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A visit to Varanasi cannot be complete without a visit to the ghats running along River Ganges. The ghats have been a source of inspiration for artists, film-makers, photographers, writers and musicians for centuries. There are about 88 ghats in the city and most of them are used as bathing sites while a few, like Manikarnika Ghat, are exclusively designated for cremation purposes. As a dip in Ganga is considered holy in the Hindu religion, most of the ghats are dedicated to religious rituals, the most popular being Dashashwamedh. At one end of the line of ghats, is Assi, which is famous for morning yoga sessions. The evening arti (a religious ritual with lamps) at the ghats, primarily at Dashashwamedh, is a sight to behold. One of the more visually spectacular ghats is the Lalita Ghat.
It is widely believed that people are cleansed mentally, physically and spiritually at Ganga ghats and thus, they have been flocking to this place for thousands of years to offer prayers to the rising sun. While visiting the city, visitors can take a boat ride on the river and enjoy the spiritual fervour of the bustling ghats, some of which are privately owned.
Most of Varanasi's ghats were rebuilt after 1700 AD when the city was under the rule of the Maratha empire. Marathas, Holkars, Shindes (Scindias), Peshwas and Bhonsles are the patrons of the current ghats.