Life in Varanasi ghats

Legend has it that Brahma once weighed Kashi against heaven. And despite heaven being where God resides, went down, while Kashi rose upward! It is said that Kashi is the epicenter of all the knowledge contained in the universe. It is the land of mythology and spirituality. It is also the place where past merges with present in absolute harmony. Nowhere in the world death is welcomed with such anticipation and hope as it is in Varanasi. In the land of ‘moksha’ or ‘eternal absolution,’ it’s believed that those who die in Kashi attain ‘moksha’ and break away from the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Varanasi, also called Kashi or Banaras, has the unique distinction of being one of the oldest living cities in the world. Such is the aura of Varanasi that the noted American author, Mark Twain, famously penned, “Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.

Since time immortal, river ‘Ganga’, called ‘the Ganges’ in English, has been playing a very significant role not only in lending distinct ‘spirituality’ and ‘mystic aura’ to Varanasi, but has also influenced the way people live there. Add to it, the confluence of Sadhus, yogis, travelers and knowledge seekers who have enriched Varanasi with their presence from every part of India and that of the world and you have one of the most spiritually rich places.

Making a pilgrimage to Kashi is an once-in-a-lifetime affair and is still considered a must among devout Hindus. Since ages, banks of river Ganga have been the places where Hindu rituals are performed to placate their departed ancestors.

Varanasi practically lives by its river banks, called ‘Ghats’ in Hindi. So if you want to feel the true ‘pulse’ of Kashi, there are perhaps no other places like visiting the ghats – for these are the places where myriads of activities take place from sunrise till sun down. Watching thousands of diyas shimmering like molten gold on the river Ganga and casting a brilliant luminous hue during Arti ceremony, performed every evening, is a treat in itself.  Add to it, the aroma of incense, drum beats and the collective devotion of people all around makes the atmosphere truly hypnotic and mesmerizing. Even simple activities like towing of boats by fishermen, kids jumping into the river with total abandon as if playing in their mother’s lap or Sadhus deep in meditation by the river banks under traditional bamboo parasols in the early morning hours can take you to a different spiritual high.

I especially remember the first time I went to Varanasi. It was raining and still people were gathered on the river bank watching ‘Sandha (evening) Arti’. What attracted me the most was how brilliantly the diyas were burning despite the rain. The rational in me wondered how it could be possible, but there are many things in the world that can’t be explained. Perhaps it was one such magic or, perhaps, it is common in Varanasi. But I can tell you one thing– it was sublime! Something that makes me go back to the holy city again and again. And each time the experience has been different and truly personal.

A Bird’s Eye View Of Varanasi

A Bird’s Eye View Of Varanasi
(click on image to get original view)

Portrait of a sadhu

Portrait of a Sadhu
(click on image to get original view)

Preparation of a ceremony going in full swing

Preparation of a Ceremony going in full swing
(click on image to get original view)

Devotees waiting for their turn to offer puja

Devotees waiting for their turn to offer puja
(click on image to get original view)

graffiti, Hanuman

graffiti, Hanuman
(click on image to get original view)

Offering prayers to their ancestors

Offering Prayers to their Ancestors
(click on image to get original view)

Returning home after funeral ceremony

Returning Home after funeral ceremony
(click on image to get original view)

Crowd Buzzing in busy ghat

A Buzzing Crowd on the busy ghat
(click on image to get original view)

Tourists roaming in the ghats

 This is India Meri Jaan!!
(click on image to get original view)

Kids Playing in the Ghat

Kids Playing on the Ghat
(click on image to get original view)

For some, river is the source of their livelihood

For Some, It’s Just Another Day of their Lives
(click on image to get original view)

For some, river is the source of their livelihood

 

Boatmen at Work

Boatmen at work
(click on image to get original size)

Having a haircut

Enjoying an Open-Air haircut!
(click on image to get original size)

Sitting by the river bank

Ending the day on the ‘Ghat’
(click on image to get original size)

Fishermen winding their job

Fishermen winding their job
(click on image to get original size)

offering diya's

Offering Diyas
(click on image to get original size)

Tourists Waiting for Ganga Arti

Tourists waiting for Ganga Arti
(click on image to get original size)

Watching Arti in the Rain

Watching Arti in the rain
(click on image to get original size)

It’s time to return home

It’s Time to Return Home
(click on image to get original size)

text :- Nina Ghosh Konar  http://ninasdesk.blogspot.in/
photographs :- Swarat Ghosh http://www.flickr.com/photos/swarat_ghosh/

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3 thoughts on “Life in Varanasi ghats

  1. Beautiful photographs and a great read. Cant agree with you more, Varanasi sure is one of those magical places carrying the vibe and all that history on its back and its visible in each and every corner of those ghats and narrow streets around it. Your photographs has definately justified the feel of the place, well done. Wondering if you have a colorful set of photographs of Varanasi ! The moment I landed in Varanasi Ghats, first thing that I decided was to process everything in Color (though B&W on streets is always my first preference). With Varanasi, somehow I couldn’t convince myself to mute those million colors of Streets and people in it. Anyways, great photographs, happy clicking 🙂

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