Friday, October 02, 2015

Subah-E-Banaras, Assi Ghat

Imagine a person who is a typical drunkard, obnoxious, difficult to live with and sometimes even his parents announce in the newspapers that they disown him. After a few years you meet him, he is most cultured, charming and elegant. This is what happened to me when I entered Assi Ghat, Banaras. I had left the same ghat four years ago, as soon as I entered it.
Visiting the spotlessly clean ghat in the evening was a bliss. I felt so ashamed that I had abandoned it, thinking there was no hope. A hesitant street food eater I pounced when my host offered me the lemon tea being sold there. Healthy and tasty. A new recipe, go explore! ! Wait, there is an Italian restaurant called Pizzario and a book shop also.

I sat on the mat spread on the floor and watched the majestic Ganga Aarti. Vedic shlokas were being played .
Morning, half an hour before the sunrise, the ghat was pleasantly crowded. Now The Ganga Aarti was accompanied by the vedic shlokas recited by the students of ‘Panini Mahila Mahavidhyala’. A yagnya was being performed simultaneously by a family and everyone was asked to participate if they wanted. I did, and loved it. After the Aarti we were asked to offer jal to the Sun god, if interested. The copper pots were provided to offer Jal at the river Ganga. Shlokas were being recited at this point also by the trained classical singers.
Classical Music Programme: Many celebrities have also performed here before. Today a young lady sang Kabir’s bhajan based on morning raga .While she mesmerised the crowd, appeared the sun on the horizon and its rays hit the Ganges spreading red hue all around.
Yog: A yog teacher instructed the gathering while doing yoga and before I knew it was already 8.30 am 
All my friends who see only dirt at the Prime Minister’s constituency, please visit Assi Ghat, Subah-E Banaras , if you happen to be there. And before saying, ‘What a dirty city’, remember the city is carrying the burden of millions of pilgrims smilingly.
Banaras pics: http://tinyurl.com/p32pc24

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Manikarnika Ghat, Kashi


This photo of Manikarnika Ghat is courtesy of TripAdvisor

It's ok", my host Alok told me when after the darshan at Vishwanath and Kal Bhairav Temples I asked him if we could visit the Manikarnika Ghat. It was his first time too, so had to ask directions. Early in the morning, mentioning a cremation ghat to a localite who is enjoying his tea at a tea vendor's, sounded inappropriate but there was no other way. Manikarnika, the oldest one in Banaras. Well stacked logs of wood and rising smoke reminded me of all the dear ones who have left us forever. 

The self appointed guide/boatman reminded me of Paulo Coelho's  Eleven Minutes.(The world revolved around something that only took eleven minutes) After telling the story of  Parvati's lost Kangan (bangle) in a kund right there, he continued that it takes around two n a half  hrs to cremate a body. Sometimes a little longer. After that other rituals are performed. The total cost includes Rs 3k. Though I had doubt about the numbers he had stated, still I wondered that is the end part of a person's life-story so simple to pass? Rs Three thousand and two and a half hours? Actually it is simpler for the person who has departed. It is difficult only for those who are left behind. 
"
Between the smoke and fine dust in the air, I could imagine the great king Harishchandra, the epitome of honesty, as an employee at the ghat, haggling with his wife for the charges he had to collect for the pyre of their son. I had goosebumps when I read it in school in a book called "Hamaare Poorvaj", I still felt a few. Is that why these ancient cities charm us?