Ganga River and Varanasi :- Combination of Shiva and Shakti
10th , 11th and 14th March 2011 , 3 days we were in Kashi and many times again and again we went to banks of Ganga for having her mighty darshan. I will try to put some info on this mighty river and its ghats.
About Ganga :- According to most legends Ganga is holiest river . Taking dip in Ganga bestows purification from all sins accumulated from previous birth and hence we get salvation here. According to Devi Mahabhagwat , Ganga was elder daughter of Menaka and Himalaya , elder sister of Parvati and incarnation of Supreme Goddess Bhagwati Adishakti Durga.After her birth and she was taken by Brahma to Brahmaloka in his kamandalu. Then he washes Lord Vishnu ‘s feet with Ganga water. Hence from Brahmaloka she comes to Vaikuntha.
Then Bhagiratha one of the forefathers of Lord Rama brought her to earth for attaining salvation of his 60000 ancestors after tremendous penance to Lord Shiva. Thus she came to this earth. Her falling force was so enormous that Lord Shiva has to hold her in his matted hair and release some of it to form river Ganga. Some accounts say that she was married to Lord Shiva in heaven.
Thus this great river is associated with all the three trinities Brahma ,Vishnu and Mahesh.
Ganga likes Varanasi a lot. No time during her course to the sea she flows back to her origin, but in Varanasi she flows back because of her extreme attachment to this holy place.
Ghats of Varanasi :- In Varanasi, one side of her bank is made up of Ghats.
Ghat is series of steps leading down to a water body, usually a holy river, lake or pond.
Varanasi has nearly 84 ghats, steps leading down to Ganga .Most of the ghats were built when the city was under Maratha control. Marathas, Shindes (Scindias), Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwes (Peshwas) stand out as patrons of present day Kashi. Most of the ghats are bathing ghats, while two are used as cremation sites. Most of the ghats are associated with legends or mythologies while some ghats are privately owned. The former Kashi King owns Shivala or Kali ghat. Boat ride,specially in morning, on the Ganges across the ghats is very famous and popular visitors attraction.
I will try to describe a few and its legends.
It is situated at the confluence of Ganga and Assi rivers. Assi Ghat is the southernmost Ghat in Varanasi. Here pilgrims bathe before paying their homage to Lord Shiva in the form of huge lingam situated under a peepal tree. Assi Ghat also constitutes the southern end of conventional Varanasi City. Another lingam worshipped here is the Assi Sangameshwar lingam representing the lord of confluence of the Assi, enshrined in a small marble temple near the Assi Ghat. The famous Indian poet saint, Tulsi Das had written the much-celebrated Ramcharitmanas here.
There are numerous references of Assi Ghat in early literature of the Hindus. We find the mention of Assi Ghat in lot of Hindu Scriptures like Matsya purana, Agni purana, Kurma purana, Padma purana and Kashi khanda. According to legends, Goddess Durga had thrown her sword after slaying the demons Shumbha- Nishumbha. The place where the sword had fallen resulted in a big stream known as Assi River. In Kashi Khand , Assi Ghat is referred as “Saimbeda Tirtha” and according to it one gets punya of all the Tirthas by taking a dip here. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims take holy dip here in the months of Chaitya (March/ April) and Magh (Jan/Feb) and other important occasions like Grahan, Dussehra, Probodhoni Ekadashi, Makar Shankranti etc.
Beware of Touts and be careful here
Harish Chandra Ghat
Harishchandra Ghat is one of the oldest and important Ghats of Varanasi. Harishchandra Ghat is name after a mythological King Harishchandra( forefather of Lord Rama) who worked at the cremation ground here for the perseverance of truth and charity. Then The Gods rewarded him for his resolve, charity and truthfulness and restored his lost throne, wealth, fame and his dead son to him. Harish Chandra Ghat is one of the two cremation Ghats (the otherone being Manikarnika Ghat). Hindus from distant places bring the dead bodies of their near and dear ones to the Harishchandra Ghat for cremation. In Hindu mythology it is believed that if a person is cremated at the Harishchandra Ghat, that person gets salvation or moksha.
Dasaswamedh Ghat is one of the most important and most visited Ghats of Varanasi. Dasaswamedh Ghat literally means the Ghat of ten sacrificed horses. According to legends, ten horses were sacrificed by Lord Brahma to allow Lord Shiva to return from a period of banishment at this place and hence the name.
Dasaswamedh Ghat provides a very beautiful and colorful riverfront view. A large number of Sadhus are seen everyday performing religious rites on this Ghat. Nobody visiting Varanasi must not miss the opportunity of visiting the Dasaswamedh Ghat. In the evening after Ganga Aarti, thousands of earthen lamps are immersed in the waters of the holy Ganges and the floating lamps give a divine look to the river at dusk.
