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Notes on the Geography of Northern India: Varanasi Puja

Every day at dawn and dusk, entrepreneurial priests with turf rights to sections of important ghats conduct the ritual of arati, in which fire is offered to the goddess Ganga. Accompanying the ritual is a hymn (stuti).  The hymn text offered here comes from Kelly Alley, an anthropologist who heard it sung in Hindi at the Panchganga Ghat, translated it, and published it in On the Banks of the Ganga (2002).

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Northern India: Varanasi Puja picture 1

The evening setup at the Dusasvemedh Ghat.  The hymn will be sung by a priest (panda) who sits before the microphone while four assistants act out in the ritual in tandem.

Northern India: Varanasi Puja picture 2

"Salutation, darsan, puja removes sin....

Northern India: Varanasi Puja picture 3

"King Bhagirath did this for the well-being of humanity.

Giver of devotion, liberation, peace, and freedom....

Northern India: Varanasi Puja picture 4

"King Bhagirath did this for the well-being of humanity.

Auspicious deeds and service done....

Northern India: Varanasi Puja picture 5

"King Bhagirath did this for the well-being of humanity.

Remover of distress, danger, and provider of wealth....

Northern India: Varanasi Puja picture 6

"King Bhagirath did this for the well-being of humanity.

Knowledge of Brahman, yajna [ritual sacrifice], complete understanding....

Northern India: Varanasi Puja picture 7

"King Bhagirath did this for the well-being of humanity.

Karma, knowledge, and devotion [bhakti]....

Northern India: Varanasi Puja picture 8

King Bhagirath did this for the well-being of humanity.

Ramanandi, free from all worldly attachments, was made the teacher of Vaishnav.

Sarvodaya [well-being for all], Siva in this world, auspicious, all being, transcendent."

For over an hour, a crowd watched intently.


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