Varanasi ghats

Dawn on the Ganga

We originally planned our trip to Varanasi to coincide with the big festival where candles are placed all over the ghats, which we thought was Diwali. Turns out that Diwali is a more extended festival which includes the one we wanted, called Dev Deepawali, near the end. Since we had scheduled our trip to leave before that, we did see lights and festivities, but not the ones we expected.

We were determined to have a less tiring visit than in 2008, when we visited all but one the DISCC sites and Siv and Deepika gave an English workshop for the DISCC staff. So this year we only visited the site we missed last year (Annapurna Center) -- and Siv and Deepika did another workshop.

The high points were the Diwali festival and meeting our foster-daughter, Sampa, and her mother, Vimla.

Our visit started the first morning, when John went out early to see the ghats. (They all say it's really happening at the ... ghats.) He quickly found himself a pleasant vantage point at Tulsi Ghat, below a wrestling compound and overlooking the ghats. There were some small shrines and a wonderful old tree and a step to sit on. Sheer early-morning delight. He also met a (almost said "another") nice young man who said he came there every morning.

Steps up to the spot
Small shrines
Steps leading up at Tulsi Ghat
Small shrines
Wonderful old tree
Sunrise over the Ganga
View Young man
View of the ghats below
Another (ahem...) young man likes this spot too

Later in the morning, we went to Deva Center for a visit and met Sampa and Vimla. We arrived in time for the morning warmup with a communal "Om". Tulsi explained to us that, by using the fingers to block the eyes and ears, then inhaling deeply and slowly exhaling while humming the sacred and mystical syllable, Om, one can clear one's head of extraneous thoughts and attain peace of mind. This helps the children to concentrate better on the activities that will follow during the day. Then everybody went out for a ball game -- cricket, of course. There were no wickets, but the children bowled and caught the ball and had lots of fun. What impressed us very particularly was one of the teachers, Miss Anupama, who paid particular attention to a young boy who wasn't able to play cricket.

Deva Center
Morning "om" session at Deva Center
Helping him play ball
Sampa and Vimla

Siv, Sampa and Vimla

Then the high point of our visit took place with the arrival of Vimla and her daughter Sampa, our foster daughter in the CEP program (Childrens' Education Program). Sampa is a most loveable girl, also pretty, joyous, intelligent and artistic - and she speaks and writes very good English. We would visit with her and her mother twice again during our stay, at their home. Sampa had decorated the floor in three places, at the entrance and next to two other doorways, and we were offered delicious sweets. And of course there were Diwali candles.

In the evening, we also wandered and drove around town in the evening and looked at the Diwali lights. Also, for the first time, we took a boat at twilight to watch the regular evening aarti. We took a boat from Assi Ghat up to Dashashwamedh Ghat and watched the ceremony from that. The aarti is an offering of light to the goddess Ganga. Four handsome young men in the most elegantly draped dhotis we have ever seen waved around various -- sometimes, very heavy-looking -- lamps to the sounds of drums and cymbals.

Diwali lights
Diwali lights
Diwali lights on hotel
Diwali lights on Hanuman shrine
Siv and Dashashvamedh Road Chez le bijoutier
Siv overlooking the shops on Dashashwamedh Road
Two families at a jewelry shop = marriage coming
Evening aarti ceremony at Dashashwamedh Ghat, an offering of light to the goddess Ganga

John once again began the next day down at the ghats, then wound around through the streets on his way back to the hotel. Activities there were fascinating.

Dawn on Ganga
Dawn on Ganga
Puja in the morning light
All dolled up
Chai wallah
All dolled up
Chai wallah
Street market
Steet sweeping
Street market
Sweeping the street - one of Siv's favorite pictures
Annapurna Center Annapurna Center
  Vidya makes a welcoming tikka mark on Siv's forehead Laughing Annapurna ladies in the old building

More of Varanasi.

Back to India 2009.