The Celebration of Sleeping
In the Holy City of Death.
It was the 7th of April 2022. The clock strikes 10:30 at night, and the temple complex of Shri Kashi Vishwanath gets ready for the concluding program of the day — Shayan Aarti — the celebration of putting Vishwanath Maharaj to sleep. What followed, was one of the best experiences of my life. 40 mins of surreal bliss.
It is something you can only taste yourself and words can do no justice to what you witness in “The Shri Kashi Vishwanath Shayan Aarti Experience”. But here I am making an attempt to describe this nearer-to-god experience.
All through my graduation days (2016 -20) in Varanasi, my amma would insist that I take the darshan of Vishwanathji at least once a month. Given the uncertain crowd and waiting time in the queue, I found a jugaad which is no less than a boon., to visit the temple during the Shayan Aarti time when there is no queue and when you can stay right outside the garbha-griha for as long as the aarti lasts. And this has been my hack for getting the darshan of Baba Vishwanath atleast once a month for about 3 years.
Fast forward to April 2022
Back in the city of Baba Vishwanath for my convocation, for the first time after the lokarpan of the Vishwanath Corridor and the renovated Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex. I was raring to visit the KVT in its Bhavy roop.
As always I chose to visit the temple for the Shayan Aarti. I was awestruck at first sight of the marvellous temple complex— and what followed was one of the most memorable 40 minutes of my life.
The temple complex which 2 years ago has been congested and jammed was now a tremendous-looking marvel.
Aarti dekhne ka nahi sunne ka hota hai!
Before the aarti begins, The (non-local) devotees flock around the garbha-griha in all 4 directions trying to get a glimpse of Baba Vishwanath fully decorated with garlands. And as the aarti begins, the local devotees — who attend the aarti almost every day — catch up by singing aloud the Aarti bhajans together aggrandizing the whole vibe of the space.
That is when you realize Aarti dekhne ka nahi, sunne ka hota hai!
As you begin to lose yourself in the sound vibrations of the energetic bhajan coupled with harmonious clapping of hands, you begin to feel nearer to the almighty.
The Aarti is an expression and experience of Love.
Love of the devotees for their beloved Baba Vishwanath, and the Love of Baba Vishwanath who reciprocates instantaneously. Let me try to explain,
Attention to detail — is a symptom of Love.
The love of the priests — After offering nectarean dishes during the Shringar Aarti (9:30 pm), the priests make arrangements for putting Baba Vishwanath to sleep. They begin with decorating Baba Vishwanath with colourful garlands and his favourite ornament. And arrange a cot, water jug, hand fan and everything else needed for a comfortable sleep — all made of silver — inside the garbha-griha.
The love of the devotees — The devotees start assembling around the garbha-griha 15 mins. Some anticipate eagerly and patiently for the aarti to begin, while some join hands in making the arrangements outside the garbha-griha.
And once the aarti begins, you’ll find everyone singing and clapping at the best of their energy. And making gestures based on the lyrics of the bhajan being sung.
I once read a line written by an exalted saint, which says “Attention to detail — is a most basic symptom of Love.” And it is so true in this case, the attention the priests and devotees put in for the aarti is awe-inspiring.
The whole experience was so refreshing that you would probably never get bored of it. Last December when I was in Banaras for 10 days, I attended the Shayan Aarti every other day.
To sum it up, this is one of the experiences I keep craving more. It’s a nearer-to-god experience featuring an exuberance of love and devotion.
If you happen to be in Banaras anytime, don’t miss this under-known gem of an experience. Most tour guides and bloggers are not aware of this.
If you live in Banaras, nothing better than that. Just attend it once and I’m sure you’ll keep going back for it often.
Spread Love. Cheers!