There are quite a number of smaller, less active ghats as you go up the river from the Assi Ghat towards the Kedar Ghat. The main highlights include the Tulsi Ghat, named after one of India’s greatest vernacular poets, the fortress-like Chait Singh Ghat, which was the site of a skirmish with the British, and the Harischandra Ghat, the city’s second – and reportedly oldest – cremation ghat.
For colorful scenes of daily river life, you should ask your guide to point out the Prabhu Ghat and Lali Ghat, which are very popular with the city’s laundrymen (dobi) who lay out their washing on the steps of the ghats, and the Jain Ghat and Nishadraj Ghat, which are home to large communities of boatmen. The Dandi Ghat with its staff-bearing ascetics also plays host to some vibrant scenes of the river’s spiritual life.
Along the way, you will also enjoy some magnificent views of the virtually deserted eastern bank across the blue expanse of the River Ganga as well as the spires and turrets of the ghats on the western bank that await you.
Ganga Mahala Ghat
Just north of the Assi Ghat is the Ganga Mahala Ghat, which was originally built by a raja of Varanasi in 1830. This has undergone significant expansion since then, including the addition of a majestic looking palace in the first half of the twentieth century, but has minimal religious or historical significance.
This ghat was originally built for King Ranjit Singh of the Punjab, and subsequently purchased by a maharaja with the name of Rewan during the nineteenth century. Like the Ganga Mahala Ghat, the ghat his limited religious or cultural importance.
Named after the great poet Tulsi Das, the author of the Ramcharitmanas, this ghat was originally known as the Lolarka Ghat because of its strong associations with the Lolarka Kund. A number of cultural events are held at the Tulsi Ghat during the year, including religious ceremonies, concerts, and a celebration of Krishna that takes place during the Hindu lunar month of Karthika (October/November).
The Bhadaini Ghat features a waterworks that supplies water to the whole city. No bathing or religious activities are performed here.
Constructed in 1870, by the Maharani Kunwar, a queen of a queen of Bihar state, the Janki Ghat is also of limited religious significance but is quite popular with bathers.
The Anandamayee Ghat is named after a 20th century woman saint whose Ashram stands above the steps. The ashram holds a number of religious activities here.
Constructed by a merchant of the same name in the second of the 18th century, the Vaccharaja Ghat is popular with the Jain community. On the steps of the ghat are three fine statues of Shiva, Ganesh, and Ganga riding on her crocodile.
Originally part of the Vaccharaja Ghat, the Jain Ghat was established in 1931 and marks the birthplace of Suparshvanatha, the seventh Jain Tirthankara (saint). Members of the Jain community congregate at the southern end of the ghat while members of the boatmen caste live at the northern end – making for quite a contrast.
A large number of boatmen and their families also live in the Nishadraj Ghat, and can be seen working on their boats and fishing nets. The ghat is named after the boatman king in the Ramayana, and also features a temple dedicated to him.
The Panchkota Ghat was constructed by a raja from Bengal in the second half of the nineteenth century. Above its steps stands a palatial-looking building housing two small temples.
The Prabhu Ghat is popular with the laundrymen, who lay their washing out on its broad expanse of steps. The ghat was built in the early part of the twentieth century in memory of a former king of Varanasi.
Chait Singh Ghat
The Chait Singh Ghat is a fortified ghat that was the site of a fierce battle in 1781 between the troops of Warren Hastings, the first British Governor-General of India, and Chait Singh, the ruler of Varanasi. According to the story, Chait Singh was able to escape from the building using a rope made of turbans but died “a broken man” after living in exile for thirty years.
The Ghat features three eighteenth-century Shiva temples, but is not a popular bathing spot because of the strong currents in this part of the river.
Originally part of the Chait Singh Ghat, this ghat features four Shiva temples built by a king of Nepal that feature the footprints of a Naga saint called Niranjani Maharaj as well as images of the goddess Gauri and her consort Shankar, Durga, and Ganga.
The Mahanirvani Ghat was formerly part of the Niranjani Ghat. According to popular belief, the famous Hindu philosopher Kapila lived here in the seventh century CE, though there is no historical evidence to prove this. Another legend says that Buddha once took a bath here.
Once a very important ghat, the Shivala Ghat features a Shiva temple but is no longer a popular bathing spot.
Named after a no-longer existing Gular (fig) tree, this ghat has seen better days and is relatively insignificant.
The Dandi Ghat is famous for the Dandi ascetics who gather there to bathe and meditate. Members of the Dandi sect come only from the Brahmin caste and following their initiation carry a bamboo staff (danda) without letting it touch the ground for the rest of their life and are buried with it.
The Hanuman Ghat is the site of a Hanuman Temple that was built by the poet Tulsi Das in the eighteenth century and which gives the ghat its current name.
Earlier it was called the Ramesvaram Ghat and was believed to have been established by Ram himself.
Prachina (Old) Hanuman Ghat
The old Hanuman Ghat is where Vallabha, the great teacher who led the resurgence of the Krishna Bhakti movement, lived during the fifteenth century. His birthday is celebrated at the Ghat on 11th dark-half of the aisakha month of the Hindu calendar (April-May).
The ghat features a Rama Temple that features five Shiva-lingam named after Rama, his brothers Lakshmana and Bharata, his wife Sita, and Hanuman.
The Karnataka Ghat was built by king of Mysore in 1910 and features a unique shrine to Ruru (the dog) Bhaivara, one of the eight manifestations of Bhaivara, the fierce aspect of Shiva, that protect Varanasi from eight directions.
The Harischandra Ghat is the second burning ghat in Varanasi and it is named after the legendary king who was known for his honesty and as a result was reduced to working at the ghat’s cremation ground.
Some believe that the Harischandra is the oldest cremation ground in the city, and surpasses the Manikarnika Ghat in its holiness. In 1987, an electric crematorium was opened here in an attempt to reduce the amount of wood used in the cremations, but that hasn’t stopped the use of traditional funeral pyres.
Please note that you should not take photos of the Harischandra Ghat.
Built by a raja of Varanasi in 1788, the Lali Ghat is a popular spot among laundrymen who lay out the clothes on its steps.
Named after the former south Indian kingdom of Vijayanagara, this ghat was established in the 1890s.