Ganga Aarti at Dasaswamedh ghat, close to Kashi Vishwanath Temple, is one of the prime attractions of Varanasi. It starts just after sunset, with a bunch of young men choreographing to the chantings, holding the lamps.
1. People start to assemble at Dashashwamedh Ghat. A sense of palpable excitement runs through the people, a good mix of the local population who have grown used to the sight and spectacle, tourists, who are awed by the sheer strength of people and the aarti itself, and the faithful, to whom Banaras holds immense religious significance.
2. A little priest, or pandit prepares for the aarti. Square wooden ledges, upon which they prepare and conduct prayer, extend from the stairs that lead into the waters of the Ganga.
3. Beginning in full might, the five main pujaris – conducting the puja, begin the aarti to an audience that extends from the ghats onto over a hundred boats or so, full of people in awe and prayer. Taken from one from among the many boats perched at the ghats then.
4. A woman watches the aarti from a distance.
5. Thousands watch.
6. From the boats, hundreds watch and pray along as the aarti proceeds.
7. In prayer.
8. Meanwhile, money is collected. Beyond the strong sense of faith, a powerful economic structure – that monetizes any and every aspect of the people’s faith – drives the entire event.
9. Crowds thicken as the aarti moves to its end.
10. People dissipate upon the aarti ending.
You can see the remaining photos of the series here.