Varanasi, millennia old city in northern India is a kaleidoscope of Hindu way of life. Ganga Aarti, the traditional worship offered to river Ganga at sunrise and sunset, has much more deeper impact than the spectacular ritual seen at the banks of the river in Varanasi. It is a practice ascribed to help the civilization to foster cosmic consciousness. The Vedic tradition is being followed by numerous Hindus at the sacred river since 5000 years.
An incredible enactment of the tradition named Subah-e-Banaras, morning ritual of Varanasi, is a well choreographed act involving seven performers and leaves a long-lasting impression on visitors to the banks of sacred Ganga. The four segment ritual begins half an hour prior to sunrise when the air is purer with ozone (O3), with the chanting of ancient Vedic mantras or prayers in Sanskrit. It is proven that specific tones, frequencies and wavelengths created through its intonation are innate within and harmonious to the human body and mind.
It is followed by specific ancient yagyas or fire ceremonies performed in quest of tranquility. This ritual called Agnihotra, performed at the time of sunrise and sunset, is said to purify the air, water, soil and thoughts and create a naturally conducive environment for the land to produce more grain and for people to get a feel of wellbeing, sacrifice and philanthropy. A pinch of rice and a few drops of pure cow ghee are lit in a pyramid shaped vessel made of copper to create a healthy smoke that rises in the open sky.
Indian classical music recitation by a learned singer follows yagya. Very same banks at Varansi have inspired many artists to create many indigenous schools of classical music. Nitin R Gokarna, Commissioner, Varanasi Division says that there are so many learned classical singers in Varanasi that they haven’t repeated a single singer since the inception of Subah-e-Banaras programme in September 2014.
The two hour ritual ends with practice of yoga. The time of sunrise and sunset affect every living and non-living being. Different vibrations are generated in the atmosphere during the time that supports positive reactions in all. This is a pleasant time to deep breathe in fresh air and let all joints loosen to prepare for an active day with happy mind and healthy body. It also provides the right excuse to savor tasty kachori sabzi and Jalebis of Varanasi.
An evening arti at sunset involves only the first two stages of the morning ritual but is done more eloquently with different prayers. The underlying integrity of aartis are steeped deep in tradition and the vibrations of Sanskrit prayers and the effects of fire ceremony affect all dimensions of beings with a lasting positive energy. The practice itself, even though symbolic of an internal process unseen by an average person’s mind or eyes, is very powerful and alchemical by nature and purpose.
It is indeed a deep impact spectacle that can move many and help counter modern issues concerning nature, environment and people.
Written by Anand & Madhura Katti