Dev Deepavali Kashi

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In 2011 a friend went for the Dev Deepavali Festival at Kashi and said it a must see. I had booked tickets in 2012 but visit to Kashi happens only when the time is right, the Lord desires. So I landed in 2013. Dev Deepavali is held on Kartik Purnima day on the banks of the Holy Ganga. U see the letter AUM in diyas or oil lamps.

A stage was made in the water. People sitting on Dasashvamedha Ghat. Two functions are organised one by the Ganga Seva Nidhi and another by Ganga Seva Samiti both adjacent to each other. U see Ganga in the background. Devotees waiting for function to start. "The word Kashi originated from the word ‘Kas’ which means to shine. Steeped in tradition Kashi is the ‘original ground ‘ created by Shiva and Parvati, upon which they stood at the beginning of time."

Left of pic is stage, then boats, white structure is Amar Jawan and in centre is where the Maha Ganga Aarti would be performed. The Aarti is performed by Pandits at 3 levels. One and two are what u see and third is at water level. Below the temple on your right is where function by Ganga Seva Samiti was organized.

A view of the ghat from the other side. Dev Deepavali held on auspicious day of Kartik Purnima. It is the only day when both Lord Shiva and Vishnu are worshipped. To know more about the importance of Kartik Purnima Click here

Centre marigold flowers in the form of a lotus with roses all around. On table is Nataraja and pictures of Satya Sai Baba amongst others with stage in the background. The arrangements for this function were o/s, the flowers/diyas like purified the place. Kashi is the city of Shiva. The town has been around since Mahabharata era. It is here that Adi Shankaracharya taught and Hiuen Tsang visited.

This is the third point where a Pandit performed the Aarti. Pic that you see on poster is that of Shri Satyendra Mishra who started the Dev Deepavali Festival some 22 years ago.

Girls from a local college took part in the Maha Ganga Aarti. Their saris are awesome. U shall see their pics later. Varanasi gets its name from Varuna river, ancient Kashi lay on the Varuna-Ganga confluence. ''Archaelogical remains dating from the 5th-2th century BCE have been found here. ''

Took pics in two ways. One is from the boat in the water and another by standing on the ghats. This pic is from the boat, gives you an overview. Background is Dasashvamedha Ghat. This ghat is also known as Brahma Dwar (door step of Brahma). Its old name is Rudrasarovar or Ghoraghat. The present ghat was made by Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in 1748. Note that a number of temples etc were rebuilt post about 1720 ie when the eclipse of the Mughal Empire started.

A view of the ghat. Flowers and diyas all around. U can see bells on left and right of pic. They have a unique way of making them ring as you shall see later. The present day Kashi Vishwanath Mandir was built by Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore. Gold plating of dome was done by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Punjab.

A view of the Ganga Seva Samiti ghat. Both organise a variety of cultural programs after the Aarti is over. For breakfast have idlis, alu-kachori and jalebis - freely available on streets.

A view of the ghat from a boat. Tourists/devotees also sit in boats to enjoy the evenings proceedings. Boat rates on this auspicious day are probably the highest in the year - as one of them said- it is our day to make money which helps us during months where inflow of devotees is low. On Kartik Purnima I paid Rs 1,500/ for a boat ride from Asi to Raj Ghat ie first to last. Next morning the rate for the same ride was Rs 800/.

As per tradition Lord Shiva killed Tripurasura on Kartika Purnima and hence Gods celebrated by lighting diyas. All over the ghats you will see small boys and girls selling diyas like what you see in picture - think for Rs 5/ only.

The light was beginning to fade. Devotees anxiously wait for start of the function. Each platform as you see was beautifully decorated. All walking on this platform had to remove their footwear.

View from the other side of the function venue. Centre of pic you see a boat. That is where I was for an early part of the Aarti - got good overview from here.

Smiling college girls waiting for the function to start. It was not possible to get their email ids. But if you know them please ask them to write to me and I shall mail their pictures.

A close up view of 3 levels of platforms where the Pandits stood and did Puja. U see devotees at far end of pic.

Sun had set and the lights had come on.

Girls wore lots of jewellery. On my request they sportingly agreed to showcase it.

A wreath of flowers was laid at the Amar Jawan Memorial as a mark of respect to all those who made the supreme sacrifice for their country. To see pics of Jaswant Garh War Memorial in Arunachal Pradesh Click here

The mood in the air was festive. Devotees spend time visiting temples and taking a boat ride in the Holy Ganga. U see devotees from Andhra Pradesh. I met a Sadhu from Kazakhstan who had come to attend the festival with devotees.

