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Varuna River

Named after Varuna, the Vedic god of water and the sea, this river is a small tributary of the mighty Ganges. The river flows into the Ganges at the northern side of Varanasi, and there are believable theories that the city got its name because of the convergence of two rivers Varuna and Assi. This small and gentle river carves a simple landscape in the northern neighborhoods of the city before reaching out for the confluence.

Dasashwamedh Ghat

Pointing to a time when horse sacrifice was common, the translation of the name Dasashwamedh says 'the place where ten horses were sacrificed'. Hindu mythology says the creator Brahma did a sacrifice here to let Lord Shiva get back to Varanasi; and thus it is one of the most auspicious sites for Hindus all over the world. This is the site of the stunning Ganga Aarti, which is performed daily on the raised platforms on the ghat with seven priests doing choreographed ritualistic offerings to mother Ganga. Considered as the most important ghat along the banks of Ganga, a large number of guesthouses and restaurants are located around the area. The main burning ghat, Manikarnika is towards the north. One of the most ancient sites in the city, Dasaswamedh Ghat is a legendary sight filled with tourists and pilgrims.

Manikarnika Ghat

According to Hindu tradition, people cremated at the Manikarnika Ghat after death will be freed from the chain of life and death. That explains the chaos, mystery, indifference, noise and everything surrounding this area which is said to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The name Manikarnika goes back to the story where Shiva dropped his earrings at the well here during his transcendental dance and it came to know as Manikarnika Kund. The cremations take place without break and fills the air with the smell of burning flesh which is surprisingly not repulsive. Foreigners from all around the globe watch the activities here with much intrigue and the locals take it with compassion though not without a fragment of disdain. The apparent indifferent face of death is reinforced with the underlying philosophy of material transition and is something that has to be experienced.

Assi Ghat

This is the unofficial yet lionized home of long-term backpackers, researchers and students who have chosen to stay on for extended periods of time in Varanasi. The southernmost ghat on the long stretch of ghats, life at Assi is as indulgent as the water buffaloes who wallow around for hours on end in the Ganges. Despite its distance from the main burning ghats, travelers head here for a break from the intrusive touts, guides, fake holy men, beggars, boat men, masseurs and even children who participate with great fervor in the contrived chaos. Assi has a large Jewish community and this is reflected through the hotels and cafes with names such as Haifa and Yafah which serve up typically Middle Eastern dishes like hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush and kawwah (Arabic Coffee). Assi Ghat has been mentioned in the ancient Indian Vedic texts and commands the respect of Indian pilgrims too who arrive here in boats or on foot for a holy dip.

River Ganges

Carving one of the world's mostly populated river beds, River Ganges, believed to be arising directly from Lord Shiva's head, is the holy mother for North India. The ancient city of Varanasi is one of the most prolific gifts of this stunning river which ranks top among the world's big rivers in the amount of water discharge. The 7 kilometer (4.34 mile) stretch of the ghats along River Ganges is a major site of sacred rituals in Hindu tradition; Dasashwamedh Ghat and Manikarnika Ghat being the most popular. Originating from Himalayan glaciers, this river is considered as one of the largest in India and surely is a ravishing sight in spite of the devouring pollution.


Located 13 kilometers (8 miles) away from the holy city of Varanasi, Sarnath is a major site of Buddhist pilgrimage. The deer park here is believed to be the location where Gautama Buddha gave his first lecture after attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya. Also known as Isipatana, the major sight here are the ruins of historic Buddhist establishments mostly destructed by Muslim invasion. Dhamek Stupa, is another conspicuous sight inside this stunning archeological complex. The Archeological Museum and the base of the famous Ashoka Pillar are also things not to miss in Sarnath.The location is bestowed with a lot of Tibetan, Burmese and Chinese monasteries which interests visitors with their distinctive architecture and layout. A small number of guesthouses and restaurants are also available in the area.

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