Last Updated on January 3, 2022 by asoulwindow
Ganga Aarti Varanasi Experience
The world-famous Varanasi Ganga Arti on the banks of Holy Ganga River has attracted people since many decades. In Kashi, we worship water with fire, two of the important Panch Tatvas. Whether it is the ethereal Subah-e-Banaras of the cool Assi Ghat or the grand Varanasi Ganga Aarti performed at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in evening, it makes for a visually stunning spiritual experience. The Rajendra Prasad Ghat holds another Aarti performance as well.
Ganga Aarti of Varanasi has also inspired similar Aarti sessions in many other Hindu destinations such as Rishikesh and Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh etc. I have visited all of these. You can read my detailed travel guide to these predominantly Hindu destinations.
While the Varanasi Ganga Aarti is performed on a grand scale in the evening, the Subah E Banaras is a more intimate affair. I loved both as both are so different and yet so same.
Soul Window Reflections
I was born in the holy city of Varanasi on 21st November. I do not live here any longer but I keep going back to Kashi again and again to find myself and the hidden gems of this ancient city. This blog is a sum total of all of my experiences in Varanasi.
My paternal hometown is in Baansgaon and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh near the border between India and Nepal. Bhojpuri is my mother tongue. It is a pity that unlike my family members I am not good and speaking or understanding Bhojpuri which is also one of the main languages of Varanasi.
About Varanasi Ganga Aarti
Fire has a significant role to play in Hindu rituals and traditions. The modern Hindi word Aarti has its roots in the ancient Sanskrit word ārātrika. The literal meaning of ārātrika is one that removes darkness. True to its name, Aarti has been performed since times immemorial, albeit on a smaller scale.
The grand Aarti celebrations on the Dashashwamedh Ghat, Rajendra Prasad Ghat and Assi Ghat is a recent thing to do in Varanasi. It has not always been like this.
Needless to say, fire plays an instrumental role in performing Varanasi Ganga Aarti as well! Huge fire lamps are raised up and down in the air by the young male pujaris or priests. While performing Deep Aradhana, they also keep changing their direction as they pray so that everyone has a good view of the aarti ritual. The raising of lit pyramidal oil lamps is the highlight of Varanasi Ganga Aarti. This is when Aarti reaches its crescendo.
I found it quite similar to the Aarti I saw in Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh and Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar in Uttarakhand. That said, the Aarti at Varanasi is still the grandest one.
Which Ghat is famous in Varanasi for Aarti?
The most famous and popular ghat for the aarti celebrations is the Dashashwamedh Ghat. Lakhs of people visit this ghat every day. Every inch of its space is occupied during the Varanasi Ganga Aarti. No wonder Varanasi Ganga Aarti is a must-see experience here.
Dashashwamedh Ghat is also the most important of ghats of Varanasi. Hindus firmly believe that Brahma ji himself had created this Ghat to welcome Shiv Bhagwan into the holy city of Varanasi. The literal meaning of Dashashwamedh Ghat is 10 Ashwamedha Yagyas.
Why Ganga Aarti Varanasi is performed on banks of Ganga
The much-revered Ganga River is the holiest and most important river of not just North India but all of India. Since ancient times, the river has nurtured the people living on its shores. The Hindus or Sanatanis consider Ganga River as their mother. This is why Hindu pilgrims offer prayer to Maa Ganga or Ganga Maiyya which means mother Ganga.
The Ganga Aarti too is a more glamorous form of offering prayers to Ganga ji. Much of the everyday activity of local people and the tourism industry of Varanasi is centered around Ganga River. Ganga River flows all the way from Indian Himalayas and meet the sea at the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal.
In Varanasi, Ganga Maa flows in the North direction from South. Hindus believe that it is an auspicious thing that Ganga flows in reverse direction here. Varanasi is the only place where Ganga River is Uttar Vahini. This is why you will often hear locals say, “Kashi mein Ganga bhi ulti disha mei behti hai” In Varanasi, even Ganga River flows in opposite direction!
Soul Window Thoughts
Certain uneducated foreigners find it amusing and even ridicule worthy when they see Hindus worship Sun, Moon, stars, trees, animals and rivers. Forget foreigners, even some unevolved actor directors of Indian Bollywood have taken liberty to make fun of ancient Hindu traditions just because it is beyond their comprehension.
But come to think of it! Isn’t it a beautiful thing to worship a river? With all our useless modern inventions, aren’t our most precious resources still the rivers, Sun, moon, animals and birds? As we are transitioning towards the Sat Yuga, aren’t you seeing an unprecedented number of people, both Indians and foreigners going back to ancient Hindu traditions, one of the oldest religions in the world!
During my trip to Apatani village Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh in North East India, I was impressed to see how the local Donyi Polo people worship Sun too! They have much in common with Hinduism and have resisted the forced invasion of Christianity well over the years.
