The Gaay Ghat (गाय घाट) derives its name from a Hindi term Gai or Gaay used for a cow. The cows are sacred and garner great respect in the Hindu religion. The cow also symbolises the Earth here. Gaay Ghat, termed as Gopreksha Tirtha in ancient religious scriptures, finds mention in 17th century treatise Girvana-Padamanjari. This ghat has been portrayed in a painting belonging to early 17th century and showcased in Central Museum of Jaipur. The painting displays a herd of cows, drinking water at this ghat. As per the historical records, Gaay Ghat used to be the southern limit of the Kashi city in 12th century. Nearby the Gaay Ghat is Patan Darwaza, a symbolic but historical relic of the twelfth century. A three feet tall statue of stone-built cow/ bull and Shivalingam are found on northern side of the ghat. The rituals and festivities at Gaay Ghat are symbolized by an image of cow, representing the Earth as a living organism in spiritual Hindu scriptures. The rituals are aimed at to remind the devotees that the greatest realisation in a life is the stage where life itself is a religious experience.
The southern part of Gaay Ghat was rebuilt and made ‘pucca’ by Rana Shamsher Bahadur who was the king of Nepal. On the upper side of the ghat in the southern area, he also built a palace. The terrace of the palace is adorned with three Shiva temples. Northern side of the palace is marked by Laxmi Narayan Temple and a big building. The palace was purchased in 1940 AD by Dalmia. Dalmia, a famous Indian industrialist, bought this palace for her mother to spend her last days in Kashi. The palace, now called as the Dalmia Bhavan, is presently being utilized as a guest house and a children’s school. One part of the palace is being used as the rental house. Also, in the same period, the southern part of Durga Ghat was made ‘pucca’ by Balabai Shitole. She was the wife of Mr. Malvaji Narsimha Rao Shitole, the then Diwan of Gwalior Estate. She also extended the ghat towards further north. This extended northern part of the ghat is also known as Balabai Ghat. Since there is also a temple of Badrinath Narayan at this ghat, therefore, it is also called as the Badrinath Narayan Ghat.
Gaay Ghat is a happening venue for various religious festivities. The huge temple complex at the top of the ghat is cluster of smaller shrines dedicated to Goddess Mukha Nirmalika Gauri, Lord Hanuman, Laxmi Narayana, Goddess Shitala and Lord Shiva. Dev Deepawali (Dev Diwali) is celebrated here every year by designing colourful ‘Rangoli’ and lighting the ‘diyas’, the earthen oil lamps. A festival is celebrated in honour of Nar Narayan, a form of Lord Vishnu, on the full moon day in the Paush month (December / January) of Hindu calendar. A sacred bath ceremony takes place at Gaay Ghat in the month of Vaishakha (April / May). Daily evening aarti is carried out by the locals on the ghat.
In 1965 AD, the Government of Uttar Pradesh renovated Gaay Ghat. The ghat is located in Ghasi Tola locality of Varanasi. The ghat is easily accessible and open throughout the year to all the visitors. There is no entry fee and a tourist can visit the place at any time. Though the ghat is maintained by a trust but the ghat area is owned by the Municipal Corporation of Varanasi.