A Travellerspoint blog

Time to stop and reflect on the cycle of life and death

Day 9 Mughal Sarāi > Varanasi

It was 12.30 / 12:30 when we eventually arrived at Mughal Sarai. Yes, a rather long time from last night when we left at 7.40pm / 19:40 till now. The low lying fog caused many delays. Plus it was an enforced rest as being on the bottom bunk and with the 2 bunks above me still down meant that I had to also lie for most of the 17 hours. I was too tall to be sitting.

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Joe

Joe

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Continued by van the short distance to Varanasi and checked into the Hotel Vaibhav.

22 sec VIDEO

Leaving the railway station at Mughal Sarai

47 sec VIDEO

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Our first view of some of the 88 ghats lining the Ganges

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It was another late lunch of boiled rice 120 rupee / NZ$2.60 / US$1.80, dal makhani 200 rupee / NZ$4.30 / US$3.10, fresh lime soda 60 rupee / NZ$1.30 / US$0.90, stuffed paratha 70 rupee / NZ$1.50 / US$1.10 plus taxes = 473 rupee / NZ$10.00 / US$7.30 so that was lunch 500 rupee / NZ$10.50 / US$7.75.

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Leaving at 3.45 pm / 15:45 aboard several tuk tuks for the trip to the Harishchandra Ghat.

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Ghats

Ghats in Varanasi are riverfront steps leading to the banks of the River Ganges. The city has 88 ghats. Most of the ghats are bathing and puja ceremony ghats, while two ghats are used exclusively as cremation sites.

Most Varanasi ghats were rebuilt after 1700 AD, when the city was part of Maratha Empire. The patrons of current ghats are Marathas, Shindes (Scindias), Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwes (Peshwas). Many ghats are associated with legends or mythologies while many ghats are privately owned. Morning boat ride on the Ganges across the ghats is a popular visitors attraction. Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghats_in_Varanasi

Harishchandra Ghat is one of the 2 cremation sites.

https://www.varanasicity.com/harishchandra-ghat.html

Here are some more images from Dr “Google”:

https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=harishchandra+ghat+varanasi&rlz=1C1GGRV_enNZ751NZ751&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjDktn30YTaAhXLjLwKHd8MCIwQ_AUICigB&biw=1400&bih=665

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Harishchandra Ghat

Harishchandra Ghat

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We motored up stream and after turning the motor off drifted downstream with our 18 year boatman using the oars to keep us on course. It was certainly a relaxing way to take in the sights and activity on the shore as our boatman dipped his oars around us.

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Harishchandra Ghat

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Boys kite flying

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Fishing

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Our boatman - kite flying

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JD kite flying

Hans kite flying

Hans kite flying

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Harishchandra Ghat

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Approaching Dasaswamedh Ghat

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Drifted as far as Manikarnika Ghat which is known by some as the burning ghat and is one of the holiest sites. For some I’m aware that it could often be a confronting site.

Because this was the main cremation site, I could see from the distance the fires and then the smell of the smoke before arriving at the ghat. Sitting out on the water it was time to stop and reflect on the cycle of life and death.

As many Hindus believe the cycle of death and reincarnation will end by dying in Varanasi, this is their last stop.

One report has approximately 200 bodies are cremated throughout a day at the 2 sites. So all day long bodies are cremated on top of pyres on the riverfront steps at the 2 ghats. Finally their remains are sent into the river.

Manikarnika Ghat

Manikarnika Ghat (Hindi: मणिकर्णिका घाट) is one of the holiest among the sacred riverfronts (ghats), alongside the river Ganga. It is believed that a dead human's soul finds salvation (moksha), when cremated here. Thus, scores of the elderly across the whole country seek to walk up to its edges, and spend their last days absorbing the charisma of the ghat - which makes even death painless and insignificant to be pondered upon.

In India, death is considered as a gateway to another life received as a result of our past actions (karma). Thanks Mr Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manikarnika_Ghat#cite_note-1

Manikarnika Ghat, the main burning ghat, is the most auspicious place for a Hindu to be cremated. Dead bodies are handled by outcasts known as doms, and are carried through the alleyways of the Old City to the holy Ganges on a bamboo stretcher, swathed in cloth. The corpse is doused in the Ganges prior to cremation.

