Assi Ghat means “eightieth ghat”. It is a popular hang out spot for locals and is marked by the five-spired Panchameshvara Temple and a large peepul tree that also doubles up as a Hindu shrine.
The main event in the sacred city of Benares, are its supposedly 87 ghats, which the grand tourist can take in from end to end in a single, three hour walk, or an hour-long boat-ride on the Ganges River.
I divide our leisurely wander through the Ghats of Benares into two segments. Here, we go from Assi Ghat, the southern-most ghat, and the most natural place to begin one’s wandering, to Dashashmewadh Ghat, which is perhaps the most famous ghat of all, and certainly the most photographed.
“Ghat” simply means steps that lead down to the water, and given that the ghats run in a continuous line, it is often not possible to distinguish one ghat from the other, except where there is a sign.
What is fascinating to me, aside from the wonderful architecture of the buildings, is the sight of people praying, bathing, playing, chatting, shopping and generally living their everyday lives in and around these buildings and on those steps.
Assi Ghat is home to a former Sikh Gurudhwara that is apparently a private home today.
Just north of Assi Ghat stand two spectacular buildings, probably both former palaces. The one to the left stands on Ganga Mahal Ghat. The one to the right is Riva Kothi, a former palace of the King of Riva, and it stands on Riva Ghat.
Tulsi Ghat with its lovely balcony is home to a Hanuman Temple.
Tulsi ghat is named after the Tulsidas monastery, which stands here, beside yet another sprawling peepul tree. Tulsidas was a famous mystical poet on par with Kabir.
The next ghat plays host to sewage and water towers built by the British in the 1800s, when they arrived in Benares (Varanasi).
Chet Singh Ghat is probably my favorite ghat. It is wonderfully atmospheric, with its red palace named after the Maharaja Chet Singh of Benares. Check out the spectacular chhatris.
Bhadaini and Janki Ghats.
Shivala Ghat is home to Suryauday Haveli, a wonderful heritage hotel property that I stayed at for part of the time I was in Benares (Varanasi).
This Ghat and its prominent white building wasn’t marked out, but I believe it is the Anandamayi Ghat; and the building, the Anandamayi Ma ashram for girls.
Jain Ghat, is, as its name suggests, home to a Jain Temple, seen here with the golden shikara, or spire.
Vijayanagaran Ghat is home to a delightful confection of a palace or villa.
Right beside it is the un-missable Kedar Temple, built in a Southern Indian architectural style and dedicated to Shiva.
This building on Karnataka State Ghat was built by former Mysore state (today’s Karnataka State). It is built in an eclectic Indo-Saracenic style and operates as a guesthouse today.
A splendidly quirky assortment of houses stacked on top of each other on NArada Ghat.
Raja Ghat was built by a Marathi King Gajirao Balaji.
Pandey Ghat was fascinating to me for its Japanese hostel or guesthouse.
Digpatiya Ghat, with its splendid palace complex, built by the King of Digpatiya in 1830. Unfortunately, there was no way for me to take in the entirely palace
Chousat Ghat, or “64th Ghat”.
Darbhangha Ghat is home to another magnificent palace, built by the king of Darbhanga in 1915.
Munshi Ghat sits right beside Darbhanga Ghat and is a great place to be at to see the coming and going of boats and people.
Ahilyabai Ghat comes just before Dashashmewadh, and is a very frequently photographed ghat because of the bustle and the colour.
Dashashmewadh Ghat is the beating heart of the Ghats of Benares, pulsing with life. The busiest and most popular ghat of all, it sits in direct contrast with Marnikarnika Ghat. It also plays host to the nightly ganga aarti ritual.
A straight-on view onto Dashashmewadh Ghat, showing just how expansive, beautiful and bustling it is.
…and finally, a glance backwards from whence we came.
- Banaras – Walks through India’s Sacred City by Nandini Majumdar (This is a FABULOUS book.)
- Banaras – City of Light by Diana L. Eck
About Kennie Ting
I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.