Subah-e-Banaras at Assi Ghat
In Sanatan Dharm aka Hinduism, the morning hours are known as Brahma Muhurat or the God’s hour. It is the purest time of the day and also the time when the human mind is at its sharpest! For most of my life, I have not been a morning person. But I am slowly realizing the benefits of waking up in the wee hours. And trying to change my sleeping pattern.
The early mornings of Kashi are special! I observed that every morning, without fail, both the local people of Varanasi as well as the pilgrims from other parts of India and world, flood the narrow alleys of Banaras as they march towards the Ganga River with an indomitable spirit and determination.
Their goal is same. To take a holy dip in Ganga Maiyya and perform various rituals such as mundane ceremony, wedding, spiritual baths and even funerals! Curious, I joined them as well, only to see some of them settling for the unmissable grand show called Subah-E-Banaras.
I had participated in ethereal morning aarti & Yoga at Assi Ghat. It was one of my most memorable mornings ever. This soulful morning is accompanied with sumptuous food fit for Gods!
The recently introduced early morning Ganga Aarti on the Assi ghat is fast gaining popularity. I have not heard of any such event in India or elsewhere! Not many wake up early to see this popular event, which is why the chances of you experiencing an Aarti from close distance is high.
As I stood there silently observing the morning Aarti process, I froze in that moment. I slipped into the realms of spirituality as the morning aarti of Kashi transported me into a spiritual coma. What I saw is hard to describe in words! The sheer energy of the Assi Ghat in the morning and the positivity it exudes is incomparable.
Female singers in their sartorial best chanted the ancient Hindu shlokas (verses) and Vedic mantras. The Panch tatva or the 5 elements are venerated viz. Chiti Jal Pavak Gagan Sameera or earth, water, fire, sky and fire.
The recital of shlokas was followed by morning aarti by young male priests, clad in their traditional Hindu attire. Their well synchronized moves had me in awe. The girls chanted along the ancient Sanskrit mantras even as the boys continued to offer prayers to Maa Ganga or as the devotees lovingly call it Ganga Maiyya.
Subah-E-Banaras is magical to say the least! This magnet of an event attracts people from all walks of life, whether it is the awe-stricken international tourist or domestic tourists. Though not everyone is a morning person, so expect less crowds here!
This is also why chairs are laid for the audience to see the morning Aarti in peace! Subah-e-Banaras in Varanasi is a very recent event and was started in November 2014 by the state Government of Uttar Pradesh. Since then, Subah-e-Banaras at Assi Ghat has been a must do experience in Varanasi.
Soul Window Observations
I stopped taking pictures and took a moment to observe the divine atmosphere of Subah-E-Benaras. The fragrance of aromatic fresh marigold flowers wafted through the air even as the sounds of blowing conch shell and brass bells added a certain je nais se quois which made the atmosphere Godly!
It is only in Varanasi that you can enjoy classical music renditions in the wee hours and watch people in deep meditation on the banks of the ancient river Ganga. Practicing meditation and Yoga on the banks of Varanasi is what most people head to this city for!
After the Subah-e-Banaras aarti ceremony was over, I hopped on to the popular early morning boat ride that lasted more than 30 minutes. I could not have imagined or asked for a better denouement than an ethereal boat ride from the world famous Assi Ghat to Dasashwamedh Ghat.
The morning boat ride was followed by a visit to the Tulsidas Akhada where we saw exciting Kushti Dangals or wrestling matches between the locals pahalwans (wrestlers).
My morning tour ended with a lip-smacking breakfast at a popular eating joint located near the ghats of Kashi. We had delicious Sabzi, Puri and Jalebi at the crowded Sri Ram Bhandar near the ghats area. If you have a larger appetite, you may as well explore the local places which are known for their sumptuous food.
Soul Window Observations
I found it to be a surreal morning. It felt as if the sunrise at the Assi Ghat symbolized hope and instilled the belief that in spite of the darkness, every morning the sun will rise again, spreading abundant light and refreshing positivity.
The morning Aarti starts at Assi Ghat at 05:00 a.m. If you choose to take a boat ride and go on a breakfast trail, expect to wind up by 09:00 a.m. Below are the details of Subah-e-Banaras Timings:
Summer Timings: 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.
Winter Timings: 5:40 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
Duration of Subah-e-Banaras: 2 hours
If you are on your own, you must reach very early. However, unlike the evening aarti, the Subah-e-Banaras is a calm affair.
Things you can do early morning in Varanasi:
- Wake up early and experience the ethereal sun rise from the Assi Ghat.
- Participate in the morning Aarti aka Subah-e-Banaras at Assi Ghat.
- Hop on to a soul nourishing morning boat ride on Ganga Maa.
- Explore the narrow alleys of old Kashi early morning.
- Pamper the foodie in you. Take a pick from either rooftop breakfast or desi Indian style breakfast of poori sabzi.
- Indulge in people watching as you see life pass by on the holy ghats of Kashi. Do this on a walk as well as an early morning boat ride.
- Take a hard look at the poignant cremation ghat called as Manikarnika Ghat from the safety of your boat.
