Watch! The spectacular Ganga aarti in Varanasi!
Video: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
If you happen to be in Varanasi, one experience that you shouldn't miss is the spectacular Ganga aarti on the Dashaswamedh ghat.
The beautiful ritual unfolds every evening on the banks of the Ganga with brass lamps, accompanied with chants and a multitude of people in attendance.
An hour before the aarti is due to begin, five elevated planks are placed at the edge of the steps, the big brass lamps are readied, the pujaris (priests) don identitical dhotis and kurtas and the steps leading to the ghat quickly get filled -- a flotilla of boats converge on the riverbank with camera-sporting tourists in eager attention-cum-curiosity.
The brass lamps weigh around four-and-a-half kilos and look beautiful under the night sky. Incense-filled smoke rises forth from the ritual as bhajans rent the air.
Students of the Vedas and Upanishads perform the ceremony which was started by the head pujari of the Gangotri Seva Samiti, Babu Maharaj in 1992.
"We have it every night, I used to do it myself for many years -- now five pujaris perform it every night," says Babu Maharaj who originally created the 45-minute ceremony to worship the Ganga.
The aarti takes place every evening at 6.45 pm and should not be missed.
Text: Archana Masih