Varanasi is considered the oldest living city in the world and is considered 4,000-4,500 year old. There is so much to experience here, you either love it or hate it. I decided to experience the city on its most busy day and went there to spend the Dev Deepawali in Varanasi.
Dev Deepawali is different from “Diwali” celebrated all over India, its celebrated on Karthik Purnima (Full moon night) of Hindu calendar which comes 14-15 days after the Diwali in November. It’s believed that on this day Gods descend to the ghats of Varanasi to bathe in Ganga river. The festival is celebrated in this form only in Varanasi and city has special feel during this time. People decorate their houses with earthen lamps at night, make rangoli in front of houses and fire creakers are burned at night to celebrate the festival.
This is a 5 days festival, which starts on Prabodhini Ekadashi and ends on Kartik Purnima with much fan fare. The highlight of the festival is millions of earthen lamps lit on ghats from Ravidas Ghat to Rajghat on the last day of the festival. The sight of the million lamps lighting the ghats and river in colors is a breathtaking sight.
I reached on the third day of the festival and Dev Deepawali in Varanasi was on the second day of my trip to the holy city. I had done an early morning boat tour with my hostel and it was a good experience. So, I asked my hostel if they are planning an evening boat ride also. They were affirmative but not sure about the cost due to heavy rush. I preferred to pay little extra to them instead of looking for a boat from Ghat. After making arrangements for my evening tour, I decided to explore the ghats and city.
I planned to take a boat ride during the day on Ganga and called up the boatman. We decided to meet on the road leading to Harishchander Ghat later. There was time for boat trip so, I decided to go to the older part of Varanasi. The city was jam packed with people on the day of Dev Deepawali. Some of the roads near the temple area were closed for vehicles so that they can accommodate the people walking on the road. There were a sea of people near Kashi Vishwanath (Golden Temple) area and long queues to enter the temple. The roads were bustling with people from all over India.
I reached the Ghat and boatman told me that only a small boat, which can accommodate two people is available. He told all big boats are being painted and decorated for the evening. The small boat looked very unstable but I decided to take a ride in it.
I saw there were lots of people taking bath in Ganga and floating lamps in the river to pay respect. On the stairs of Ghats young, old and children were fixing or placing oil lamps for the evening. The process of placing the lamps starts from early morning because it’s a big task to place millions of lamps and then pour oil in them.
From the boat, I saw that everyone from locals to the tourists were in festival mode except on the Manikarnika Ghat where the process of burning pyres was happening as a daily routine.
After the boat tour, I had fruit lassi from the Blue Lassi shop before coming back to the hostel to relax and rejuvenate for the evening trip.
I reached Harishchander Ghat with other fellow travelers from hostel before sunset and noticed that everyone on the ghats were in high spirit. After spending some time on Ghats, we boarded our boat. It started getting dark and people started lighting the lamps on ghats. We started our boat tour from the northern Ravidass Ghat, there were so many boats in the Ganga. Some of the Ghats looked spectacular and it was an amazing sight. Our boat went from north to south and we saw beautiful lights everywhere. On two Ghats they were busting crackers and it was a synchronized show. I usually don’t prefer crackers due to the noise and air pollution they but I must say that they had put up a good show.
Our boat reached the Dashashwamedh Ghat, there I saw at least hundreds of boats near the Ghat to watch the Aarti, place was jam packed. Our boatman parked the boat at a good place and we watched the Aarti from distance. There were some cultural performances also after the Aarti on temporary stage they had made on river Ganga. Our boat didn’t have a good view to watch the program so boat moved back to sailing in Ganga.
I noticed that some of the places across the river were also decorated with lights and there was a “Mela” (Fair) kind of atmosphere. There was so much energy in the environment.
After spending around 2.5 hours on the boat, we came back to ghats. The lamps at some places were quenching, I spent some time walking around on ghats admiring the spirit of the city before returning to my hostel.
It was a great experience and I felt so happy that I was able to become part of such a festival.