Varanasi (Kashi) also known as Benaras has been the eternal pilgrimage spot (Mukti Kshetra), for Hindus for ages who believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Varanasi as also been a great center of learning for ages and promotion of spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit and Yoga.
The name Varanasi has its origin from the names of two rivers Varuna and Assi, for the old city lies in the north shores of the Ganges bounded by its two tributaries, the Varuna and Assi, with the Ganges being to its south. Assi Ghat is an important ghat of Varanasi and it’s the southeren most end of the ancient city. References about this ghat are found in various Puranas. There is a belief, this place where after slaying demon Durgasur, the sword (Khadga) from the hand of Goddess Durga fell. The place, where sword (Khadga) had fallen resulted in flowing of big stream known as Asi River. The confluence place of river Ganga and Asi known as Asi or Assi ghat. Ganges is said to have its origin in the tresses of lord Shiva.
Also this is a pilgrimage place for Jains, being the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar. Vaishnavism and Shaivism have co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously. Of 84 ghats along the edge of the river, only five ghats (panchtirth) are considered most sacred.
As per legend the five most sacred water-front holy spots represent the bodily parts of the Lord: “Asi is the head; Dashawamedh is the chest; Manikarnika is the Naval; Panchganga is the thighs; and Adi Keshav is the feet”. This reminds that Vishnu first placed His holy feet here in Varanasi. His foot prints (Charan Paduka) in the Adi Kesava temple symbolize that occasion; another foot prints are at Manikarnika Ghat. At Manikarnika Lord Shiva Tarak Mantra (“Prayer of the crossing”) in the ear of the dead, therefore the form of Shiva as Tarkeshwear, (the temple is at the ghat), is propitiated whenever a Hindu dies.
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Audio: Stereo Dolby Digital