Dear Isheria’s Healing Circles Readers,
Welcome to Postcards from the Ganga Arti in Varanasi by Shalzmojo
A Guestpost by the lovely Shalini about a place I have just discovered!
Varanasi- the name itself invokes images of mystic sadhus, temple shrines and saffron adornments. It’s also home to the holy Ganges in the truest sense and is the ultimate haven for people who seek Moksha or Nirvana. In Hindu religion, it’s been deemed as one of the most holy and spiritual of all places.
Is it a wonder then that tourism booms here and one can see the gimmicks employed to hook tourists into spending some time in this city. One visits Benares with the notion of sampling all these fares.
Out of all the Ghats in Benares, the Dasashwamedha Ghats is the most popular as it’s the central hub for all such activity. It’s here that the famous Ganga Arti is conducted. Though not overtly religious I was lured to it by the promise of some spectacular photographs to be captured here. For the uninitiated, several places (like Rishikesh, Haridwar, Benares) perform and evening prayer ceremony on the ghat by the river Ganges to chant mantras and invoke blessings from the sacred river.
The Arti starts at about 6-630 in the evening every day ( approx around sundown) and its advised that one reaches there by 530 p.m. When I landed there, the steps on the ghat were all filled with people and I could see scores of tied boats, facing the ghat which was also slowly filling up with people. I decided to sit in one of the boats as that accorded me the view from the front. I didn’t regret my decision at all.
The front row of the ghat step is converted into a stage like arena where seven LED lit umbrellas demarcate the seven settings for seven priests to preside over the ceremony and perform it. All the priests are dressed in an identical manner every day. The entire ceremony is done with using prayer accessories like conch shells, 7 tiered lamp stand, camphor burning implement, image of the river Ganges, flowers, yak tail fan, incense, etc.
The priests take blessings from the river Ganges and pray to her by blowing on the conch shell to commence the ceremony. Next the incense sticks are lit and waved around in one hand while a large prayer bell is held in the other hand. The camphor is lit in its stand and then the priests start swinging the lamp around. The fragrant smoke emitted from it soon wafts out over the enraptured audience who can be heard chanting and clapping in rhythm to the priests.
The mantra chanting and the music continues as the priests light up the multi-tiered lamp stand. A peculiar thing about this lamp stand is that is has a hooded snake at one end which is supposed to represent the myth of Sheshnaag – a multi-headed snake which was the vehicle of Lord Vishnu, or so I heard someone mention it at the Ghats.
As the camphor smoke starts to get thicker, the priests starts waving the lit lamp in all directions – the sight of the flames through the haze is just ethereal and I couldn’t stop clicking enough. Soon the yak-tail fan is flicked around to the accompaniment of a ringing brass bell in the other hand.
I have to admit that even though I found it to be full of gimmicks; I couldn’t help being soothed by the mantra chants even as the camphor infused a feeling of peace and serenity around. The temple bells make for a pretty sound and the feeling of piousness seems to be lobbying around for joy and peace.
Have you ever had the pleasure of viewing the Ganga Arti? What do you think of this ritual?
An interior designer by profession, writing is a passion which coupled with travel love blossomed into this blog where I love to just “do my thing”! Be it recipes, food events, travel jaunts, fiction dreaming or even meditative musings; all of it’s taken up quite passionately on my blog. I am a serious wine guzzler and love to chase butterflies in my free time.
Read about the temple dedicated to Mother India in Benares Here
This post is written for the December bloghop#mymojo with Shalzmojo
Linking up for #wordsante with Namysaysso for every post deserves some love