Varanasi, Kashi, and Banaras the city has so many names, but I feel very peaceful here, in its slowness the heart of Indian spirituality is embedded. Banaras a city where people come to die from all over the world. The city of Moksha, the city of death, the city where every Hindu wants to cremate their dead. The city situated alongside the banks of the Ganges is full of ghat’s, in devnagrk Ghat is a series of steps leading to a water body which is the river itself as it flows across the plains, purifying all with its magical and healing waters. Ghat also means a steep hill but in our context, it is a embankment and series of steps leading to the water of Ganges. There are 88 ghats in Banaras. The two ghats exclusively made for cremation are the Harishchandra Ghat and the Manikarnika Ghat. These are exclusively made fro cremation as there has been a live cremation happening they’re for centuries on end.
Raja Harishchandra who was a noble king and fell from the grace of the gods, hell broke loose in his life as he lost his son and his crown. He spent years at the ghats burning the dead bodies and lighting up the funeral pyres. God’ was placed with his penance and truth. They rewarded him for this and gave him his kingdom and the life off his son back. The Ghat is thus named after that noble king.
Manikarnika Ghat is also a cremation ghat and the oldest of all, it is named after the Queen Rani Jhansi Laxmi Bai. The legend has it it was on the shores of this Ghat that Sati immolated herself due to the humiliation of Shiva by her family. Then Shiva held the burnt body of Sati and started grieving. Vishnu consoled him. And cut the body of Sati into 51 waves of peace by his Sudarshan Chakra. This peace fell on earth and wherever they fell was called a Shakti Peeth a place which has the energy of the goddess divine, Shiva’s consort.
It is said that at the Manikarnika Ghat Sati’s ear kundal fell. The rest of the ghats are meant for Pooja and bathing strictly and are not for cremation.
One can also visit the ashram of Keena Ram baba the head of the Aghodi tradition, the flag bearer of their sect. He was also known to be the reincarnation of Shiva and was in possession of occult dark powers obtained through siddhi and meditation.
Lastly is the Assi Ghat the southernmost Ghat of banners which is full during the festive season as more than 2200 people participate in the festival that takes place here. It is famous for it’s boating and now even hot air ballooning. For a few quid, you can get a birds-eye view of the ghat through a hot air ballon drive.
I breathe easy here and there is quite a tranquility about this slow yet very populated medieval town, which carries in it’s bowling the essence of the Hindu faith and the nector of its many stories.