Unique, colourful and entertaining Hindu ritual ceremony.
What We Disliked
Can feel a bit long.
Although there are over 700 temples in Varanasi, none are more sacred than the Ganges River itself. To offer salutations to the Ganges, a special ceremony is held daily at holy Dasaswamedh Ghat at dusk known as “Ganga Aarti”. 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. Read this article to find out what you will see at the Ganga Aarti Varanasi ceremony.
What You Will See at the Ganga Aarti Varanasi Ceremony
[singlepic id=382 w=720 h=560 float=center]
Although there are over 700 temples in Varanasi, none are more sacred than the Ganges river itself. The Ganges is worshipped as a living goddess, with the power to cleanse all earthly sins. Daily baths in her waters are advised by Hindu scriptures to prepare for the soul’s final journey to liberation. Offerings of flowers and diyas floating down the river are a common and very pretty sight.
To offer salutations to the Ganges River, a special ceremony is held daily at dusk known as “Ganga Aarti”. An aarti is a Hindu devotional ritual performed to gods and goddesses that uses fire as an offering. In this case, the offering is made to the Goddess Ganga, also affectionately referred to as Ma Ganga, the goddess of the most holy river in India. The most common offering is usually in the form of a lighted lamp; in the case of the Ganges River, the aarti consists of a small diya made up of a candle surrounded by flowers that is floated down the river.
Ganga Aarti takes place every evening on the banks of the Ganges River in Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi. However, the ceremony is very different at each of these places.
Ganga Aarti Varanasi Timing
[singlepic id=381 w=720 h=560 float=center]
The Varanasi Ganga Aarti takes place every sunset (7pm in summer, 6pm in winter) 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.
Ganga Aarti in Varanasi Video
The aarti is performed on an elevated stage facing the river by a group of young pandits (Hindu priests), draped in saffron-colored robes with their puja plates spread out before them. The ceremony 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 synchronized to the rhythmic chants of hymns and clangs of cymbals. The lamps are lit and circled around by the pandits (Hindu priests) in a clockwise manner, accompanied by chanting or songs in praise of Mother Ganga. The idea is that the lamps acquire the power of the deity. The heady scent of sandalwood thickly permeates the air. After the ritual is complete, devotees will cup their hands over the flame and raise their palms to their forehead in order to get the Goddess’s purification and blessing.
A “Maha Aarti” (Great Aarti) takes place on a particularly elaborate scale in Varanasi near the end of each year on the day of Kartik Purnima. Special aartis are also held on Tuesdays and on religious festivals.
[singlepic id=380 w=720 h=560 float=center]
Tips for Attending the Varanasi Ganga Aarti Ceremony
It is advisable to get to Dasaswamedh Ghat early in order to get a good viewing spot close to the ceremony area. People usually start arriving very early (as early as 5pm) to secure their spots in advance.
There are several vantage points from where you can get a good view. A novel and effective way of seeing it is by boat from the river; you have to take a sunset boat trip or pay for the privilege of sitting in the boat. Alternatively, many shops in the vicinity hire their balconies out to tourists. Also, a VIP area is usually set up in front of the ghat which offers great views.
For free viewing spots, head to the blocks of concrete directly in front of the stage. For the price of standing during the ceremony, you get one of the best views of the aarti performance. Alternatively, you can sit at the back of the stage and assist with ringing one of the bells during the ceremony.
Tell us what you think. Are you planning to see the Ganga Aarti Varanasi ceremony? If you’ve seen it before, please share with us your experience.
We love to hear from you so please leave your comments below.