VARANASI, India — Evening brought a celebration to Dashashwamedh Ghat, just steps from my hotel.
The name Dashashwamedh means “ten-horse sacrifice,” marking the spot where Lord Brahma carried out the act — and in actuality during the second century. But there were no equine attendees at this nightly Agni Pooja (“Worship to Fire”) celebration, which involved loud music, giant incense plumes, synchronized dances and some pyrotechnics under the lighted archways along the Ganga.
The Ganga Sevi Nidhi website explains the spirit of the revelry:
Mother Ganga is revered with Ganga Pujan, Aarti and Bhajans by GSN to inculcate the sense of piousness among people every morning and evening round the year. Aarti with Shodashopachar (16 different worship items) is an all-encompassing hearty bonding and welcome offered to Mother. Ganga conjures up the vision of a great civilization and is an integral part of our legend, religion, culture, history, geography and environment. Immortal Kashi set an example for the whole world to live for immortality, to work for humanity, to breathe for universal welfare, and to realise divinity that is the ultimate goal of life.
Afterward, I wandered away from the ghats and into the main part of the city, where the crowds were considerable, and some of the stores were curious to me.
One shop featured busts of what I imagined might be historical figures and deities, possibly made of plaster. The sign above the store appeared to be entirely in Hindi, which I cannot read.
Another storefront featured fashion-forward dolls and fancy, sparkly outfits; next to those were more dolls that were slightly wonky, likely less expensive, and guaranteed not to come to life unexpectedly or give you nightmares. That was my hope, at least.