A man is known by the legacy of his ancestors and thus has a moral and social obligation for performing the religious rituals prescribed for the departed souls to live in peace in their heavenly abode. For the Hindus, water of the river Ganga is considered the holiest for cleansing of all sins. There are two myths to establish as to why Ganga is considered the savior of the souls separated from earthly bodies.
King Sagara organized an Ashwamedha Yanga for more power and prosperity to his kingdom that threatened Indra. In order therefore to disturb the yangya, he sent his representatives to the earth who stole the horse (Ashwa) and tied it at the cottage of sage Kapila Muni. King Sagara sent his sixty thousand sons to find out the horse. They found the horse at Kapila Muni’s Ashram and started calling him bad names. Disturbed and annoyed, Kapila Muni cursed them to be burnt to ashes. On the request of King Sagara, Kapila Muni ordained that the sin of his sons could be cleansed if Ganga is brought down from her abode in Heaven, the nail of the toe of Lord Vishnu.
King Bhagiratha, the fourth generation successor of King Sagara worshipped Lord Vishnu who ordained Ganga to the earth to cleanse the sins of the sixty thousand sons of king Sagara. The earth being unable to withstand the force of Ganga, she first fell onto the matted hair Lord Shiva from whereon Ganga advanced, followed by king Bhagiratha. On the way, the water swept the Kamandalu (Jug) of sage Janhu who being annoyed swallowed the whole entity of Ganga. On the request of king Bhagiratha, sage Janhu cut out his stomach to free Ganga, who thereafter cleansed the sins of a King Bhagiratha’s ancestors.
The second myth has it that, king Santanu, once while hunting in a forest, saw an extremely beautiful damsel on the bank of the river Ganga, whom he offered to marry. She agreed with the condition that he would not speak to her harshly for whatever she did. King Shantanu agreed and made her his queen. She gave birth to a son but threw him to the river Ganga. As per the condition, king Shantanu did not tell her anything. She repeated the same act for the next six newly born sons. But, with the birth of the eighth son, he spoke to her harshly. She told that she was Ganga and was ordained to bear seven cursed celestial beings that were to leave their bodies immediately after their births. The eighth son was ordained to live a long life with the parental name of Gangeya, better known as Bhisma.
The ghats of the Ganga at Varanasi are the most sacred destinations for performing religious rituals for the departed souls of ancestors. There are a number of ghats namely Panchaganga, Manikarnika, Dasawmedh, Kedar, Narad, Harishchandra and Hanuman Ghat.
Other places of tourists’ interest at Varanasi are Vishwanath Temple, KaaL Bhairav Temple, Nepali Hindu Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple, Banaras Hindu University, Alamgir Mosque, Sarnath, Gouri Matha Temple, Ramnagar Fort and Sankat Mochan Temple.