Varanasi Again – 4: The ascetic with the trident

Ghats of Varanasi

I stood still in the gathering dark, rooted to the spot, frozen immobile with anticipation, not batting an eyelid, and hardly breathing. I stood still, alone on the banks of the Ganga, at the Lalita ghat, watching the dark figure materialise from nowhere. It emerged from the shimmering waters of the river which flowed slowly, majestically, at a distance. Who was he? Why was he here, when there was no one else to be seen around? Why was he emerging from the river at this unearthly hour? Had he gone to take a bath? Who takes a bath in such a cold night?

While I argued with myself thus, the figure slowly rose from the waters and started to climb the stone steps of the ghat named after Shiva’s wife, his consort, the beautiful Parvati.

I squinted to see better, letting my eyes adjust to the dark. It looked like a man, a big man. His head framed by long hair which dripped with water, he ascended the first fews steps slowly, looking up, as if knowing that I was there at the very top of the ghat, waiting for him.

He carried something in his hands………was it a stick?

As he ascended slowly, I could see him better.

He WAS a big man. Big and tall, taller than any I had seen in my life. His long hair was matted, and he carried a….Oh My God…. he carried a trident in his hands, which shone dully in the moonlight.

A chill ran up my spine, as I beheld his naked and well built body, naked except for the loincloth which he had wrapped around his waist. His skin seemed to glow an iridescent white, due to the ash he had smeared on it.

Was he an aghori? The famed, feared aghoris were the most ancient tribe of ascetics, followers of Shiva, who lived outside the confines of the society and were a law unto themselves. They wore few clothes, ate and drank whatever they caught hold of, including animal and human meat, and were a violent and unpredictable lot. Not the types one would want to come across a deserted ghat at night……..

More of this later…………………………

Till then – Shivoham: I am Shiva!

By Divya Narain

Additional Professor in Plastic Surgery, doting father, loving husband, newbie author. Love travel and literature. Love reading religion, politics and history!

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