Having been derailed by a wonderful documentary on the Miracle Spice Turmeric which resulted in a post tilted RED GINGER, am back on track as we explore the ancient city of KASHI.
It was the Night of a relatively unknown Festival called “DEV DIWALI” and the Moon was exceptionally bright as well.
The Picture below is of a brightly illuminated boat locally called “Jal Pari” which translates to “River Fairy”.
As the Holy waters of the River Ganges gently caressed the “Jal Pari” ,the Full Moon turned out in a Fiery Hue of Red.
Diwali or the Festival of Lights is much like Christmas ,in many a way ,and always celebrated on a Pitch dark Night when the moon cannot be seen.
Then how is it then this night of “DEV DIWALI” the moon shines so bright in Kashi ?( do check on previous blogs titled BLISS IN KASHI, BIRDS VIEW IN KASHI and INVOLUNTARY DIP IN KASHI)
It is the 14th of Novemeber 2016 and it is not only a Full Moon Night but a night of the SUPERMOON when the moon is 14% brighter than other nights as the Moon is significantly closer to the Earth.
Is it a mere coincidence then that Legends written thousands of years ago claim it is the Night that Gods descend to Earth at Kashi this night to celebrate “DEV DIWALI” ? ( watch out for more on this Unique Festival celebrated annually in Varanasi)
DEV in Hindi incidentally means God.
Blessed by the Full Moon, the “Jal Pari” gently floats on the cool waters and simply Goes with the Flow as the Gods celebrate Diwali in Kashi.
I had lined up a series of blogs based on my recent trip to Varanasi ( alias Benaras & Kashi) and I hope you have read them which commenced with BLISS in KASHI.
However am breaking the continuity ( in a way) as a series of events elapsed and I find myself posting this blog based on a wonderful plant I saw in Pune many months ago.
This is the Red Ginger,Jungle King or Ostrich Plume ( English) plant , Alpinia purpurata (Scientific name) the origins of which lie in the Malay peninsula in South East Asia.
Kashi is a wonderful ancient city and the River Banks or Ghats are splashed in the auspicious colours of Haldi ( Yellow) and Kumkum (Vermillion).( watch out for the blogs still to follow)
Turmeric ( English) or Haldi (Hindi) is now recognized worldwide as a wonder or miracle Spice and imparts the colour yellow to Indian curries and cuisines besides occupying a prominent place during HinduReligious ceremonies.
Red Ginger and Turmeric both belong to the Ginger family Zingiberaceaand thus the wonderful and elaborate Red Inflorescence you see below are similar in both Plants.
The attractive Red bracts making the bouquet are in fact faux flowers .The real flower has wilted and is seen as a clump of brown weed on the top in the picture below.
The connection that ties the National Flower of Samoa , the wonderful antiseptic and healing properties of Turmeric and Varanasi was a documentary on the importance of Haldi I saw last night in which I briefly spotted turmeric flowers which ignited a memory cell of having seen similar flowers.
On checking out pictures of an earlier trip to Pune I saw the pictures of Turmeric like flowers of the Red Ginger plant which I am now sharing above through this post.
While most in India have perhaps consumed or applied the miraculous Turmeric in one form or the other , very few would recognize the cone like Enchanting flowers of the family.
The Brijrama Palace is one of the finest buildings along the banks of the Holy River Ganges at Kashi ( Benaras or Varanasi).
The picture above and those that follow were taken at daybreak from the Terrace of this Ancient Palace which as you can see gives a wonderful overview of the City and the River Ganges.
Previous blogs titled BLISS IN KASHI, DAYBREAK IN KASHI & INVOLUNTARYDIP IN KASHI would help you connect the dots.
A wonderful capture as the Rock Pigeon tilts his head while perched on his bath tub as if viewing the hustle bustle of people on the River banks below through the Ancient ramparts of the Brijrama Palace.
The All Marble Bath Tub is filled with the Holy waters of The River Ganges and covered with auspicious Marigold petals.
The Royal Rock Pigeon (English), Kabootar ( Hindi) ,Columba livia ( scientific name) seems to be in a State of Bliss, what say you?
Iron chains keep Curious Visitors Off the Edge and provide the Pigeons some privacy as well.
What an Enchanting Morning to sip a Cup of Hot Tea after a cold dip in the River and watch the Pigeons bathing in absolute luxury along with the Rising Sun.
BLISS IN KASHI & DAYBREAK IN KASHI ( two previous blogs you need to check out to get a sense of continuity) gave you a peep into the fascinating city of Varanasi,Uttar Pradesh,India.
As can be expected Sunrise follows Daybreak at Kashi, however these pictures were taken at another location ,the Assi Ghat or the northern extremity of numerous ghats that mark Varanasi.
Sunrise is considered extremely auspicious and many line up the banks of the revered river The Ganges and offer salutations to the Ganges and the Rising Sun.
It is only at the Assi Ghats that The ” Ganga Aarti” ( morning prayers to the ganges) is held daily in the morning following by a live music performance.
It was really early at 0430 hours on this winter morning when I forced myself out of bed to take a boat ride so as to reach the venue by 0530 when the Ganga Aarti at Assi Ghat commences.
In the process of attempting to reach in time I had to change boats in the midst of the river.
Well it was my undoing or my blessing ( depends on how you see it) that I landed between the boats into the River along with my camera, which was strung on my shoulder, while I was attempting to switch boats mid river .( remember the proverb?)
