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Varanasi, also popularly known as Benaras is one of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus. The historical ghats of Varanasi on the banks of river Ganges attract devotees from all parts of the country and abroad. The ghats are many, but every ghat has a history of its own and some of them also find mention in the ancient scriptures. It is believed that a dip in the holy waters of the ghats cleanses all past sins. Another popular belief is that immersion of the ashes of the dead in the ghats grant their soul eternal peace. A perennial feature of the ghats are a variety of religious rituals held from morning till night.

Regarded as an eternal city by the Hindus, the known history of Varanasi dates back to about 3500 years. Here, we shall briefly discuss the most popular of Varanasi's myriad of ghats
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Dasaswamedh Ghat Dasaswamedh Ghat : The main ghat of Varanasi is the Dasaswamedh Ghat which literally means the ghat of ten sacrificed horses. Legend has it that ten horses were sacrificed by Lord Brahma to allow Lord Shiva to return from a period of banishment. In spite of the fact that it is one of the oldest ghats of Varanasi dating back to many thousand years, the ghat has remained unspoilt and clean. Devotees must not miss the opportunity of visiting the ghat in the evening when after aarti, thousands of earthen lamps are immersed in the waters resulting in a spectacular sight.

Manikarnika Ghat : Manikarnika is an ancient ghat next only in significance to Dasaswamedh ghat. This is the main cremation ghat of Varanasi. The mortal remains are consigned to flames with the prayers that the soul rest in eternal peace. It is said that this ghat symbolises both creation and destruction. There is a sacred well at the Manikarnika Ghat, called the Manikarnika Kund. The saying goes that this well was dug by Lord Vishnu at the time of creation of earth.

Man Mandir Ghat : The ghat of Man Mandir was built by Maharaja of Jaipur. The ghat houses a 18th century observatory equipped with ornate window casings. There is another fine stone balcony in the northern part of the ghat. Most devotees come to this ghat to pay homage to the lingam of Someswar, the Lord of the Moon.

Asi Ghat : Asi is the southernmost ghat of Varanasi. This beautiful ghat is located at the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Asi. There is a huge lingam at the ghat where devotees offer prayers. But prior to offering obeisance, it is mandatory for devotees to have a bath in the holy waters. Just off the ghat- there is a small marble temple of Asisangameshwar- the lord of confluence of the Asi.

Lalita Ghat : A ghat on the northern part, Lalita is popular for Ganga Keshava Temple. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this is a wooden temple built in typical Kathmandu style. The temple also has an image of Pashupateshwar- a manifestation of Lord Shiva.

Other important ghats of Varanasi include Barnasangam, Panchganga, Dattatreya, Kedar, Scindia and Harishchandra ghats. In all the ghats, the day starts with priests and devotees taking a dip in the waters as the first rays of the sun fall on the waters.

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