Friday, July 03, 2015

India travelogue 6 - 24/7 temple!

I had to rush back since I didn't want to miss the Ganga aarti (ceremony performed on the river Ganga); on the way I saw a group of guys huddled in a circle on the floor. Was it cards? I wasn't sure. I also saw some of the bearded guys now smoking something inside a thick cigar - was it just a cigar with nicotine or something else? I don't know but I could think of one friend of mine who would have known exactly what it was.
People were sitting everywhere to watch the aarti. Some with camera stands, some recording on their mobiles, some half asleep in the evening breeze. At least over here the breeze felt a bit cool; but then it was late in the evening and the sun had retreated.

The ceremony was happening in the neighbouring Ghat as well - another 6 priests were doing the same thing that was happening in the main Ghat but only difference seemed to be that there was a time lag. First there were a couple of songs, then the lighting of the lamps accompanied by background songs and then the actual aarti song (the tune in all aarti songs is the same but the lyrics are different; here the lyrics were about mother Ganga; I couldn't follow the lyrics entirely but enjoyed the tune) and then closure. The lamps used were large lamps and it is quite a sight to see the sequence of steps. I was surprised that the sound from one Ghat wasn't really audible in the neighbouring Ghat; that's why they could do it side by side. The ceremony didn't happen at the river bank; it happened midway at the Ghat. The boatmen lined up their boats with passengers to face the aarti. So there were people in front on the same level, in front down below, on the sides and behind the priests while they performed. There were plain clothe policemen walking around with security scanning devices - one of them waved his machine at my bag. There was one man who was like the conductor of an orchestra; he encouraged the crowd to clap along to the tune of the songs; he walked across the crowd and prodded them along. He also ensured that no one neared the area of the priests.

The time was 8pm; I was supposed to be back at 7:15pm because in the place I stayed they said that at 7:15 I could get a special pass to attend a function happening in a temple nearby. While walking back I saw signage with directions to that temple - it was a small signboard near a narrow opening to a side street. Out of curiosity I thought of checking out the temple before returning to my room - anyway it was really late for me to get the pass; someone else must have already gone with it by now. 

The narrow road was really not a road - it was like a footpath that was flooded with shops on either side. The width was barely the width of a rickshaw. You'd think no vehicles would ply in here but no - we had a few bikes buzzing through this lane as well. It was a winding trail that kept going on and on. The shops weren’t empty either; every shop seemed to have some customer or the other.

Some shopkeepers on the way stopped me saying, "Leave your things here. They are not allowed in the temple." And I politely replied that I wasn't going to enter the temple. You are not allowed to wear slippers (like all other temples), not allowed to take mobiles inside and I was told that not even a pen is allowed here! Seems a little extreme but such was the level of security- everyone agreed that it was better that they had such restrictions; why take a chance since Varanasi as a whole was a sensitive area and places of worship more so - this type of security screening wasn't there in all temples but this one is considered very special. They have darshans (ceremonies in the temple) even at 11pm and 3am; it's kind of like a 24/7 temple. 

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