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Dedicated to the Parshvanath, the 23rd Thirthankara (preacher of Jainism) of Jainism, this temple is a visual treat in Bhelupura. Parshvanath was born in Varanasi and this temple is considered as the preserved monument of his birthplace. The golden spire is a stunning sight which attracts attention from way outside the street. The tranquil setting emanates the peace and harmony of the Jain philosophy and a visit will remarkably influence spirited minds.
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.
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.
Located on Shitala Ghat just by the side of the more outstanding Dasashwamedh Ghat is the Shitala Temple. Whitewashed and stark, this temple is dedicated to Shitala Devi who is known to be the Goddess of Smallpox and Chickenpox. Staunch Hindu devotees believe that she protects them from these diseases. Nearby is also a small shrine dedicated to Santhoshi Maata - the Mother of Pleasure.
The Rana Mahal Ghat is hard too miss because of the imposing brown antiquated structures on either side of the steps that tower into the sky, looking down upon benevolently upon the steady string of bathers and river boats. This ghat was constructed by the Maharajah of Udaipur in Rajasthan in the 1670's, and is mostly visited for a beautiful shrine that lies on the top. The best time to come is early in the morning when Hindu worshipers arrive in throngs to cleanse themselves of sins with a holy dip in the Ganges.
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.