One day, an evening couple of years back, I suddenly felt like i should probably visit banaras and watch the much famed ganga aarati.
Those days I needed something to inspire me, motivate me and lift me and deep in my heart, I felt a visit of holy Ganges would do exactly that. Well, I couldn’t visit it back then despite getting a long holiday and visiting lucknow back then. I passed that phase in life but that yearning inside me remained to visit the holy Ganges or river Ganga.
Recently, finally I got the chance to visit Banaras over a two day trip and I can happily say it was worth all the wait.
Banaras is like a scene out from the Bollywood movies or one from 1980s of India. The moment you are near thirty kilometers to Banaras, all roads to go rough with frequent trenches and regular dust. It symbolically speaks that you are in for a ride!! As our driver unknowingly took us inside the markets on a Saturday evening, the scenes that came left should be captured and watched again and again albeit with popcorn. I couldn’t believe my eyes as people swarmed in from left, right and center as a 2 kilometers ride turned out to be a six kilometers one and seemed like a sixty kilometers one !! The cows in the middle of the road, the buses moving in the middle of market and the huge density of population reminded me of something I had not seen for quite a long time. It was scene of despair for my parents who had traveled alongside me and one that made me chuckle inside. We had a heartful dinner at a coffee house with a similar name and slept to be ready for next day.
We started pretty early next day for Kaashi Vishwanath temple. We walked for half a kilometer inside having left our vehicle at some place. Then, it hit me- spiritual side of Banaras. The hordes of people trudging early morning besides me each with their own wishes, desires or ‘ manokaamna’ to be fulfilled by one glimpse of god. As we stood bare foot in a long line and a red colored water touched us in the feet, it seemed different for sure. My time in the temple went away fast, huge crowds, no intention to stay made us visit all the temples and say our prayers quietly.
Next, we went to Hanuman temple called sankat mochan temple. We reached around 9 o clock. This temple brought about the much needed balance in my view of Banaras. It was calm, serene much opposite to earlier temple. There was no colored water on the feet. Rather, I found people who sat and sang hanuman chalisa- song that we say drives away fear. Honestly, since I know not a bit of it, I just watched them. Then, I heard a group of singers singing hymns in the name of hanuman and lord Ram and I sat in distance, absorbing it all. Taking it in, those ten minutes were beautiful as slowly, I felt as if I should have been here for a longer trip. There was a languid way I left the temple. I gorged my way onto street food with puris and curry before we continued our trip. Next up was sarnath which again was calm and with its cool winds, a place to perhaps spend your evenings at. With hot sun and a bee purposely picking on me, we came back albeit with a short visit to nearby museum. It was nice but then, I was looking forward to the evening.
We had another lunch at the coffee House which actually had become a favorite for my parents, I had a dosa to avoid spicy masaalas and a lassi to cool me down.
So, after a short sleep, we made our way to the ganga ghats which was nearby kashi temple as slowly slowly, people filled it up awaiting the aarati.
We all sat waiting for the aarti while some bhajan songs were playing. Somehow then, I had a feeling that it will not meet my expectations or my imaginations regarding this event as in my mind, I always played it differently.
However, what transpired over the next 2 hours completely blew my mind, it was soulful to say the least. I saw thousands watching every action of the people who ‘ performed’ the puja and performed would perhaps be the correct word. Because nowhere in India I have seen aarati done like this, it was done with an audience in mind and yet, it was something beautiful and I watched the entire thing till the end. I left with the same lament I had in the morning and I resolved, I would come back again for a longer stay so that I could take it all in – Beauty of Banaras.
We left early morning today amidst a city that was waking up for its usual and ridiculous levels of activeness. I could only savor the nonsensical of it and I don’t think everyone can but yet, magic of Banaras does really deserve a second coming.