Tons of websites appear in the result list when you google for Varanasi. And the most mentioned 'must-do' item will be Ganga Aarti in the evening on Dashashwamedha Ghat (Read more on ghats here). Well, it is a beautiful, grand, elaborate, touching event in Varanasi although it looks a bit dramatic and touristy. As I mentioned earlier my trip was for seven days in Kashi and every evening I watched this event with full enthusiasm and devotion. I didn't care about the mosquitoes, about the light colored clothes I was wearing, that stinking cow dung right beside me and the people who were determined to sell the music CDs to me. Everyday I was there at 5:45PM.
People start gathering at 5:30PM itself to find a good spot to watch the aarti. Some find a place on the roof, some on the pedestals, some in the boat, some on the steps and some more stand. From anywhere it looks good. Most of the tourists are very eager to take pictures. And rest of the devotees are interested in the aarti itself. Well, 'aarti' meaning a short prayerful Hindu ceremony of thanking Gods/Goddesses through an oil lamp, and/or incense (dhup). Ganga Aarti is to thank the holy River Ganga for being the lifeline of people, for cleansing us of all our sins.
The young pandits took positions on their platforms set for aarti. Aarti started with blowing conch. After a brief introduction the music started on the loud speakers. Devotional songs on Sri Krishna, Mata Ganga and the Shiva Tandav Stotra were prominent. Some volunteers ring the bells synchronously during aarti and it sounds very divine. People were clapping with the music. Different types of aartis is offered to Lord Shiva and River Ganga, like incense, brass lamps, dhup (heavy incense smoke). peacock fan, scarf etc.
The aarti is choreographed, the bhajan music is much of Bollywood style with heavy beats. Or it is possible that, being a southern I am used to chanting of mantras and stotras (devotional hymn in sanskrit) and find these songs filmy. Whatever, it is all dramatic and very well catches you.
Ganga aarti is a way boatmen say thanks to River Ganga for- aarti is great economy for them! :) People are allowed to get inside the boat docked at Dashashwamedha ghat to watch the aarti from the riverside. It costs the tourist Rs.50 or more per person. I don't know how aarti really looks from that side because I watched the aarti sitting on the steps every day. Not that I wanted to save Rs.50, but aarti has to be always attended facing the God. You don't thank anybody from behind, do you?
|All silver and brass lamps are ready for aarti at Dr Rajendra Prasad Ghat|
Volunteers prepare the lamps with complete devotion. Silver and brass lamps are filled with oil, cotton thread and some lamps with incense. And next day all these used lamps are washed glittering clean.
|After aarti a woman is cleaning all used lamps|
For the people of Kashi it is a routine job, but for the tourists it is some event to remember! A memory to take back as a souvenir!
Have you attended Ganga Aarti?
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Seven days of my Kashi Yatra
Varanasi- As I Saw, A Photo tour
Backpacking India III- Classic Pilgrimage!
Backpacking India Part II- A Parallel Journey
Stories from Backpacking India
If you want pictures please ask me :)
Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.