Welcome to Varanasi, a city of strange sights where frogs get married, babies are miraculously born, and a child's future is decided in a special food ceremony. This holy city is brimming with traditions, rituals, festivals and more. While every event is celebrated with equal gusto here, today we’re taking you through some very interesting, exciting and extraordinary ceremonies.
Before we begin, please keep an open mind and know that the people of Varanasi are extremely religious and hold their traditions very close to their hearts. Respect and honour their city and way of life just like you would with any other. And don’t worry, we’ve also created a special calendar for you at the end of the blog.
So let’s begin with the play of the legendary war between good and evil, Ramnagar’s very own Ram Leela.
1. Ram Leela Of Ramnagar
The Ram Leela Festival in Ramnagar is one of the most celebrated events in Kashi. Long ago, it was a big show put up for the king of the city. Every night, the king would come, sit on his elephant and watch. The show only began when the king arrived.
Even today, the festival has that royal feeling. When you watch it, you feel like you're a part of something grand. It's amazing to see it happening right in front of you. People who come to watch also pray for the actors and the people who create the show.
In the show, they depict the story of Lord Ram, his adventures and how he fought Ravana to save his wife Sita. It's like a colourful and lively painting coming to life. People from all over love to see this story acted out on stage.
2. Bharat Milap
Bharat Milap takes place after a Ram Leela performance. Even though it's a part of the show, Bharat Milap is celebrated separately.
It's a tiny moment in the story when something really nice happens. It's when Ram, who had been away for a long time, finally comes back to his home city Ayodhya. There, he meets his brother Bharat, who had been waiting eagerly for him.
The meeting between Ram and Bharat is like a flash - it happens so quickly, just 1 to 3 seconds! But it's really special. To celebrate this moment, people gather at a place where many roads come together in a circle. They block the roads for a little while, and people from far away come to see this special meeting.
Even though these days, many people live in small families and might not have a lot of time to spend with everyone, this event gives them a warm feeling of family. It's like a reminder of how important family is and how good it feels to be together, even if it's just for a short moment.
3. Frog Marriage
This by far will intrigue you the most!
A long time ago in Varanasi, when there was too much rain that harmed the crops and farms, villagers performed a frog marriage. This was a special ancient ceremony to try and stop the heavy rains.
During this ceremony, the village leaders called the panchayat, would come together and pick two frogs and dress them up like a bride and groom. Just like in human weddings, they performed all the rituals for the frogs. They prayed for the rain to calm down. After the ceremony, they released the frogs near the nearest water bodies.
But things have changed. Rain isn't as big of a problem in Varanasi nowadays. So, the frog marriage ceremony isn't done very often anymore. However, even though it isn't so common, it's still very important to the local people. It's a part of their history and customs, something that's deeply connected to the traditions of Varanasi.
4. Panch Koshi Parikrama
The word "Parikrama" means to go around something in a circle. In this case, it means going around the holy city and visiting the temples to seek blessings.
The journey takes place in Varanasi itself where people visit 108 temples of the city. It's like a pilgrimage where they show their respect and devotion to the gods. In the past, people used to walk this journey without wearing any shoes. But now, many use vehicles.
This journey is about 58 kilometres long and has five stops where people can rest. People start this journey on a day called Shivratri which is usually done during the months dedicated to Lord Shiva in the Hindu calendar, which are known as "Shiva months."- Sawan, Bhadrapada, and Kartika. However, nowadays, people do this journey at other times too if it's more convenient for them.
The journey starts and ends at Manikarnika Ghat, a very famous ghat in Varanasi. Before starting, people make a special wish, which is called a "Sankalp." They ask for something they really want while doing this journey.
People usually do this journey in a group, with family or friends. It's like a shared adventure where they pray together and support each other along the way.
5. Chhath Puja
Though mainly celebrated by people from Bihar, Chhath Puja has become popular in Varanasi due to its close connection with water bodies, especially the holy Ganges River. People believe that performing the rituals near the Ganga in Varanasi adds extra significance to the puja.
In Varanasi, women devotees start preparing for Chhath Puja days ahead. They reach the ghats early, sometimes even a few days before the puja day, to secure a spot for the rituals since there's a huge crowd and they want to ensure they have a suitable place to perform the puja. In some cases, family members even sleep at the ghats to hold the spot.
The priests in Varanasi have also found a lucrative business during this time. They sell specific places for the Chhath Puja rituals to devotees, allowing them to perform their worship with more convenience and space.
In Varanasi, Chhath Puja is a time of devotion, togetherness, and seeking blessings for a prosperous life.
6. Nag Nathaiya
Well, we’re called the land of snakes for a reason.
Nag Nathaiyya mainly takes place in Mathura because it's connected to Lord Krishna. But in Varanasi, every event is a celebration! The story behind Nag Nathaiyya is about Bal Krishna, who was playing with his friends near a river where a dangerous snake (naga) lived. The villagers were really scared that they didn't even drink water from the river.
One day, while playing with his friends, Lord Krishna threw a ball into the river on purpose. He went into the water to get the ball, but the snake tried to squeeze him by wrapping its body around him. But Krishna, being very powerful, easily escaped from the snake's grip. He pulled the snake out of the water and stood on one of its heads. He then started performing a cosmic dance and though he was small, he carried the weight of the entire universe on his tiny feet and defeated the snake.
Nowadays, in Varanasi, this amazing scene is recreated between two special places by the river: the Assi ghat and the Rewa ghat. Skilled boatmen take on the role of Krishna and perform on a big fake snake. People from all over India come to see this performance that lasts for only about 5 minutes. It's a really exciting event!
7. Anna Prashan
When we said a child's future in Kashi is decided in a special food ceremony, this is what we meant!
The Anna Prashan ceremony celebrates a baby turning 6 months old. At this age, the baby can start eating solid food.
During the ceremony, a "Maha Bhog" with 55 different food items is prepared. But that's not all - there are also special items that represent different jobs, like footballs for sports, books for learning, and stethoscopes for doctors. The family believes that whatever things the baby likes or touches might show what job they could do when they grow up.
The first bite of solid food is given to the baby by their father's sister- "bua." After that, other relatives take turns feeding the baby tiny bits of various foods. It's a fun and joyful moment, with everyone sharing in the baby's new adventure of eating different foods.
This ceremony is a bit like a party. It's not just about yummy food; it's about family and caring for the baby's future.
8. Lolark Shashthi
Lolark Shashthi is a special event that happens at the Lolark Kund in Varanasi, a place in India. People believe that if a couple is finding it difficult to have a baby, they can go to this kund, which is like a pond, take a dip in its water, and they might get blessed with a baby. Many couples have done this, and it has worked for them. They leave behind the clothes they wore while taking the dip and come back later with a baby.
There's also a story about a king who had a bad skin condition. He came to the Lolark Kund searching for a cure. He was told that if he took a dip in the kund and got better, he had to give up his kingdom. Since that time, many people with skin problems have come here hoping for healing.
Another interesting theory is that a long time ago when the sun god Lord Surya came to Earth, the first place his eyes landed was the Lolark Kund. It's a special place to pray to the sun god because of this story.
And there you have it, a city like none other! The beauty of Kashi lies in its faith, traditions, religion and celebrations. If you ever happen to visit this holy city, do try and take part in these celebrations and feel your vibration and aura shift to a higher frequency!