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Asi Ghat - Varanasi

Varanasi Tourism

The Panchtirthi pilgrimage begins at Asi Ghat, where the pilgrims bathe in the confluence of the Asi and the Genges Rivers.Asi is the only one of the major bathing ghat of the city that is still a clay bank (kaccha) without the great concrete steps that descend into the river at the finished (pakka) ghats along most of the river front. The slippery clay bank of Asi ghat reminds us that the great stone and concrete ghats of the Banaras riverfronts are an innovation of the last three centuries. Throughout most of its history, the entire riverfront was similar to what we see at Asi.

Despite its slippery bank, Asi is one of the busiest of the ghats, attracting morning bathers from the entire southern end of the city. Asi is significant as the southernmost bathing ghat in the sacred zone. Fields stretch out beyond it to the south. After bathing in the Ganges here, the Panchtirthi pilgrims are directed to visit the shiva linga at Asi sangam, Asisangameshwara, the “Lord of the Confluence at Asi” located a few steps into the lane at the head of the ghat, this is a small, well-kept temple, marked with a marble plaque establishing the Puranic heritage of the site with some verses from the Kashi Khanda. There the pilgrims might read: "all the other tirthas that girdle the earth are not equal to a sixteenth part of the tirtha at Asi sangam” The linga most reversed at Asi, however, is the big open-air linga located under a papal tree right on the muddy bank of the ghat itself. This linga, with its ranks of smaller lingas nearby, is the focal point of worship at Asi, receiving the flower and water offring of a constant procession of morning bathers. This is, in the popular eye, the real “lord of the confluence at Asi.”

According to the traditional guidebook, the pilgrims’ worship at Asi should also include a visit to nearby Lolarka Kund. This is located above Tulsi Ghat, formerly Lolarka Ghat, just north of Asi and now named for the poet-saint Tulsi Das, whose house and temple still stand at the head of the Ghat steps. Lolarka, as we have seen in discussing the suns of Kashi, is the “trembling sun,” and is one of the most ancient sacred sites in kashi. Some listing of the great river Tirthas even give Lolarka yhe place now occupied by Asi as the primary sacred centre of southern Varanasi. Indeed, the verses that praise Asi in the Kashi Khandaseem to confirm this, for they are set in the context of the larger lolarka mahatmya. While they are in the lolarka area, the pilgrims are also advised to visit Arka Vinayaka, one of the fifty six Ganeshas, who sits overlooking the Ganges here.

It is said by some legends, that Goddess Durga had thrown her sword after killing the demon, called Shumbha-Nishumbha. The place where the sword had fallen resulted in a big stream, known as Asi River. Pilgrims take holy bath on some special occasions like Chaitra (March/April) and Magh (Jan/Feb) and other important occasions like solar lunar eclipse, Ganga Dussehra, Probodhoni Ekadashi, Makar Shankranti etc. it was at Asi ghat where the famous Indian poet saint, Tulsi Das had written the much-celebrated Ramcharitmanas.

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