Wednesday, May 10, 2017

1011. Ghats of Varanasi....!

A boat ride along the river Ganga at Kashi provides the mammoth view of numerous Ghats there. Ghat is a place where Hindus burn the mortal remains on the wooden pyre. The divinity of Kashi lies in the unique combination of physical, metaphysical and supernatural elements associated with our self. Ghats of Kashi are natural supplement to the concept of divinity and hence considered as the one which liberates the Jeevatma from the bondage of Samsara.

They say “Kasyam Maranam Mukti” hence it is the land where people come to shed their mortal coils. Our body is associated with Pancha Tattva (Five elements namely Space, Air, Fire Water and Earth). After the mortal coils are shed the body is confined to Fire element and in turn is absorbed by water, space, air and earth.

That is how the connection between cosmic order and harmonic relationship between Brahmanda (Micro Cosmos) and Pindanda (Micro Cosmos) is established through interlink of Meso Cosmos (which are the Ghats). Puranas mention that Maharudradeva whispers the Taraka Mantra in the ear of the dead here so that the Jeevi can cross Vaitarni River in the land of Yamaraja.

There are now only two Ghats where the burning of the mortal remains is allowed. Harishchandra Ghat and Manikarnika Ghat.

Harishchandra Ghat named after the descendent of Ikshvaku dynasty Raja Harishchandra who has his name associated with Satya (Truth).

Once Rishi Vishwamitra and Rishi Vashishta have a debate and Vishwamitra claims that there is no one in this universe who will never tell a lie. Rishi Vashishta who was the kula guru of Ikshvaku Vamsha tells that his disciple, Raja Harishchandra is the one who will never utter a lie or cheat anyone. Rishi Vishwamitra wants to disprove the claim and puts Raja Harishchandra to test asking for the kingdom as Dakshina (Ritual fee). Raja Harishchandra generously gave up the entire kingdom. Viswamitra accepted the kingdom but let it remain with Raja for the time being and tells him that he will accept it in near future.

After a few years there is famine and the King uses the wealth in the treasury and seeing this as an opportunity Rishi Vishwamitra comes to claim the kingdom. To compensate the treasure used in famine, Harishchandra sells his wife and son into slavery. In Kashi, he devoted himself as a worker in a crematorium under Dom Raja, Veera Bahu. He is no longer Raja Harishchandra now his identity is Veeradasa, the servant of Veera Bahu. 

The one time Emperor of Saptamahadwipas (seven continents) is now working as the assistant to the incharge of the Ghat. This is all because of the clash of ego among Rishi Vishwamitra & Rishi Vashishta.

Veeradasa had to collect the crematorium fee, rice and vastra to allow the cremation. He also had to see that the mortal remains is completely turned to ashes. From the thus collected, he had to give the crematorium fee to Dom Raja and keep the rice and vastra for his use.

One day his wife arrives at Kashi with the dead body of their son. His wife who is now a slave cannot afford the crematorium fee nor the rice and vastra. Harishchandra tells her he can afford to let go the rice and vastra which is his part but she has to pay the crematorium fee which belongs to Dom Raja. He is firm on the decision and asks her to fetch the fee. Rishi Vishwamitra accepts that Raja Harishchandra is indeed honest.

The Dom Raja who is in-charge of the cremation is overwhelmed by the behaviour of Raja and names the Ghat as Harishchandra Ghat.

When we arrived at the Manikarnika Ghat we could see three pyres burning and a few waiting for the Dahana Samskara. There is no time limit and the burning happens nonstop.

The Ghat for its tranquillity attracts many foreign tourists who are amazed looking at the way the oldest religion of the world disposes the dead.

Here death is a celebration and people come here to stay at the old age homes like Mumukshu Bhavan waiting for the eleventh hour to fade away. The smoke engulfed at the Ghat area irrespective of day or night making the place Eternal.

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