Varanasi – a city that illuminates truth and reveals reality. A city that does not bring new wonders into the scope of vision, but enables one to see what is already there. Where this eternal light intersects the earth, it is known as Kashi.
The Nagri of Kashi Vishwanath (Lord Shiva) as Banaras or Varanasi is called is considered as the Spiritual Capital of India. Being situated at the bank of river Ganges, Varanasi holds a great religious significance in the history of India. The place has both intrigued and attracted people in equal measures from all spheres of life who either come here for religious solace or some inspiration.
Varanasi is primarily called the city of temples where there are several mismatched temples that are there mostly on the ghats of pious river Ganga. There are approx. 84 ghats in the city of Varanasi built on the banks of river Ganga and have an importance of their own. A city of scholars, home to one of Asia’s largest universities, Varanasi is also the land of legends and the Ganga. It is a city that strains under its own myths, which are contradictory, obscure and impossible to prove.
One thing that is real about the city is its religious fervor in terms of Ganga Aarti – a grand celebration of thanking river Ganga for being perennial and blessing the city to flourish. These celebrations happen here every evening amidst a huge crowd that includes locals, people across the country and foreign travelers. Everyone ensures to behold the sight of Ganga aarti. which itself is regarded as the holiest river for the Hindus, so it is worshipped by people all over the globe. They believe that the holy dip in the river Ganges will remove their sins and fade away all their sorrows. So once in their lifetime, people prefer to visit the city which is built on the banks of the river to take a holy dip in the Ganges and remove their sins. In Hinduism, people also immerse the ashes of the departed soul in the holy water of Ganga which according to them connects their soul with heaven.
These pious and sacred celebrations take place at the Dashashwamedh Ghat near Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The legend behind this ghat is that Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses during Dasa-Ashwamedha Yajna – a ritual of sacrificing horses. Most importantly the ghat is known for experiencing divinity and bliss in the form of Ganga Aarti.
This Aarti is a medium through which Agni Pooja is performed in which a commitment is made to the Lord Shiva, Mata Ganga, Surya, Agni and the whole universe that was created by Lord Shiva. Though the ceremony takes place every morning and evening but a highly choreographed ceremony happens during the evening time amidst a lot of worshippers at a fixed time that varies in summers and winters. Since the Aarti is to be performed either by 5, 7, or 9 priests so the following necessary arrangements are to be made before the start of Aarti which goes as:
The ritual is so famous among the locals that various devotees have started seating themselves an hour before the main event. Once the time of Aarti has arrived, the priests arrive at their designated places acquiring each platform. At sharp 7:00 pm, the aarti begins. They take the lighting lamps in their hands and amidst the loud chanting of mantra oozing out of the speakers they start their offerings to mother Ganges. The use of conch shells are made well in between the mantras and aarti. In a rhythmic harmony, the incense sticks are lighted up, Camphor is burnt along with the multi-tiered brass lamps. As the ritual continues for approx. 45 mins. the priests performed these offerings by burning on to every direction in a circular motion. The devotees join the ceremony by clapping aloud and chanting mantras in the praise of Mother Ganges. After the final Aarti, the celebrations come to an end and the entire environment becomes silent, pious, and sacred, emersed in the divinity that mother Ganges has to offer.
Some people also like to watch the Ganga Aarti by roaring through the boats and standing still exactly where the actual rituals are taking place. Having this experience of a lifetime, people click pictures, takes videos and enjoy every bit of it. Thus, one may mingle in the atmosphere of divinity the deity has to offer during our tour to this oldest and the holy city of India.