Travel day…We’ve arrived in Khajuraho…The evening Hindu ritual at the Ganges River…Great news to celebrate my birthday today!…

The nine umbrellas represent the nine planets. Hindus value every aspect of the earth and the universe.

Wow! What a fantastic surprise last night when the email came in from the law firm notifying us that our visa waiver had been approved. No longer are we “undesirables” in South Africa for overstaying our visa by three months while I was recovering from open-heart surgery. We can’t stop smiling.

Also, today is my 72nd birthday. It became significant as the best birthday gift I could receive when material items didn’t fit into our bags, and thus, we didn’t purchase gifts for one another.
One of the seven of the priest stations celebrating with fire.

We just arrived at the beautiful Ramada Khajuraho. We found our room impeccable and luxurious, on the first floor with a stunning view of the flower gardens surrounding the gated property. What a relief from our last less-than-desirable hotel in Varanasi that is behind us now.

The flight from Varanasi to Khajuraho was quick and uneventful on pleasant India Airlines. However, we boarded a half-hour later than anticipated and didn’t know the gate number until moments before boarding. Otherwise, everything was smooth.

The priests are young and agile, performing the ritual perfectly synchronized and with grace and ease.

It feels good to be in somewhat of a remote area for the next 48 hours, and then we’re on the move again. However, for now, we have two stories to share with photos of Varanasi before we detail our visit here.

For today, we’re posting the photos from the nightly celebration on the Ganges River after we’d experienced the sunrise ritual earlier in the day. With little time remaining until we head out for dinner to celebrate my birthday, which by the way, is on 02 20 2020 (that will never happen again), I am forced to rush through some of the details of the nightly Aarti celebration as I include these photos.
From the balcony where we were seated, we had a bird’s eye view.

The experience was breathtaking. By luck or planning by our tour guide Avi, we ended up watching the entire spectacle from a balcony above the crowd. As we looked around, we realized we had the “best seats in the house.”

There were thousands of people in attendance, many standing, seated in plastic chairs lined up row after row for the early attendees. It was quite a crowd. Many were tourists, but the majority appeared as locals and other Indian people who’d traveled from all over India for this important pilgrimage.

This is a view of all seven priests during the ceremony.

This celebration was unique from the border ceremony we’d posted a few days ago. The crowd was respectfully quiet and in awe of the several priests serving the ritual from a designated station, decorated with flowers, incense, and fire. It was quite a spectacle, especially with bells and cymbals clanging and loud music wafting from a massive speaker system.

Here are some details about the ritual from this site:

“Ganga Aarti is one of the most beautiful experiences in India. The spiritually uplifting ceremony is performed daily to honor the River Goddess Ganga. Every day, as dusk descends on the Earth, the ghats of the River Ganga witnesses a spectacular ceremony. Hundreds of divas, mantras, the aroma of incense, flowers, and musical instruments created an ambiance of divine bliss.
Smoke from the fire rituals wafted through the air.

The Aarti ritual is of high religious significance. Fire is used as an offering to the river. You need to witness the event to comprehend its grandiose. In this blog, we will provide a complete guide for Ganga Aarti.

Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of the Puja. This ceremony includes fire, songs sung to praise the worshiped, flowers, incense, music, etc. The purpose of Aarti is to show humility and gratitude to God’s divine form.

The priest in the center of the seven had a more elaborate station.

Ganga Aarti is a holy offering to the River Goddess. Lit lamps and flowers are floated down the river. This offering is made to the Goddess Ganga, also affectionately referred to as Maa, the Mother Goddess of the holiest river in India.

The Ganga Aarti is performed on the banks of River Ganga. The spiritual ceremony happens every evening in different cities of India, after the sun sets, be it rain, hail, or shine! The most popular Aarti ceremonies are held in the towns of Varanasi, Haridwar, and Rishikesh. It is an event one must attend once in their lifetime. However, the tradition is very different in each of these places.

VIP seating for dignitaries and officials.

Varanasi Ganga Aarti is one of the most beautiful religious ceremonies in the world. It takes place every sunset at the holy Dashaswamedh Ghat, near Kashi Vishwanath Temple. This divine ritual is a highly choreographed ceremony. The Aarti is performed on a stage on the river banks. A group of young Pandits, all draped in saffron-colored robes, raise huge brass lamps in honor of the River Goddess. The extravaganza is fantastic, and you will certainly want more of it.

The ceremony commences with blowing a conch shell, which is believed to eliminate all negative energy and heighten your senses. The waving of incense sticks in elaborate patterns and the circling of large flaming lamps follow. The movement of the lights is synchronized to the rhythmic chants of hymns and the music of cymbals. The heady scent of sandalwood thickly permeates the air. The Aarti is not just a ritual. It is a display of complete devotion to the River Ganga.”
A well-lit boat on the river.

The ceremony commenced around 6:30 pm and continued until 7:10 pm, where Avi reappeared to walk us through the narrow alleys to return to our hotel for dinner. 

We made our way back through many alleys and narrow streets, maneuvering our way past cows, dogs, motorbikes, and people. In the dark, the displays we encountered dozens of food vendors, fabric sellers, and trinket shops were mind-boggling. It was unbelievable. We’d never seen anything like it anywhere in the world.
The young priests are highly skilled in presenting this ceremony every evening.

We arrived back at the hotel by 8:00 pm, had a decent dinner, and wandered off the bed by 10:00 pm. We’d been up and about since 5:00 am, and a good night’s sleep was on the agenda.

As the crowds filtered into the area as many boats moved closer to the ceremonies.

The following day we began another tour with details we’ll share in tomorrow’s post. The pace we’re keeping, moving every two to three days, early mornings for flights and tours, but surprisingly, we’re both holding up well.

We were thrilled with our excellent seats on a balcony.

We arrived in India three weeks ago today, and we’re one-third of the way through our 63 days of touring (including seven days on the Maharajas Express). It’s incredible, it’s enlightening, and most of all, it’s unique beyond all of our expectations.

Chanting and music bellowed from this historic temple.

Thanks to everyone for the zillions of birthday wishes! I couldn’t feel more honored and blessed. Whew! What a day! What a life! What an experience!