Skydiving In the Land of Multicolor Ashes – Banaras

The land is full of whimsical fantasies – the floating earthen lamps, the flying Holi colors, the temple bells, the half-naked pujaris, and the magical steps that lead to the world of mythological water. Banaras is no less than a wonderland, where every lane and brick recites its own story and the city never sleeps, you will find people everywhere-every time. Where else would you find people struggling for Mangal Aarti at 3 am with such liveliness? Mangal aarti is one of the main attentions for the visitors, Sanskrit verses are chanted and the pious smell of flowers and milk glorify every moment of the ritual.

Picture: Deepak Nanda

The land of Shiva is too much in love with him- the ‘Tapasvis and Sadhus’ are high with smoky joints and anesthetic Bhaang, I wonder how they go for astral projections, away from the hedonistic world. Possibly the numbness keeps them alive and dead at the same time; even if they are visiting the parallel world, they are pretty much aware of the time capsules in the real world. The Temple of Lord Shiva is known as Kashivishwanath Temple, where devotees come with ultimate trust to pray for their future. From the first light of the day, devotees start taking bath in the holy water of river Ganga, sounds of chants and bells create a devotional aura around everything in the city, people start worshiping, an extremely pleasant smell of dhups, and ghee diyas cover the atmosphere.

Picture : Deepak Nanda

On the other side, the burning Ghats are Harishchandra and Manikarnika Ghats, where people come from far away places to burn the bodies of their loved ones who have lost their lives. It is believed that these people will get Moksha if burnt on the ghats of Banaras. According to the Hindu legends, those who are cremated in Varanasi will achieve enlightenment and be free of the cycle of death and rebirth. Nearly 300 bodies are cremated every day.
There is a story behind these Ghats too.

I won’t be overstating anything if I say that the evening Ganga Aarti transforms you to a surrealistic world of holiness – yellow flames of fire, the enchantment of soothing Sanskrit shlokas, choreographed movements by the temple priests, and hundreds of boats in an array witnessing Ganga Arti. The boats are so close to each other that one can hop from one to the other, whatever space left is taken up by the floating ‘diyas’. And the boat will take you from one Ghat to the other, with every Ghat reciting its own story. One need not be a theist to enjoy the City of Shiva- the destroyer, He who is away from all kinds of attachments. He puts ashes from the dead on his forehead to personify the mortality of life.

The spiritualistic feeling is not restricted to please you visually but your taste buds are surely going on a roller coaster ride on having the local street food. Banaras is also famous for its Banarasi silk Products and snacks named “Banarasi Kachori”; In fact, there is a whole lane named kachori Gali, with lots of delicious food. And don’t forget to try Paan after having your meal, it will leave an after taste that you will never forget.