Sunday, February 19, 2012

Melting Stone

Visiting a place always gives you a reason to love or hate it but as they say; you can’t ignore it. Varanasi, one of my favorite cities of India, is no exception to this. It is one of the ancient places on earth which was visited by people from far lands of the world and from different time lines of human history. Like most of the ancient Indian cities, landscape of Varanasi also includes various landmarks representing people and their unyielding ideas of life and death and of course, in India, ‘life after death’.

Ghats of Varanasi, stretched parallel to the ancient river Ganga, are one of those landmarks. These Ghats, like any other landmarks of the city, have also changed themselves for us. In fact they have changed themselves radically enough to challenge you to recognize them as they were, in past, when they were built, when they were ‘present’ of the past.

Roaming around various parts of the city, I managed to reach these Ghats after sunset. I was told that I must see ‘evening aarti’ (evening prayers) which was supposed to be a spectacle on these Ghats. So I was there and they began it with their lamps waving in the air. Chanting started in the background and was coming from loudspeakers tied to the poles stuck in these Ghats.

If you look at these Ghats and what surrounds them, you will find that consumerism has tainted them or I must say ridiculed them to its core but I can say the same for anything and anyone these days. You will find these Ghats covered behind the veil of consumerism and their promotional tools. I was wondering that, in past, when pilgrims or Sadhus used to take a dip in Ganges and return back to Ghats, what must have welcomed them was the beautifully carved walls of the temples and stone staircase of these Ghats as opposed to flashy banners, hanging bluntly on walls, offering cheap cell phone connections.
I believe that when we visit any place which has a pre-history, we want to go back into past and experience it as it was or as we are told it was. Something similar was in my mind when I have planned to visit these Ghats. I wanted to discover if there were doorways, some sort of wormholes which can transport you back in time to look at these Ghats expanded along the river, helping pilgrims connect with the ancient river.

I stayed to witness ‘evening prayers’ and shared this vision with thousands of other eyes, present there, looking at waving lamps. Sooner I realized that I had too much to cover and had very little time in hand hence I decided to follow the trail of the stairs connecting criss cross lanes of these Ghats.

The captivating beauty of these Ghats is entirely different when you visit them at night. As I covered these Ghats one after another and clicked few snaps, I was sure that there are indeed secret passages, present there, which can pull you back in time and give you unyielding glimpse of these Ghats.

There were those portals amongst the people sitting there. They were there amidst the waving lamps and smoke and flames. They were triggered by the chants coming from the loudspeakers and were taking shapes because of the concentrated gaze of thousands of eyes there.

------ May be they were there because I was looking for them :)

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