Beware of Touts,Thieves and be careful here. Keep your eyes ,ears and mind open here otherwise………………
Manikarnika Ghat is the most important and main cremation Ghat of Varanasi. Manikarnika Ghat is one of the oldest and most sacred Ghats in Kashi. According to the Hindu mythology, being burnt here provides an instant gateway to liberation from the cycle of births and rebirths. It lies at the center of the five main tirthas. Manikarnika Ghat symbolizes both creation and destruction. At Manikarnika Ghat the mortal remains are consigned to flames with the prayers that the souls rest in eternal peace. There is a sacred well at the Manikarnika Ghat, called the Manikarnika Kund. Manikarnika Kund is said to be dug by Lord Vishnu at the time of creation while the hot ashes of the burnt bodies makes one remember the inevitable destruction of everything in the world. It is here that Lord Shiva utters tarak mantra on the ear of the dead so that he immediately attains salvation.
Beware of Touts. Be careful here.
Tulsi Ghat is one more important ghat of Varanasi. Tulsi Ghat is named after the great Hindu poet,saint and devotee of the 16th century, Tulsidas Goswami. Tulsi Das composed the great Indian epic Ramcharitmanas at Varanasi. When Tulsi’s manuscript fell into the River Ganga it did not sink and kept floating instead here in Ganga. It is also believed that the Ramlila (story of Lord Rama’s life) was staged here for the first time. A temple of Lord Ram was built on the Tulsi Ghat. Many of the relics of Tulsi Das are preserved at the Tulsi Ghat. The house in which Tulsidas died has been preserved and his Samadhi , wooden clogs, pillow and the idol of Hanuman, which Tulsi worshipped, are all still intact and preserved here.
Scindia Ghat borders Manikarnika to the north, with its Shiva temple lying partially submerged in the river as a result of excessive weight of the ghat’s construction about 150 years ago. Above the ghat several of Kashi’s most influential shrines are located. According to tradition, Agni, the Hindu God of Fire was born here.
Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur built this Ghat in 1770, as well as the Yantra Mantra equipped with ornate window casings along with those at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, and Mathura. Devotees visit here to the lingam of Someshwar, the Lord of the Moon .This is next to Dasaswamedh Ghat.
The King of Nepal built this Ghat in the northern region of Varanasi. It is the site of the Ganges Keshav Temple, a wooden temple built in typical Nepali Kathmandu style .The temple has an image of Pashupatinath, a manifestation of Lord Shiva. It is a favorite site of painters and photographers.This place is not to be missed.
At Kedar Ghat there is a Kunda called Gauri Kund, which is named after Lord Shiva’s wife, which is said to have healing properties. At this ghat is the Kedareswara Shiva Temple. The person who visits this temple gets fruits of visiting Kedarnath Temple.
The important Raj Ghat (also called Adi Keshava Ghat) is the northern most ghat. Located here is the Adi Keshava Vishnu Temple, which is located where the Varuna River flows into the Ganges. Lord Vishnu is said to have first put his feet here when he came to Varanasi.
Other Pictures of Ganga
Next thing which I wanted to mention was something related to pollution of this great river, which made me sad.
Pollution in Ganga in Varanasi :- As Ganga river is known for its spiritual and mythological significance ,she is also known for undesirable reasons such as pollution. Ganga has the tag of “Most Polluted River in the World ” .
According to information in internet, more than 20,00,000 people bath in Ganga everyday. 400 million who live on the banks of Ganga suffer because of pollution. Sewage from many cities along the river’s course, industrialand chemical waste and religious offerings wrapped in non-degradable plastics add large amounts of pollutants to the river as it flows through densely populated areas.
Varanasi alone releases around 200 million litres of untreated human sewage into the river each day, leading to large concentrations of faecal coliform bacteria. According to official standards, water safe for bathing should not contain more than 500 faecal coliforms per 100ml, yet upstream of Varanasi’s ghats the river water already contains 120 times as much as 60,000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 ml.
After the cremation of the deceased at Varanasi’s ghats the bones and ashes are thrown into the Ganges. Even today, holy men, pregnant women, people with leprosy/chicken pox, people who had been bitten by snakes, people who had committed suicide, the poor, and children under 5 are not cremated at the ghats but are floated free to decompose in the waters in Ganga. In addition, those who cannot afford the large amount of wood needed to cremate the entire body leave behind a lot of half burned body parts.
And after receiving 32 streams of raw sewage from the city of Varanasi the concentration of faecal coliforms in the river rises from 60,000 to 1.5 million on an average with peak value of 100 million per 100 ml of water. DISGUSTING.
As a great devotee when I came to know about this information, I thought that anyhow I will bath in Ganga. But believe me when I saw the sight I folded hands to Ganga Maiyaa and said Sorry deep from my heart and I cannot bath. Just sprinkled water on my head and moved on……………………………
Its time to say bye for now . Will come with Kashi temples in next…………………………..