A view of the Ghat - all set for the function to start. There are about 80 ghats in Kashi. Maharaja of Satara built the current Bindhu Madhava mandir in the mid-18th century. Balaji Ghat was made by Bajirao Peshwa mid-18th century. Gwalior Ghat made by Jiyaji Rao Shinde mid-19th century. Gangamahal Ghat made by Jiyaji Rao Scindia 1864. Scindia Ghat built by Baijabai Scindia. Nepal Raja''s Lalita Ghat is a pagoda like wooden Temple of Pashupatinath. Manmandir Ghat has beautiful Rajasthan style jharoka-laden palace.

A close up of one of the college students. I requested them to put their hands up to get a good view of the jewellery worn.

Another view of the evening. Left is stage, then boat, Amar Jawan Memorial and Ghat.

Look at this exquisite jewellery - my wife loved the necklace.

Pandits had come - all set for the Maha Ganga Aarti to start.

Aarti starts with Pranams to the Holy Ganga.

We present a series of pictures that capture various moments of the Maha Ganga Aarti. Did see the Ganga Aarti the day before but this Aarti is a once in a life time experience.

Lighting of incense sticks.

This gives you an overview of the start to the Maha Ganga Aarti at the Dasashvamedha Ghat.

It is considered very auspicious to bath in the Holy Ganga on Kartik Purnima. A Swamini friend asked me to take a solo boat ride from the first (Asi) to the last ghat (Raj). U see devotees at Raj Ghat, the site of ancient Kashi. From here say 10-15 minute walk is Adi Keshav Mandir, dedicated to Lord Vishnu with a tradition going back to the Puranas.

Every platform has one Pandit, two girls with puja plate and a person with a dholak as you see in the background.

Getting ready to lift big diyas. Crowds thronged the ghats - every inch was occupied with many standing on roof tops.

An overview of the ghat - look at reflection in the water.

Foreigners lighting a diya and leaving it in the Holy Ganga. A flame brings Light. In a deeper sense light representing knowledge removes ignorance or darkness.

Lifting these big diyas.

There were as many photographers as volunteers waiting to capture memories of the Maha Ganga Aarti for eternity.

U see large flaming lamps just lit.

A close up view of large flaming lamps. In Kashi do visit Vishwanath Mandir, Asi Ghat, Aghori Baba Ashram, Tailanga Swami Math (must visit), Kal Bhairav Mandir, Kedareshwara Mandir. From personal experience can say these are spiritually powerful places with very good vibrations. Am sure there are other places also but I could not visit.

An overview of the ghat. To buy sweets go to Shri Ram Bhandar, slightly ahead of Kashi Vishwanath Mandir. Very very good sweets.

Devotees bathing at one of the ghats on Kartik Purnima. Women and Men of all ages and groups. All are one before the Holy Ganga. If you are returning from Dasashwameth Ghat in evening have Aalu ki Tikkis - superb.

During the function all Pandits look at four sides, start with East and then go clockwise in other three directions.

The color, light, bhavna (feeling), chanting and purity in the air can only be experienced to be believed.

So far all pictures were from the boat that was next to the stage in the water. Took a friend''s advice and moved up. It was indeed a different experience. Strings that you see were tied to the bells. So just pull the string for the ghanti to ring.

Pandits facing the east now, faced the north in earlier pic. Hyms are recited during the aarti. Have tea in kulads, taste good + snacks in plant leaves. Avoid use of plastic and thermacol plates, bad for the environment.

A close up view. Visit Banaras Hindu University esp. the Birla Mandir and Bharat Kala Mandir in the complex.

I ran down to the lowest level of platform for this pic. Pandits facing the south. U can buy packed Ganga Jal from many shops there. If you wish to carry in can then suggest u take a boat to the other side of the Ganga and fill from there. I did that and found the water to be very clean.

After the Aarti devotees came to take blessings of Agni (flame).

Colors during the Maha Aarti. Right of pic u see devotees and a life saving boat.

Blowing the Shank or coonch. Do visit following temples. Sankat Mochan (get very good sweets inside), Durga, Maha Mrityunjaya, Chausati, Ma Vishwalakshmi, Kala-Bhairava, Bindu-Madhava, and other temples referred to in captions.

