UPDATED – OCTOBER 2021
The crowded, choreographed, almost Bollywoodesque obeisance to the Ganga in Varanasi is more spectacle than religious ritual.
Performed daily at sunrise and sunset, the Ganga aarti was conceived by the savvy pujari (temple priest) Babu Maharaj in 1992 and it’s popularity has spawned more such spectacles in other cities along the banks of India’s holiest river. The latest being the Ganga Aarti in Patna. Despite the obvious stage management, however, the ceremony is pretty impressive and not as frenzied as we had envisaged. And it is hard not to be swept up in the faith and fervour of hordes of solemn devotees.
The 45 minute ceremony takes place across several adjoining ghats (steps leading down to the river) but Dashashwamedh is the grandest, manned by seven young pujaris who wouldn’t look out of place in a Bollywood flick!
We witnessed the aarti both from a boat across the Dashashwamedh Ghat as well as from land. We weren’t early enough to bag great vantage points and my low light photography skills are still obviously wanting but I hope this gallery manages to convey some of the atmosphere.
EDIT 2021: This post originally opened with the Sound Cloud clip set to play automatically but auto-playing has since been disabled across the net in the interest of personal choice. I’ve moved it up here so you can play it – for extra effect – before you scroll through the images.
I meant to chronicle my travels sequentially this time around, but I couldn’t resist ushering in our festival of lights with these images.
May your homes and your hearts light up with the joy of Deepavali!