Huge piles of firewood are stacked along the top of the ghat; every log is carefully weighed on giant scales so that the price of cremation can be calculated. Each type of wood has its own price, sandalwood being the most expensive. There is an art to using just enough wood to completely incinerate a corpse.

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/varanasi/attractions/manikarnika-ghat/a/poi-sig/1321849/356519

Here are some more images from Dr “Google”:

https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=manikarnika+ghat+varanasi&rlz=1C1GGRV_enNZ751NZ751&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjzyffYzYTaAhULVrwKHWGVB6gQ_AUICigB&biw=1400&bih=665

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Was rowed back and joining many other boats rafted up together to watch the nightly elaborate and colourful evening Aarti held on the steps of Dasaswamedh Ghat.

Varanasi Ganga Aarti

The Varanasi Ganga Aarti takes place every sunset at holy Dasaswamedh Ghat, near Kashi Vishwanath Temple. It differs from the aartis at Haridwar and Rishikesh in that it's a highly choreographed ceremony. Although a spectacular must-see, some people consider it to be too much of an artificial and showy extravaganza to have a lot of meaning in a spiritual context.

The aarti is performed on a stage by a group of young pandits, all draped in saffron colored robes with their puja plates spread out before them. It commences with the blowing of a conch shell, and continues with the waving of incense sticks in elaborate patterns and circling of large flaming lamps that create a bright hue against the darkened sky. The movement of the lamps, held in the pandits' hands, is tightly synchronizing to the rhythmic chants of hymns and clang of cymbals. The heady scent of sandalwood thickly permeates the air.

People start arriving very early (as early as 5 p.m.) in order to get a good position for viewing the aarti. A novel and effective way of seeing it is by boat from the river. Alternatively, many shops in the vicinity hire their balconies out to tourists. A maha aarti (great aarti) takes place on a particularly elaborate scale in Varanasi near the end of each year on Kartik Purnima.

https://www.tripsavvy.com/ganga-aarti-india-guide-1539713

Details about Ganges Aarti

A group of young saints dressed up with silky saffron and white robes conduct this ceremony. Each pandit or saint takes up a specific spot in the Ghat and start the ritual by offering flowers to the river. The ritual includes many oil lamps like snake hood lamp which are waved in a synced motion. Conch shells are blown during the ceremony too. Yak tail fans and peacock feather fans are also waved during the ceremony. The priests end the ceremony by pouring a bowl of water into the river. Upon which, the devotees let go of small oil lamps with flowers on a leaf to float on the river.

"Thousands of devotees gather to watch this Aarti and by the end of the Ganga aarti ceremony, you can find thousands of small oil lamps floating on the river that would look like numerous stars on the water".

http://www.visittnt.com/varanasi-tours/varanasi-arti.html

If I am fortunate to return to Varanasi in the future, it would be great to witness this ceremony from on the ghat itself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashashwamedh_Ghat

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Sally and Ken

Sally and Ken

Ngaire

Ngaire

Sally

Sally

Ken

Ken

Robyn

Robyn

Hans

Hans

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Tova

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Time to lit our own candles and place it into the water

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Ngaire

Ngaire

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Here are some more images from Dr “Google”:

https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=dashashwamedh+ghat+aarti+timings&rlz=1C1GGRV_enNZ751NZ751&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwibptjByYTaAhVHWLwKHYuiAWMQ_AUICygC&biw=1400&bih=665

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Hans

Hans

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After 3 hours on the water it was time to leave and take in and process what I had just witnessed. I think in two words it would be a “moving experience”.

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Dinner at Annapurna with the Annapurna Special Thali 220 rupee / NZ$4.70 / US$3.40, tea 50 rupee / NZ$1.10 / US$0.80. Plus GST and a tip came to 300 rupee / NZ$6.40 / US$4.60.

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Posted by bruceontour 01:34 Archived in India Tagged ganges ghats harishchandra_ghat manikarnika_ghat ganga_aarti

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