Varanasi, city of light, abode of Lord Shiva.
This is a city which is like no other place on earth. While it is up to date with touch screen phones other gadgets, it is like walking back in time, perhaps 150 years. The ghats span the whole East side of the city and spralling westwards from there are the alleyways which house generations of families carying on and upholding the traditional way of life is fast slipping away from the main cities of the country.
The place where Saints who have temples named after them walked the very same slabs as exist today. Some believe that Shiva, Vishnu and Parvati also walked these same walkways. Is it any wander then that bhakti, devotion and ritual is still so strongly prevalent here?
Music is a strong part of these rituals and devotional life. The Laws of Manu state that song expediates sin. A Japa-yajna is said to be 10 times more meritorious than a Vidhi-yajna (ritualistic sacrifice). The muttering of a Mantra in a low or inaudible tone is 100 times, and a Manasa Japa is 1000 times more meritorious. Song is said to be even more meritorious as Pranava, the sacred sound of the Universe, is synoymous to Brahma.
Another term for Varanasi, is Banaras. “Bana’ is the root of the verb to make and “ras” means juice; essence; sap. It also denotes the core sentiment or emotion and is also the name of a whole theory of Indian aesthetics. Varanasi truly lives up to this name.