Vitality of VaranasiEach evening, as the sun’s dying rays reflect off the expansive waters of the Ganges, hundreds of devotees and tourists gather on the ghats of the old Banaras for the evening aarti.
The streets of India never cease to amaze me—their sights and smells, their sounds and silences. In the city of Varanasi, there is spirituality, timelessness, culture, honesty and absurdity. From the holy banks of the Ganges to its uptown malls, the city brims with chaos and contradiction. On one hand, Varanasi is an assault to the senses; on the other, it is food for thought.
Each evening, as the sun’s dying rays reflect off the expansive waters of the Ganges, hundreds of devotees and tourists gather on the ghats of the old Banaras for the evening aarti.
This everyday ceremony reverberates with hymns, prayers, rituals and a palpable sense of spirituality. The aarti—an ornate oil lamp, lined with dozens of flames burning—is offered to the mother of all rivers, in an orchestra-like synchrony.
The mornings are punctuated by a cacophony of Siberian migratory birds that spread their wings to begin a journey spanning thousands of kilometres with the onset of winter every year.
Looking at the river Ganges, one laments that it has been contaminated with toxic, human waste. Yet, people take a dip in it and even drink its waters. May be, if you have enough faith and conviction, you can actually transcend the filth.
The most frustrating part about the ghats are the innumerable stalls making a profit out of the faiths of thousands of pilgrims.
Devotees looking around for a spiritual experience or just for a quiet time along the banks of this calm river are constantly be pestered by annoying salesmen who want to sell you everything—from pooja paraphernalia to ganja.
Caught between chaos and solace, tradition and modernity, motion and stagnation, spontaneity and eternity, life and death, Varanasi is a city that make you wonder, if not wiser.