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Best Local Scene in Varanasi

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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.

Ghats are a series of steps that lie along the banks of a river. In the city of Varanasi, life revolves around these sacred steps because here is where pilgrims take a dip in the River Ganges to wash away a lifetime of sins. While some ghats are more subdued than the others which are colorful, prominent and backed by magnificent sandstone buildings, all of them have an equally intriguing story to tell. Tourists mostly tend to traverse between Panchganga Ghat in the north and Assi Ghat in the south, however there are many beyond these. A fascinating kaleidoscope of human activity awaits you here - women washing clothes, pilgrims taking a dip, cattle cooling off, dogs scouring the area for food, young boys playing cricket or diving into the river, funeral pyre flames rising into the skies ceaselessly, dread-locked sadhus meditating, boatmen soliciting customers, vendors selling flowers and Western tourists filming this Carnival of Life that plays out day-after day in this City of Shiva.

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.

Established in the year 1887, Malviya Bridge is one of the finest landmarks of the city. Navigating across the serene waters of the Ganges, it features rail tracks laid over on its lower tier while the upper one has the Grand Trunk Road. Initially named The Dufferin Bridge, this engineering marvel was re-christened as Malviya Bridge in the year 1948, in memory of noted freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malviya.

Ramnagar, culturally alive like the olden days, seats the Ramnagar Fort, which is the residence of the King of Kashi (Kashi Naresh). The city exudes the nostalgic silence of the glorious past through the stunning architecture of the renowned Fort. Ramnagar colorfully adorns on major festival days; Ramlila being the most prominent. The Fort houses a museum which has a stunning collection of artifacts that portrays the cultural richness of the region. The place also has a few temples like Vyasa Temple, Durga Temple and Chinmastika Temple. A few restaurants also can be seen around the area. A famous delicacy from the region is the 'Ramnagar Lassi' (A Sweet Preparation of Yoghurt) which is served in earthen cups - Shiv-Prasad Lassi Bhandar is recommended to try. Do visit Ramnagar for a dose of history and culture.

Nestled in the heart of the buzzing Maheshpur town, Godowlia Market is swarming with local traders selling all kinds of stuff at great bargains. Found at a short distance from the nearest railway station, it is labeled as one of the busiest open markets of the city, and quite rightly so. The cramped lanes are packed with stalls selling household essentials, ethnic jewelry, handmade shawls and zari garments, among other intricately designed apparel. Post a tiring shopping spree at Godowlia, one may choose the visit the serene Kashi Temple lying a few blocks ahead.

A bustling market in the heart of the holy city, Vishwanath Gali is where you can find all things local and traditional. While the market largely caters to pilgrims headed to the nearby Kashi Vishwanath Temple, it is also buzzing with a number of shops that sell Banarasi sarees, dress materials, religious books, statues and jewelry. Particularly popular with foreign tourists are brass items and the Rudraksha mala.

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