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A magical flower and candle ceremony in Varanasi, India

Varanasi in northern India has a magical atmosphere that multiplies by approximately 10 million* times as darkness begins to fall*.
*This may not be an entirely accurate figure but I’m sure it’s close.

It is the holiest city in India so it isn’t surprising that the spiritual vibe makes it such an incredible place for both tourists and pilgrims to visit.

At dusk the Ganga Aarti ceremony is performed whereby small offerings are given to the Goddess Ganga. An aarti is a devotional ritual using fire and it’s common to place a small candle inside a cup made from leaves and flowers and float it down the river. The ritual happens every single day but it still has an intense and magical feeling.

We took a small rowing boat just before dark and had plenty of aartis to float down the Ganges. As we placed each one in the water we were told to make a wish and watch it float away.

Placing my last aarti in the river was strangely emotional as I watched my final wish be swept away from me.

Boat ride at dusk in Varanasi, India

boat ride on the ganges

sunset flower ceremony

candel ceremony river ganges

candle ceremony in india

candle india

candles in the ganges

Darkness had fallen by the time the last wish had disappeared out of sight and we carried on up the river to witness a more energetic ritual.

We headed to a holy ghat which is basically a series of steps leading down to the holy water. Young men dance at the top of the steps to a choreographed performance involving fire and chanting while the thick, heady scents of sandalwood mingle through the huge crowd giving it an electric atmosphere.

ritual in varanasi

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It is possible to pay to get close to the performance but most people arrive by boat and watch the ritual from the water. The boats create a huge wooden platform and people hop across them to get closer to the front.

It’s an intense experience with the drumming, chanting, singing, fire and strong incense as well as the huge crowds of people who have travelled from all over India to witness the holy ceremony.

And if you can tear your eyes away from the performance I recommend turning back to look at the river where you’ll see hundreds of tiny aartis floating off into the distance and you’ll understand why.

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10 Comments

  1. September 5, 2013 / 7:10 am

    This sounds almost magical!

  2. September 8, 2013 / 12:08 am

    I absolutely adored Varanasi last year. Such a deeply spiritual & religious place! Aarti (evening prayers) on the water was stunning!

    • September 8, 2013 / 11:28 am

      I thought so too. I few people have told me they didn’t like it but it was by far my favourite place in India.

  3. October 15, 2013 / 12:20 am

    Varanasi also called Banaras is definitely a magical place. Those who are religiously inclined will like this place. Lovely photos, takes me back. I used to live there when I was small.

  4. January 13, 2014 / 4:38 am

    I heard that Varanasi is the best place and also magical too. There we can get a good magical flowers. The snapshots that you shared in this post are looking amazing. After getting through your blog I’ve a plan in mind to visit that place. Thanks for sharing this great post.

  5. March 18, 2014 / 12:12 pm

    Varanasi is the one of the best magical place in India. It is also called as Banaras. Here we can get a good magical flowers with great fragrance. I’m glad to come to your blog and it is looking great with the snapshots. It is showing your excellent photography, thanks for sharing.

  6. Nicole
    January 27, 2016 / 8:10 am

    Varanasi was by far one of my favourite places in India…there is something so magical about the celebration of life and death in such close proximity along the Holy River. It’s definitely a city I will return to and spend longer! Great shots 🙂

  7. February 6, 2016 / 12:05 am

    I really enjoyed your description and beautiful photos – brought me right back! <3

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