I have been fortunate to closely experience the divine consciousness of Varanasi through Ganga aarti. The divine river was calling and when I reached Varanasi, all other obstacles were removed. The first glimpse of Ganga Maiyya or Ma I had was from the top of the steps of the ghats. What a scene it was: I was awestruck by the chorus of women draped in green saris dancing to the tune of the melody arising out of that serene environment. The ghats are the place for the performance of all cultural activities with the backdrop of traditional beautiful architecture.
As dusk fell, people started pouring in. As a town planner I wondered how the place could sustain the number of people as it did. The crowd of more than 60 thousand bhakts, all submerged in the bhakti rasa. Only bhakti can do it. Ganga Maiyya’s name is always pronounced by every single person of the town, with both the hands on the ears and eyes closed. Actually entire Varanasi is drenched in the grace of Ganga and Baba Vishwanath.
The ritual of Ganga aarti is performed in an elaborate manner every day in morning and evening. The entire river front is decorated with traditional 80 ghats, each having peculiar characteristics. The diversity of Bharat is depicted in the architecture of these ghats. The priests perform the aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat located just next to Kashi Vishwanath temple. The entire ghat gets illuminated with a divine light.
Varanasi has been one of the holiest places of Bharat, since ancient times. According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi was established by Bhagwan Shiva himself. The city is the spiritual capital of Bharat. The aarti is the reason why thousands of people flock to the city every day. At Dashashwamedh Ghat, amongst the hustle-bustle, I could find the perfect place to watch the aarti. The entire city falls silent when a shankh (conch) is blown, announcing the commencement of the aarti. With the sound of bells and chants and lighting of incense sticks and diyas, the aarti is performed. The 45-minute aarti at sunset offers an otherworldly experience. It takes you on a ride and you are never the same after watching it for the first time. I could sense the transformation happening within. The treat to all the five senses touches the soul. The essence of Hindu philosophy is manifested in the form of Ganga aarti.