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Photographer's Note

The Dasaswamedh Ghat (pronounce Das-ash-wah-medh) is the holiest of the holy ghats of Banaras (Varanasi). The photograph here is of the Sandhya Aarti (Sandhya means Evening). It is a 'must see' for anyone spending a night at Banaras.

Dasaswamedh Ghat is one of the most important Ghats of Varanasi. Dasaswamedh literally means the Ghat where ten horses were Sacrificed. According to legends ten horses were sacrificed by Lord Brahma to allow Lord Shiva to return from a period of banishment. The Ghat was renovated by Bajirao Peshava I in 1740 AD and later by the Queen of Indore, the princess Ahilyabai Holkar in 1774.
Aarti:
Aarti or arathi, aarthi (from the Sanskrit word "आरात्रिक" ) is a Hindu ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Aarti is generally performed one to five times daily, and usually at the end of a puja or bhajan session. It is performed during almost all Hindu ceremonies and occasions. It involves the circulating of an 'Aarti plate' or 'Aarti lamp' around a person or deity and is generally accompanied by the singing of songs in praise of that deva or person (many versions exist). In doing so, the plate or lamp is supposed to acquire the power of the deity. The priest circulates the plate or lamp to all those present. They cup their down-turned hands over the flame and then raise their palms to their forehead – the purificatory blessing, passed from the deva's image to the flame, has now been passed to the devotee. When aarti is performed, the performer faces the deity of God (or divine element, e.g. Ganges river) and concentrates on the form of God by looking into the eyes of the deity (it is said that eyes are the windows to the soul) to get immersed. The flame of the aarti illuminates the various parts of the deity so that the performer and onlookers may better see and concentrate on the form. Aarti is waved in circular fashion, in clockwise manner around the deity. After every circle (or second or third circle), when Aarti has reached the bottom (6–8 o' clock position), the performer waves it backwards while remaining in the bottom (4–6 o' clock position) and then continues waving it in clockwise fashion. The idea here is that aarti represents our daily activities, which revolves around God, a center of our life. Looking at God while performing aarti reminds the performer (and the attendees of the aarti) to keep God at the center of all activities and reinforces the understanding that routine worldly activities are secondary in importance. This understanding would give the believers strength to withstand the unexpected grief and keeps them humble and re mindful of God during happy moments. Apart from worldly activities aarti also represents one's self - thus, aarti signifies that one is peripheral to Godhead or divinity. This would keep one's ego down and help one remain humble in spite of high social and economic rank.

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Additional Photos by Arunava Ghose (Highmountains) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 278 W: 37 N: 570] (2255)
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