Culture Walk at Varanasi's Ghats: See Local Life Up-Close

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The one thing that makes Varanasi unique are its numerous Ghats, that are actually stone steps leading to the banks of river Ganga. These steps are found all the way from Assi Ghat on one end to Raj Ghat at the other end and it is sometimes difficult to segregate one Ghat from another. It is tough to say where the boundary of one Ghat ends and the other begins. According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 100 Ghats on this stretch. I guess it would be a great experience to take a walking tour of this entire stretch but not sure if that will be practical. However, what is easily do-able is to take an afternoon walk from Assi Ghat (home to two of Varanasi's best restaurants - Open Hand Cafe and Aum Cafe) to Dashashwamedh Ghat that is famous for being close to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. A grand Ganga Aarti is performed at Dashashwamedh Ghat every evening. Hence, this Ghat will be the ideal point to end the tour. This walking tour will take you through 18-19 Ghats where you will get to see some overwhelming scenes of life on the river banks in Varanasi. Keep reading...

A boatman in Varanasi taking an afternoon nap

This is what I saw on my walking tour from Assi Ghat to Dashashwamedh Ghat. I started at 4.00pm and reached Dashashwamedh Ghat in one hour. It will take more or less time depending on how often you stop on the way.

Cremation at Raja Harishchandra Ghat

Cremation at Raja Harishchandra Ghat Varanasi

Raja Harishchandra Ghat is used for cremations. After the cremation, the ashes are scattered over the river water.

There is a Ghat for the cattle too

Buffaloes in Varanasi taking bath in the river Ganga

These buffaloes are fortunate to have a whole river for their evening bath.

Locals taking a bath in the Holy Ganga

Locals taking a dip in the river Ganga Varanasi

Pilgrims take a dip in the river Ganga for religious reasons but Varanasi's locals do it for fun. I guess it would be a good idea to caution you that according to scientific tests conducted in June 2014 by TV Channel ABN News, the water of the river Ganga in Varanasi is unfit for human consumption, taking a bath or even for agriculture.

Enjoy a game of cards

Locals playing cards at Varanasi Ghat

After their fun bath in the river,locals gather for a game of cards at the Ghat.

Some play Cricket

Cricket is the most popular sport in India. Street Cricket can be witnessed all over India. In Varanasi, you get to witness Ghat Cricket.

Roadside shopping too

Expat Sadhu's shop at Varanasi Ghat

An expat Sadhu has a Ghat-side shop here selling beaded necklaces and other "holy" stuff. He plays some nice music too. Rarely looks up. Stand a few minutes there and listen to that music. Its divine.

A Hanuman Temple

A Hanuman Temple at Varanasi Ghat

This small temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman has locals, sadhus, priests, and even astrologers too. Have a little chat with one of them if you feel like.

Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat

Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat Varanasi

Preparations for the Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat begin at sundown. The steps of the Ghat become seats for watching the Aarti. Get there early if you want a seat with a good view. You can perform a private pooja (offering) with the help of one of the priests there. Aarti begins after dark which is basically mantra chants coupled with very loud music. Still / video photography is allowed. After the Aarti, head for your dinner to one of the two good restaurants at Maan Mandir Ghat (next to Dashashwamedh) - Dosa Cafe for the best dosa in Varanasi or Niyati Cafe for international vegetarian food. Ask for Vishnu Tea Emporium if you have difficulty locating the two restaurants. Both are located very close to Vishu.

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Posted by Narinder Singh


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I left my day job in October 2013 and became a full time blogger. I love travel and hence a travel blog was the obvious place to start from. The result is I currently live in Bengaluru, India. - Narinder Singh.


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