There’s something magical about rivers. Silent and serene most of the times, and yet devastatingly powerful when they choose. The Ganges, especially when you are in Varanasi, is one of them. The best time to gaze at its beauty is early in the morning, just before the sun rises, from any of the 85 ghats that dot the bank.
The highlights of a visit to Kashinath temple is to make it for the first aarti, or prayer offering. It’s offered before the sun rises, between 3 and 4 am every day. However, you need to be there much before that, as there normally is a long line to enter the temples, with police trying their best to man crowds that would have already formed two or three lines in the narrow lane.
As the main event of the day in the temple, it’s the best time to see the original lingam without any of the floral offerings. Immediately after, the views of the lingam are shuttered temporarily before they are opened once again, to reveal the lingam in all its glory, decorated with fresh flowers and garlands.
After paying obeisance, accepting prasad and praying at the other smaller temples within, make your way out of the temple and head to Manmandir Ghat. Away from the busy streets, even so early in the morning, this place feels like bliss.
Also known as Someswara Ghat, it was built by Maharaja Man Singh of Amer and dates to 1600. With stray dogs, sadhus, drifters and trinket sellers for company, sitting by the banks of the river here is an excellent way to enjoy an early morning chai, or three.
And then, even before the sun has risen, and the horizon begins to take on a hue of its own, there’s a sense of peace. Surreal, and yet so tranquil, it feels like a different time all together. As your eyes wander the length and breadth of the river, it’s the small things that catch your eye. The waves as they gently sway the boats anchored to each other. The ever-changing skies as they turn from dark grey to crimson and orange. The dog as it warms itself in an ash pit. Or the trinket seller who’s befriended you and is sitting admiring the view with you, while she tells you her life story. Aah, to be back to Varanasi.