edge (Eck 1982: 239). Visnu and Laksmi images are located in the small shrine inside the Kunda on the western wall; while a series of dozen small niches containing Siva lingams also exit there. Along the sacred route, on the ghat itself, are the symbolically footprints of Visnu (Carana Paduka), set in a circular marble slab. For 7,000 years Visnu was said to have performed tapas on this spot, and through the centuries millions of Hindus have sprinkled it with the holy Ganga water and adorned it with flowers. A plate from Prinsep’s which the subtitle calls "The holiest spot in the sacred City".

The closeby place to this holy spot has been reserved for the cremation of a few selected, especially the Maharajas of Kasi (Eck 1982: 246 ).

This ghat area has ancient reputation as a cremation ground; saya Lord Siva: Having become Time itself, I destroy the world here, O Goddess !" (Padma Purana 1.33.14). However, it is not clear when this site was fully accepted for cremation. Moreover, the NP(11.48.67), the MP (182.23b-24) and the KKh (30.84-85) describe its glory in terms of cremation and death rituals. The raised platform attached to the ghat is used for death anniversary rituals. Between Jalasayi and Manikarnika ghat in the stream lies fourteen watertrithas, among which important are Visnu, Bhavani, Skanda, Taraka, Avimuktesvara and Pasupati.

Towering over Manikarnika ghat, there is a Siva –Durga temple of Raja of Amethy (Oudh; now Uttar Pradesh), built in c. 1850 which is distinct with its five deep- red spires and gilded pinnacles. Havell (1905: 169) describes.

"It is built on a terrace overlooking the river, and is approached by one of those steep, staircased streets, leading from the ghats up into the city, which suggest a town of southern ltaly or Spain. Clambering up a side staircase, you pass under the Naubata Khana, where musicians are chanting praises of the goddess with strange but not unpleasing accompaniments. On the right side of the entrance is a fine bronze lion of Durga, and on the left Siva’s bull. The quiet and cleanliness inside are a relief from the bustle, sloppiness, and dirt, and the somewhat sordid atmosphere of more popular Benares shrines".


Bajiriao Pesava built this ghat in c. 1735, that is how it is named after him, and also a palace. Havell ( 1905:138) has described the condition as: " Before the basement had been raised many feet, the tremendous weight of the massive masonry caused a landslip, which made the whole fabric topple over, so that the work had to be abandoned. The unfinished fašade and the ghat steps still remain…". In fact the entire structure sunk several metres into the earth since its erection (Sherring 1868: 72). Later in 1830 queen Baijabai of Gwalior get it repaired and rebuilt ; she had also erected the colonnade around the Jananavapi well. In the up stream part there is a temple of Dattatreyesvara, so that this was referred as Dattatreya ghat. Presently this is assumed to be a patr of the Scindhia ghat.


Formerly it was known as Viresvara Ghat, after the temple of same name lying at the top. In 1780 Ahilabai Holker of Indore made the ghat pucca. In 1829 queen Baijabai had get it repaired and remodeled; and again in 1937 Daulatarao Scindhia made the entire ghat pucca. The shrines of Vsistha and Vamadeva, and Atmaviresvara are at the top. The Paravata tirtha lies in the close by Ganga river.


Its old name was Yameshvara Ghat after the name of the shrine. At the top in the lane lies temples of Yameshvara and harischandresvara which might be thought of the old cremation area; still at present on the ossasion of Yama Dvitiya devottees take sacred bath. In late 18th cent. king of Baroda made this ghat, but 1825 Beniram Pandit’s widow, known as "Panditain", and nephews built this ghat pucca together with a building structure of the temple of Sanktha Devi. At the top of the ghat towards the city there shrines of Katyayini and Siddhesvari goddesses; three Vinayakas: Hariscandra, Cintamani and Mitra; and Vasukisvara. A new image of Santosi Mata (" Mother of Satisfaction") has recently also been built at the top. Between the Manikarnika and Scindhia Ghats there exist three water-tirthas, Viz, Uma, Sarasvata and Kamblasvetara.


This is a another ghat of the same name. This, in fact, is an old part of Yamesvara Ghat. King of Gwalior had built it in early 19th cent., and lather on repaired and rebuilt by Govinda Bali Kiratankara.


In c. 1780 Maratha king ‘Bhonsala’ of Nagpur made this ghat, and lather in 1795 this was a made pucca together with the establishment of the temple of Laksmi narayana and a place. Two important shrines near by to the palace are of Yamesvara and Yamaditya.


In Prinsep’s map of 1822 this was named as Gularia Ghat and perhaps was made only a few years before. This was made pucca in c. 1960.


This was formerly known as Agnisvara Ghat after the Agni Tirthan in the stream. After passage of time after Pasava’s Ganesa temple this is known by this name. Important shrines at the top are Bhadresvara and Nagesa Vinayaka. Another important water-tirtha in the stream is Iksavaku Tirtha. During 1761-1772 Madhorao Pesava made this ghat fully pucca and also done extensive repairing. In puranic description this ghat is referred as Vighnesvara Ghat. On 9th dark-half of Bhadrapada (Aug.-Sept.) a special celebration held here.