LET THERE BE LIGHT IN KASHI

I had left the Mystery hanging in the air in the previous blog titled HANGING BASKETS IN KASHI , this post is an attempt to shed light on an Enchanting Festival held ONLY in Kashi ( alias Varanasi) .

These lovely hanging baskets are raised and lowered by the means of a rope you see in the picture below. The baskets contain Oil lamps which are lit up , placed in the Basket and then raised up by the Ropes on the occasion of DEV DIWALI.

baskets-in-the-air
THE MYSTERY UNVEILED

DEV DIWALI or the “Festival of Lights of the Gods” is a celebration by the Gods who descend to the banks of The Ganges at Varanasi on a FULL MOON night exactly two weeks after DIWALI  (much like CHRISTMAS) is celebrated by mere Mortals like us across India.

The Supermoon seen alongwith Prayer bells on the banks of The Ganges on Dev Diwali.

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THE SUPERMOON

Thousands of Baskets containing Oil Lamps are suspended in Air whereas  the entire length of the steps or ghats that line the Ganges at Varanasi are lit up with millions of tiny terracotta lamps.

The hands of the lady clad in traditional clothes are soaked in Ghee ( oil) which fuels the Cotton Wicks.

lighting-the-oil-lamps
TERRACOTTA OIL LAMPS

It is a fascinating sight to see many miles of these Ghats or Steps, Lit up by traditional Oil lamps ( no electricity is used), have a look at a tiny section of the Ghats in the following picture.

Picture was taken from a Boat on the Ganges.

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Shimmering Ghats on Dev Diwali

Enchanting and Beautiful Ancient traditions followed for thousands of Years in Kashi as the people emulate the Gods in Lighting up the Skies.

 

HANGING BASKETS IN KASHI

What is the Mystery of the Hanging Baskets during the festival of Deep Diwali at Kashi ?

saffron-and-baskets
Hanging on the Ghats of the Ganges

The Ghats or the Banks are lined with these Gorgeous Wicker Baskets ? What do they contain and whom do they beckon?

The Ganges patiently flows by in the background as  a mute witness.

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Prayers in Baskets

The Ancient City of Kashi ( now known as Varanasi) is a sight to behold.

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Baskets gazing at Kashi below and beyond

Keep reading as I Peel the Onion and unveil mysterious and unusual traditions.

The featured image showcases the preparations for the Morning Ganga “Aarti” ( Prayers to the Holiest River The  Ganges)  held at the Assi Ghat in Kashi.

RISING SUN IN KASHI

Early mornings along the Ghats of Varanasi are a Bee Hive Of Activity and extremely Enchanting.

Was fortunate to be on the Terrace of the wonderfully located Brijrama Palace Hotel to watch the Sun Rise over The Ganges at Kashi.

red-sky
Sun Rises over The Ganges

Watch how the Darkness dissipates and the Skies turn Crimson and the Revered Ganges River transforms into Shades of Gold.

The Dark silhouette of the Boat and the people on it seem to be magically touched by the Golden Rays of the Rising Sun in the picture below.

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The Golden Line

The Rising Sun appears as a tiny  disc and the River resembles Molten Gold in the reflections seen in a window of the Palace on Darbhangha Ghat.

The Silhouette of the Railing add to the charm of the Sun Rise on the banks of the Holy Ganges River at Kashi.

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Reflections of a Shimmering Ganges

Coincidentally,  three recent travel experiences  have been along Three Enchanting Rivers ;The Ganges, Kaveri & Chambal.

All three destinations and the Festivals held on their banks have left an indelible mark on me and thus the posts in the last month and in the near future will a blend of all three.

Naturally I will share the Joy & Magic of these travels with all the readers.

 

DUCKS AT KASHI

The mind wanders and has no boundaries and the posts seem to be moving with my thoughts from one place to another, in free abandon.

Yet I am not crazy as Enchanting memories link the posts  which I share with you.

Spotted this group of Ducks at the Oldest Ghat of Ancient Kashi on the banks of the Holy Ganges.

Harishchandra Ghat is one of the two auspicious locations at Varanasi where cremations take place to date in the quest for freedom from the Life cycle of Birth & Death.

Obviously the Ducks in the picture below are unaware of this as they saunter along the banks of the Ganges River at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. ( reading earlier blogs titled BLISS IN KASHI , INVOLUNTARY DIP in KASHI etc would help you pick up the threads and coonect to the location)

ducks-go-walking
HOW ABOUT A DIP IN THE GANGES TODAY?

This Group Reflects on what step to take next as the river seems Vast and the other Shore is Miles away.

