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Varanasi is also known as the land of Ghats (riverfronts) and Dashaswamedh is one of its most famous, biggest and sacred ones. A great mythological legend associated with the place gives it the name ‘Dashaswamedh’ which means the place where ten horses were sacrificed. According to Hindu mythology, it was here that Lord Brahma performed his victorious Dasa_Ashwamedha (ten-horse) sacrifice in order for Shiva to return to Varanasi after a period of banishment. Another mythological belief relates Dashaswamedh ghat as the seat of Mother Goddess Shitala who epitomized the dual aspects of life- both benign and malevolent. Historically, the riverfront was renovated by Bajirao Pesava I in 1740 AD and then in 1774 by the princess Ahilyabai Holkar.
The Dashaswamedh ghat is now a way of life for the people of Varanasi. Be it the performing of sacred rituals, various ceremonies and other traditional rites are conducted on these ghats. Another highlight of the place is the morning boat ride upon the river Ganges. The day starts early at 3 a.m. in the city and as the boat meanders slowly through the tranquil waters ,one witnesses hundreds of Hindu devotees taking a holy bath in the river, worship of God Surya (Sun) with chanting of mantras filling the air with devotion and sanctity. The boat ride lasting 1 hr. starts from Dasashwamedh Ghat and ends at Manikarnika Ghat, providing a mesmerizing glimpse of the heritage city.
As the evening arrives, one is treated with an illuminating view of sorts, with devotes performing the sacred evening 'Puja' on the ghat. Amidst ringing of bells and chanting of mantras, thousands of lamps are lit before the holy river ganges as a sign of respect and then floated upon its life giving waters. Although visited by numerous devotees from all parts of the country each day, the dashaswamedh ghat is clean and un-spoilt showcasing all its glory and serving as a quiet reminder of the heritage and spiritual roots of Varanasi.