A dip into the Ganges is considered Holy and supposed to wipe out all the Sins of the Past. The morning hours are considered especially auspicious and are thus called ” Brahma Mahurat” ( the time of the Supreme Creator) .
Must have been the result of good “Karma”as you see these Enchanting Pictures of the Sunrise taken after my involuntary dip ( or plunge) , verifying that both the camera and cameraman are intact.
Mythology states that Kashi ( alias Benaras or Varanasi) is the Pivot or Crux of the Universe.Believe it or not it sure is a beehive of activity at daybreak.
A bustling city located on the banks of the revered and Holy river The Ganges in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, India is abuzz with activity even at 5 a.m. (0500 hours) on a nippy and foggy winter morning in November.
The night is yet to shed its cloak and the lights are still shimmering yet the Boats are full as people traverse the Holy River.
A view from the ramparts of the beautiful and ancient Brijrama Hotel located on the River banks at the Darbhanga Ghat in Varanasi .
The Clouds are the first to hint at daybreak as they transform into gentle shades of Orange.
The number of boats on the river during the wee hours indicate that it is a busy time on the River Ganges though the sun is yet to rise.
Can you spot the solitary light in the distant Horizon in the picture below ??
It is Daybreak at Kashi and time for a Hot Cup of Tea as well.
I have never seen any city so busy in the early hours, it is faith that draws millions to Varanasi to take a Holy Dip in the River Ganges.
Do observe all the pictures were taken from the balcony of the historical Brijrama Palace and thus I had a lovely Royal overview of the River bank or “Ghats”( stepped river bank) as they are called in India.
The first blog on this series on Kashi was titled BLISS IN KASHI, reading the post will help you connect the threads as we explore the Enchanting Wonder of this religious city.
Varanasi, Benaras, Kashi or Anand Van are names of the Oldest Living City of the World in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India.
A city on the banks of the Holy Ganges where millions following the Hindu faith apire to have their last rites performed in the belief they will attain “Moksha”.
The Holy Cow eyes the Green Vegetables of a street vendor near the auspicious Dashwamedh Ghat where a spectacular daily prayer, the Ganga Aarti . is offered to the Ganges who is worshipped as a Goddess.
The Juvenile Simian has lofty aspirations as it munches away while Riding a Lion on the Spires of an Ancient temple located at the Munshi Ghat on the banks of the Holy river Ganga.
Varanasi is an Enchanting city and I will share with you my tryst with nature in a series of posts that will follow.
During the time of the Pyramids , Egyptians worshipped an IBIS headed God called Thoth. ( please do no mix up with the Greek God Thor).
Do read and see the previous blog titled RED HEAD as well.
The featured image has a Cattle Egret and a Black headed Ibis.
The lovely Black & White Fauna foraging in the rural countryside near Somanthpur,Karnataka, India.
I wonder what this flock of Black Headed Ibis ( English) ,Threskiornis melanocephalus ( Scientific name) with their large sweeping curved beaks is looking for ?
The Open Bill in the picture below reminds me of another Bird called Open billed Spoonbill.
The picture below reminds me of a scene out of Jurassic Park ( do you recall the Holywood Blockbuster ?)
Also called Oriental Black Ibis , these lovely birds belong to the Ibis family Threskiornithidae and are native to the Indian Subcontinent.
However this family of three seems to be different to the pair above as the heads seems to be grey and not black.
This family of Grey Heads seems to like the Paddy Fields which resembles their natural habitat, the Wetlands.( could be Juvenilesor immatures ?)
Their walk does resemble the Egyptian walk simulated in the Michel Jackson song of the yesteryears “Walk like an Egyptian”.
This Black & White species of Ibis is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN and Birdlife International which means their numbers are rapidly declining and I pray they do not follow the path of Ancient Egyptians into extinction.
The Downward Curved Bill ( do see the featured image above) resembling the Crescent Moon gave the Ibis headed God of Ancient Egypt his name “Thoth”.
Nature and Ancient Mythologies have always been deeply intertwined since time immemorial. In India this is more apparent than in other countries as many religions that originated from this land are still practiced and followed by millions.
I spotted this family of Black Ibis or Indian Black Ibis or Red-Naped Ibis ( English), Pseudibis papillosa ( Scientific name) en-route to the breathtaking Keshav temple at Somanathpur , Karnataka, India.
The drive through rural Karnataka from Srirangapatnam to Somnathpur is not only historical but a treat for sore eyes as it runs along the River Cauvery ( or Kaveri) and is a welcome departure from stressed highways.( do read an earlier post titled HEAVENLY RAYS)
The Indian Black Ibis is native to the Indian Subcontinent and was spotted hunting for food in the well irrigated paddy fields. Unfortunately it has disappeared from Pakistan for reasons unknown to me but thrives in India.
The picture below though out of focus is interesting as this apparently startled Red Headed Indian Ibis was caught looking directly at the camera.
The Head if you observe is bereft of feathers.
I have read , though not convinced, that the legs turn Red during the breeding season. The white patch ,which is just about visible in these pictures, on the shoulders and Red Head distinguish this Ibis from other species like the Glossy Ibis.
I wonder how the Ancient Egyptians detected this lovely RED HEAD which now resides only in the Indian subcontinent. Enchanting thought, what say you?