“Clean & Pure Ganga” is inscribed in Hindi on the boat below.

I took these pictures while I walked back from Assi Ghat to Dharbhanga Ghat after my INVOLUNTARY DIP ( do read this blog so titled ) in the Ganges.

reflections
REFLECTIONS

This Group decides to SunBathe instead of Swim even while the fifth member of the Group is testing the waters down below.

You can see the Duck on the extreme right turn his head and look at the fifth duck of this group who is down below and not visible in the picture.

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SUNBATHING TOGETHER

The Featured Image reflects the anxiety of two of the Ducks as they look below at their companion who has parted ways.

Were it not for the INVOLUNTARY DIP and my clothes which were drenched I would perhaps not have walked back and thus missed this Enchanting Group of Ducks at the Harishchandra Ghat in Kashi.

SUPPRESSED IN KASHI

The Ancient city of Kashi, the oldest living city of the World has a dark underbelly as well. ( trust you have read and seen the previous posts BLISS IN KASHI etc to know where this city is located etc.)

Kashi is the Holy city of Lord Shiva who is depicted with the King of the King Cobras wrapped around his neck.

I believe is from this depiction that Snakes and in particular the King Cobra ( do read a blog from the past titled THE KING & I) is revered as they are believed to possess many magical properties.

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The King in a Spot

Snakes are captured, kept in terracotta pots and displayed on beds of Uncooked Rice so that the faithful who throng this Holy City shower money on them in the belief the Ruling deity of Kashi Lord Shiva will be pleased.

While the Kings is cuddled up in the pot another species is displayed in the picture below . Some money can be seen in the photograph as well, along with the toes of the cross-legged trapper.

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Captured in a Pot

Am no expert on Reptiles and Snakes in particular but I think this is a juvenile Python.

It is Illegal in India to capture and rear any animal from the Wild under the Wild Life Act of 1972, yet I have seen this unethical and cruel practice go unchecked across the country.

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Potato and Python served on a Bed of Rice

The pictures were taken near the most prominent location in Varanasi, THE DASHWAMEDH GHAT where millions throng daily to witness the Ganga Aarti.

I hope that someone who can end this malpractice, reads this post on Enchanted Forests and takes appropriate action.

Alas, till then the KING and his people will continue to be oppressed by the likes of Mr. BLUE NAILS ( do see the featured image) and be their bread winners.

SUPER MOON & DIWALI IN KASHI

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”.

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Watching the Ganges Flow

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)

jal-pari
The “Jal Pari” on the Ganges

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.

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Shimmering on the Ganges

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.

GREENS AT KASHI

This Exquisite Temple carved in Stone Rises beautifully from the banks of the River Ganges at Munshi Ghat, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India.

What makes the temple  Enchanting is the fact it is overrun by a singular and hitherto unknown species of Flora or what I call “Greens”.

( a photograph in an earlier blog titled BLISS IN KASHI is of this very temple)

green-temple
Green Temple

The foreground of the “Green Temple” doubles up as a terrace overlooking numerous boats that traverse the Holy River Ganges at the Ancient city of Kashi ( now called Varanasi or Benaras).

It seems the fruits or seeds of the unknown greens make a yummy breakfast for this young Rhesus Macaque.( scientific name being Macaca mulatta )

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Green Food for the Macaques

Have a closer look as to how this Green Plant has made a home in a Temple guarded by Lions.( have a look at the picture on top to see the Lions).

The Sun bathing Plant seems well entrenched and is seemingly stretching its branches in all directions even as it casts a shadow on the temple walls.

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Flora on a Temple Ledge

The featured image showcases This Hardy Green Plant which has flourished on a stony surface.

Do have a sharp look at the Featured picture as you can see this unknown plant blooming as it looks over the  vast Ganges River .

Kashi is truly Enchanting as Nature breathes through every crevice of this Holy & Ancient city. 

BIRDS VIEW OF KASHI

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 & INVOLUNTARY DIP IN KASHI would help you connect the dots.

bird-view
Bird’s View of The Ganges at Kashi

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.

pigeon-view
Pigeon’s Peephole

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.

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Royal Bath Tub

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.

INVOLUNTARY DIP AT KASHI

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.

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Boat, Bird & Sunrise

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.

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early birds

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?)

sunrise
The Midas Touch

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.

DAYBREAK AT KASHI

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 .

fuzzy-morning
Fuzzy Morning

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 ??

 

hints-of-daybreak
Hints of Day Break

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.

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Breaking the Chains of the Night

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.