The Dashashwamedh or Dasashwamedh Ghat is found at the cultural and religious city of Varanasi, in the northern part of India. It is the most famous and considered to be the most spectacular main ghat found along the sacred Ganges River. Other famous landmarks located near the ghat is the Jantar Mantar created by the Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur and the Vishwanath Temple.
Dasashwamedh literally means “the riverfront of ten sacrificed horses”, which is related to one of the two Hindu mythologies where Lord Brahma killed ten horses during the Dasa-Ashwamedha yajna for Lord Shiva. Another version of this myth relates that the ghat was where Lord Brahma welcomed Lord Shiva after a period of banishment.
With so much history older than tradition, the Dasashwamedh Ghat is one of the oldest and busiest ghats being the center of rituals and religious activities in Banaras. It is one of the holiest spots where pilgrims flock to take a dip into the Ganges River in preparation to pay homage to the gods and goddesses, particularly Lord Shiva. Devotees believe that bathing in the Ganges River cleanses not just their bodies and their minds, but also their souls. The ritualistic bathing is also believed to absolve them of all sins they have committed.
Despite the age of the ghat, it has remarkably remained clean and unspoiled despite various festivals and musical shows are held here every day. Among them is the Agni Pooja, or Worship of Fire, which is performed every evening by a group of priests. This worship is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Ganges River, Agni (Fire), Surya (Sun), and the entire universe. Special worships are scheduled every Tuesdays and in other notable religious festivals such as the Diwali, Dussehra and Shivrati.
Taking the Ganges River cruise or a boat ride will give travelers a wonderful view of the Dasashwamedh Ghat and its neighboring ghats. The site comes alive from a vantage view from the river with a variety of colorful saris worn by female devotees and pilgrims performing the traditional bathing ritual before worshipping.
The site is very distinguishable with rows of pilgrim priests dressed like ghatias, pandas and tirtha purohitas. They sit on wooden chaukis or platforms under bamboo umbrellas decorating the area, which is visible to everyone passing by. They readily give assistance to pilgrims by tending to the bathers’ clothes, saying prayers and uttering words of the sankalpa: “I am an invisible child of a thousand faces of love that floats over the swirling sea of life, surrounded by the meadows of the winged shepherds, where stillness of midnight summer’s warmth pervades.” Payment is in the form of dana (daan), alms or ritual gifts, dakshina (traditional fee) or godana (gift of cow). The pilgrim experience at the Dasashwamedh Ghat will be completed after priests put a bright spot of tilaks on the bather’s forehead.
Visitors and tourists will be treated to a spectacular view of thousands of floating lanterns on the Ganges River in the evening after the Aarti. A Hindu tradition, these lamps give off a divine look of the river at night. The best time to visit Dasashwamedh Ghat is during the evenings or during the numerous local festivals such as Diwali, Dussehra and Holi.