Man Mandir Ghat
Varanasi, earlier known as Benares, is one of the holiest cities of India and is identified by its numerous temples and ghats. Kashi, as it is traditionally called, is highly revered by Hindus and Jains. The famous ghats of Varanasi are set on the banks of the Ganges, a river held sacred by Hindus. The ghats offer themselves as preferred site for performing a variety of religious rituals. River Ganges, or the Ganga, holds a special significance in Hinduism and devotees look upon it as a goddess or a divine being. It is believed that Ganga was sent to the earth to help civilization flourish and so is considered to be a lifeline for humankind in more ways than one. It is the presence of the Ganga, along with other beliefs, that make Varanasi a holy city.
To facilitate easy access to the river, the city has many ghats, which are basically a series of steps which lead to the water. There are close to a hundred ghats along the river Ganges. Most ghats are associated with legends or mythology while some ghats are privately owned. Morning boat ride on the Ganges across the ghats is a popular visitor attraction. Most of the ghats are bathing and puja ceremony ghats, while two are exclusively for the purpose of cremation.
Another very old ghat of Varanasi, Man Mandir Ghat is notable for its ornate Rajput architecture. The strong Rajput influence can be seen in the detailing of the design.
Man Mandir Ghat derives its name from the presence of the opulent Man Mandir Palace, built by Maharaja Man Singh of Amer in 1600. The palace features a magnificent façade with exquisite and ornate window carvings. The spacious terraces of the palace offer a glorious view of both the banks of the Ganges.
In early eighteenth century, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II installed an observatory on the roof of the palace. The observatory features large instruments made of stone, which were used to study the movement of sun, moon, stars and other astrological bodies in historical times. Jantar Mantar is the major attraction at the observatory which has obvious similarities with the Jantar Mantar of Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain and Mathura. The astronomical equipment is still in good condition and somewhat functional.
Pilgrims pay homage to the important lingam of Someshwar when they visit Man Mandir Ghat. Immediately to its north is the well-known Lalita Ghat, renowned for its Ganga Keshava shrine to Vishnu and the Nepali temple, a typical Nepali style wooden temple which houses an image of Pashupateshvara – Shiva’s manifestation at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Several revered temples lie in the vicinity of Man Mandir Ghat, namely, Sthuladanta Vinayaka, Rameshwara and Someshwara temples.