A view of devotees bathing in the Holy Ganga on Kartik Purnima. Do visit Ma Annapurna Mandir i.e. within the Vishwanath Temple complex - have meals there. Very nice. To see pics of Annapurneshwari Temple in Karnataka Click here

Aarti in progress. Do have Puri Sabzi - for Rs 10/ get four small puris with sabzi. Very tasty. Have Lassi too. Chat tastes very good as well. For continental food visit Pizzeria at Asi Ghat - enjoyed their pizzas.

Note the expression on Pandit''s face, jewellery worn by the college student, devotees sitting in boat. Try the thandai and Gamcha although must say did not try it myself.

With stage in the background.

With Amar Jawan Memorial in the background.

Towards the end of the Maha Ganga Aarti pranams to the Holy Ganga.

An overview of 3 levels of platforms, stage and devotees sitting in boats.

So colorful and full of life, positive energy. On day one found Varanasi dirty but thereafter cleaniless did not matter because the joy of being in Kashi overtook everything else. Must say that the Ghats are very clean.

Pandits at last level platform. After the function met some of the Pandits in pant/shirt - could not believe it was them, looked so different.

The aarti ended with chants of ''Har Har Mahadev'' (Shiva). If you can walk through the entire ghats i.e. from Asi to Rajghat. It is an experience of a life time - do early morning would be better.

Group from Hyderabad on the ghats, the day after Kartik Purnima. To allow the spirit and vibrations of Kashi to soak into you suggest spend atleast 4 days. Walk thru its famous gallis - it is an amazing experience. Stay close to the Ganga, see sunrise and sunset to allow yourself to become one with Kashi.

About 10 minutes from Dasashvamedha Ghat is Lolark Kund i.e. dedicated to Surya Devata or Sun God. To see some super pics of Dev Deepavali Click here

Whilst walking towards Kashi Vishwanath Mandir saw this shop. Sells suparis, mouth freshners etc. Guptaji (left of pic) got me to try many varieties of mouth freshners (hope word is right) even though told him not a potential customer. Must say loved the stuff he gave me.

After the Ganga Aarti you can walk along the ghats to see Diyas/lighting or take a boat. Since I was alone shared a boat for Rs 100/ (app 90 minute ride towards Panchaganga Ghat. This is the group with whom I went. Had some very stimulating and insightful conversations with the ladies on boat. In hindsight walk along the ghats - you will cover more area in shorter time and have better experience.

Diyas are placed virtually all along the Ghats, you see some. Temples are lit up. Wonderful experience. 14 kms away from Kashi is Ramnagar Fort. It is ok, can skip. But do visit Sarnath where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. To see pics Click here

An overview of the ghats from Dasashwameth Ghat i.e. towards Kedar/Asi Ghat side. Devotees, devotees and devotees on every Ghat. App 75 kms from Kashi is Vindhyachal, one of the Shakti Peeths. It is a temple dedicated to Vindhyavasini Devi.

Diyas at Trilochan Ghat. Kashi is also a good base to visit Khajuraho. In 2008 we drove from Khajuraho to Prayag/then Kashi. To see pics of Khajuraho Click here

View of crowds at the Ganga Seva Samiti ghat. App 125 kms from Kashi is Prayag. Distance is short but takes long. To see pics of Prayag Sangam Click here

Diyas at Sheetal Ghat. On Kartik Purnima is also celebrated Guru Nanak Jayanti and Festival of Lights in Thailand. To see pics Click here

How can one visit Kashi and not see a Silk showroom. A few minutes away from Dasashwameth Ghat is Kanhaiyalal Brijeshkumar shop at Anand Bazar Godoulia. Nos 0542 3291646. It is a largish shop on the main road. During conversation owner told me that he uses Whats App to send pictures of latest designs to customers across the world. If customer likes then places order. If you go inside the gallis you could get cheaper. I bought a few salwar kameez pieces. eSamskriti did not get any fees for talking about this shop.

U see me in a Dhoti (that I bought from Kashi during this Yatra) outside Mahesh Lunch Home in Mumbai. Bought dhoti from shop ie enroute to Vishwanath Mandir. Owner is Sharma, numbers are 2397991 and 9415302952. Esamskriti got no fees for talking about this shop. To see black and white pics of Kashi Click here

Ladies worshipping Bhishma Pitama at Asi Ghat. The Maha Ganga Aarti and visit to Kashi in 2013 was truly an experience of a life time. Anubhav (experience) has become part of me forever. To see video Click here

Symbol of Shubh Labh in diyas. Some info taken from Outlook Traveller Heritage Holidays in India and Varanasi Official site. To see photos of Kashi Ghats Click here