Varanasi Again – 53: The Ganga Aarti

And then, suddenly, it started to the accompaniment of conches, and cymbals. The ululating sound of the conches, the coordinated cacophony of the cymbals and the resonating boom of the damroo, the one handed drum, symbolic of Shiva, echoed across the dark waters of the river, quickening the pulse of the people who had gathered…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 53: The Ganga Aarti

Varanasi Again – 52: At the Dashashwamegha Ghat

The word ‘Dashashwamegha’ means ‘ten horse sacrifice’ or ‘ten horse ceremony’. The Dashashwamegha yagya, or ceremony, was an elaborate ritual undertaken by Kings of yore towards various ends – begetting an heir, establishing their supremacy over minor kings, pleasing the Gods, among other things. The ghat must have been the site of this ceremony in…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 52: At the Dashashwamegha Ghat

Varanasi Again – 50: On the ‘other’ side

There were no pontoon platforms on ‘the other side’, no jetties, no landing area…..just a turbulent sea of humanity, a riot of colours, a cacophony of sounds, a potpourri of people, equipment, animals…….and loads of trash!!! The barge slowed down, and then came to a complete stop near the eastern bank of the Ganga, its…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 50: On the ‘other’ side

Varanasi Again – 43: A well, a bull and a tree

Historical picture of the Nandi Bull at Kashi Vishwanath Shrine There on the northern side of the quadrangular enclosure around the temple was a tree – a Ficus tree!! Is it……?? My thoughts trailed off……my eyes scanning the area for the other two objects. Yes, there they were – the bull and the small octagonal…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 43: A well, a bull and a tree

Varanasi Again – 41: The Gyanvapi Kupa

It was Krita Yuga, also known amongst the laymen as the Satayuga, or the age of truth. This was the age when man was nearest to God, and godliness, when Gods and angels, and demi-Gods walked the earth and lived amongst the ordinary mortals like normal people. Creation was young, and people honoured traditional wisdom…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 41: The Gyanvapi Kupa

Varanasi Again – 40: Lalita Ghat

The boat rocked gently as we stepped off from it, on to a floating platform built of interlocking plastic buoys. The plastic platform too jiggled a little, and looked like it would give way and drop us into the water, but then held on. More and more people disembarked from the boat on to the…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 40: Lalita Ghat

Varanasi Again – 39: The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor

Our destination was visible now, as the boat changed its course and made its way towards the western bank of the Ganga. The Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor was a pet project of the current Prime Minister of India, who also represented Varanasi as its member of parliament. He had taken the task headlong as soon…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 39: The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor

Varanasi Again – 35: We saved our souls

Arriving at the boat we found the boatman sleeping inside it, thankfully, and shook him awake. ‘Chalo, let’s go,’ I barked at him. Maybe it was the urgency in my voice, or maybe it was the premonition of things having gone wrong, the poor fellow sat up quickly, and jumped out of the boat in…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 35: We saved our souls

Varanasi Again – 34: Escape from hell

The wind howled softly……hooooooo……raising small storms of dry sand. The force of the waves hitting the sand had increased, helped, no doubt, by the full moon which shone balefully from on high. The wooden boat creaked….the boatman had disappeared! ‘Where is he?’, I asked, alarmed now. ‘Abe leave it,’ Rahul said. ‘Let’s walk around a…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 34: Escape from hell

Varanasi Again – 33: Into the darkness…

The boat rocked, rippling the placid waters of the river, as we piled on inside it. It was a small wooden affair, pulled by a couple of oars, and suitable only for five-six people at the most. As we sat in it, me silently and Rahul and Vineet sniggering at each other, the boat man…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 33: Into the darkness…

Varanasi Again – 32: The boat to nothingness!

Once it was decided that we were going to the Assi ghat, things moved fast. Neither me, nor Vineet had any vehicle, so all three of us piled on to Rahul’s scooter and off we went. The deserted university roads, lined by tall trees, shrouded by a light mist and made incandescent by the yellow…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 32: The boat to nothingness!

Varanasi Again – 31: The trio who did it!

The night we ‘did it’ was a long one. It was so long ago that the details have started to blur now. It happened on a night when we had partied long enough, and hard enough to lose sight of right and wrong, when youthful enthusiasm, and curiosity had quelled the sane voice inside us…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 31: The trio who did it!

Varanasi Again – 21: Down memory lane…

Ghats of Varanasi

I had stepped out of the mini-bus, and now stood looking at the house, rooted to the ground, oblivious of the pandemonium around me, waves and waves of memories washing over me. ‘Hey’, Vaishali called out, physically shaking me out of my daydream. ‘What?’ she asked quizzically. I looked around, coming back to present. People…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 21: Down memory lane…

Varanasi Again – 5: The blue throat

Ghats of Varanasi

Clang, came the sound as the trident hit the stone steps of the ghat. Clang! Issued the report, shattering the deathly silence of the night, reverberating across the ghat, and echoing over the dark waters of the Ganga. Clang, clang, clang, clang…..on and on, the sound of heavy metal against the aged stones of the…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 5: The blue throat

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,…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 4: The ascetic with the trident

Varanasi Again – 3: The axis mundi

Ghats of Varanasi

Varanasi – the piece of land between the rivers Varuna, and Assi, is the land chosen by the Mahadeva, the primordial ascetic Shankara, to be his abode. He resides here as Avimukteshvara, on the request of Martanda, the Sun God. It is through his inspiration that generations of pious travellers, pilgrims, scholars, kings, courtiers, sages,…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 3: The axis mundi

Varanasi Again – 2: On the ghat

Ghats of Varanasi

It is dark, and deathly silent on the ghats where I stand. I can hear the gentle lapping of the waters of the ageless river that flows on the eastern bank of the immortal city. Her waters shimmer with the cold light of the celestial disc that lights up the sky, hiding the dark innards…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 2: On the ghat

The Reunion XXXVI: The Story Continues

It has been a long time since I told this tale, or rather, continued it. The last blog in this series was written more than ten months ago. Why? Is the story over? Far from it. Then why? Maybe it is because I have said whatever I wanted to say, the pent-up emotions have been…… Continue reading The Reunion XXXVI: The Story Continues

The Legend of Shankara – 15: The six streams

As the sun rose from behind the snowcapped peaks in the distance, shining its golden light on the little hamlet of Dev Prayag, Shankara sat on the banks of the Ganga along with his disciples, contemplating his next move and answering the queries of his followers. The number of his followers had swelled, and now included sanyasins, and scholars, and…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 15: The six streams

The Legend of Shankara – 14: Shankara leaves Kashi

Shankara was unhappy leaving Kashi, the city of light. The city had practically become his home for the last several months that he had stayed, and studied, and taught, and debated there. He had gained a huge following of students and admirers. The adherents to his Advaitic philosophy had grown, people had begun to see the light; the light of…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 14: Shankara leaves Kashi