There are over 100 bathing and burning ghats (literally 'steps')
at Varanasi, but the most sacred is the Manikarnika Ghat, which is
the most auspicious place that a Hindu can be cremated. Outcasts,
chandal, carry the bodies through the alleyways of the old
city to the sacred Ganges on a bamboo stretcher swathed in
At the top of the Ghat visitors will see large piles of
firewood, with each log weighed on giant scales to calculate the
price of the cremation. Tourists who wish to watch the cremations
are tolerated, but should dress conservatively and leave their
cameras behind. Tourists should also be aware that, although
witnessing a ceremonial cremation is considered a 'must-do'
activity in India, it can be quite a harrowing and emotional
experience, and one that shouldn't be undertaken lightly.
The nearby Dasaswamedh Ghat (the 'ghat of ten sacrificed
horses') is said to be the spot where Lord Brahma made a sacrifice
to pave the way for the return of Shiva - and is one of the best
ghats from which to take in the riverside activity. Crowds of
people congregate here not only for a ritual bath, but also to do
yoga, get a massage, offer blessings, buy flowers, play cricket or
work on their karma by giving money to beggars. It is also a good
place to arrange a dawn boat trip, to watch the beauty of Varanasi
manifest as the sun rises over the city. Dotted around the ghats
are numerous temples - the highlight being the Golden Temple, with
its stunning, resplendent towers.