The two times I had seen Dashashwamedh Ghat , it was the epitome of peacefulness and serenity with few souls , probably tourists wandering here and there clicking photographs and selfies. Some Godman had permanently settled themselves in the steps of the ghat and were quite oblivious to the daily happenings in the trance of their Gutka’s and bidis. Oh and you cannot forget the cows! But this time it was different, every inch of the ghat steps was filled with people waiting patiently for the Ganga Arati to begin. The young and the old, the tourists and the locals, the rich and the poor, the newly weds and those who have seen many ups and down in their lives; were all gathered together to witness the homage paid to the river Ganga.
Vendors sold garlands and lamps which can be offered by the people during the ceremony and floated in the Ganges afterward. My friend told me that each ghat had it own separate community which conducted the arati every evening. In the Dashashwamedh Ghat, it was the Ganga Seva Nidhi . I could sense the heat of the full beamed lights even though it was the cold month of January. The speakers were on full volume playing ‘Radhe Radhe’ which continued for a good sixty minutes.
Suddenly out of the sea of people, I saw five pandits emerge. They were the ones who would conduct the ceremony. They took some time off and meditated before beginning the actual ceremony. Dressed in beige dhoti and magenta kurta, surrounded by yellow lights, they looked majestic in this royal ambiance. What more they even have live singing of the bhajans! With the people ready and awaiting this grandeur experience, the stage set; all that was left was for the arati to begin.
With Bhajans in the name of Lord Ganesh, Ganges, Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna the arati went on for almost an hour after which just as people had emerged in flocks from all around to witness the event, they left in a jiffy and went about carrying their own businesses. The completely occupied ghat became unoccupied and desolate in a matter of hardly ten minutes.
We decided to head back to our hostel after a long day’s sightseeing. But before that Lassi was on our list. It is a shame to come to Varanasi and not try out some of the delicacies the city is so famous for. After trying out some amazing lassi, we even stopped at the paan shop; after all, Benarasi Paan is world famous, right? The temple of Khichdi Baba fell on our way to the hostel. Interestingly, my friend told that the eyes of the Khichdi Baba are always wide open and close only once a day when Khichdi is offered to him.
Benaras is full of stories and legends. One trip is not enough to uncover them all. This was my last visit to the Dashashwamedha Ghat during this trip, but I hope I would return someday again to witness the grandeur of this place again. We had a long day ahead of us and decided to call it a day. Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Sarnath and Ramnagar Fort were also in store for us as part of our sightseeing- and we did have to get up early to cover all these places. More about them in my next post.