Itinerary for Subah E Banaras
- If you have booked a trip with an agent, you will be picked up from your hotel or lodge to and dropped at the Assi Ghat much before 5 a.m. in Summer & before 6 a.m. in winter These are the timings for Subah-e-Banaras
- Subah-e-Banaras takes places between 5:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. everyday.
- You can expect to enjoy Ganga Aarti, classical musical show as well as Yoga sessions (optional) right on the Assi Ghat.
- Next, you will be taken on a serene 30 minutes of boat ride which starts from the Assi Ghat and ends at the Dasashwamedh Ghat. I recommend that if you are on a solo budget trip to Varanasi like I was, then you can request the boatman for a longer boat ride and you can also choose your own pace.
- Rest of the time can be explored visiting the ghats and streets of Kashi. Keep anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour for this activity.
- Wrap up your Banaras morning with a soul satisfying breakfast, like I did. I recommend indulging in a sumptuous early morning breakfast, when in Kashi. It is a good idea to explore the local delicacies rather than sampling foreign food. Having continental and American breakfast in Varanasi should qualify as a faux pas.
- If you are with a travel agent, you will be dropped back to your hotel by 10 a.m. However, if you are on a private solo trip like I was, I recommend to linger for more time on the ghats of Varanasi.
Soul Window Thoughts
Just a day spent in Varanasi made me reflect on the impermanence of our feelings, thoughts, achievements and the life itself! Varanasi does turn you a little philosophical. Yes, much more philosophical than that sunset in far-away Reunion Island that costs a bomb.
I actually spent the entire day on the ghats of Varanasi from morning to evening. There is so much to see and experience in and around the ghats area. You can spend all day here and it costs nothing! Aren’t the best things in life for free?
Summary of Subah-E-Banaras
- Take it easy with an all-inclusive pick up and drop facility from hotel, if booked a tour with an agent. Or. Arrive at Assi ghat early on your own if on a private solo trip like me.
- You can take the facility of an experienced local guide for understanding the history of Banaras. The guide fee is included in the packages. You can also independently hire a local guide.
- Catch the surreal Sun rise at the Assi Ghat.
- Pinch yourself as you see the Ganga Aarti at Assi Ghat in the wee hours.
- Enjoy the classical music renditions, right on the banks of holy Ganga Maa.
- Practice Yoga with experienced mentors.
- Take a lyrical boat ride which starts from Assi Ghat to Dasashwamedh Ghat and takes you back to Assi ghat. I suggest to go for a longer boat ride. It is worth it!
- Lose yourself in the narrow lanes and streets of Assi Ghat after the boat ride.
- Indulge in the traditional Banarasi naashta or breakfast. I had amazing Kachauri-Sabzi and Jalebi. In summers I had also tried the delicious Lassi, Mishrambu and Thandai that are commonly available near the ghats.
Soul Window Travel Tips
- If you are in a large group or even otherwise, you must hire a local professional guide
- Varanasi is photogenic. Hiring a professional Cameraman to take memorable pictures of you is also recommended. It is a great Value Addition
- It is a good idea to wear comfortable clothes suitable to the season you are visiting in.
- Although, I found it to be totally fine, but just to avoid any mishaps, you may want to opt for the footwear with grip, especially when on the Ghats area. Though I am a slippers and sandals fan because it is convenient, you can wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking involved on the ghats.
- It is easier to take pictures during the Subah-E-Banaras morning aarti because there are no crowds unlike the evening Varanasi Ganga Aarti.
- My best photography trick is to carry both a wide angle as well as a telephoto lens if you want to take good quality pictures during both morning and evening Aarti. I had carried 18-135 mm lens and 55-250 mm lens.
- Please bear in mind that during monsoon months which is July and August, boat rides in Ganga River are restricted. It also depends on the weather conditions in the rainy season.
- In the evening tour you can also enjoy a lavish Banarasi dinner.
Soul Window Observations
I found the rituals and process of the Subh E Banaras and the evening Aarti more or less same. Except that the evening aarti is very crowded and you do not always get a close view as compared to the Subh E Banaras.
Attending Aarti is an exciting thing to do in Varanasi, no matter if you are a first-time traveler or a repeat traveler.
Evening Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat
- Attend the Evening Ganga Aarti at Dashaswamedh Ghat.
- Immerse in the local life style and culture of the ancient Kashi.
- Let the poignant boat ride silence you.
- Lose your way in the busy streets and ghats of Banaras.
- Hire a local Hindi or English-speaking expert guide, if required.
The Dashaswamedh Ghat comes alive with Ganga Aarti every evening! The evening aarti is also known as the Sandhya Aarti. It is not possible that you visit Varanasi and not explore the vibrant city in the evening. The life style, chaos, culture and food options you see in evening are a pleasant departure from what you get in morning and evening.
Many tour agents offer evening tours in Varanasi – which include a memorable experience of the famous evening Ganga Aarti, walk on the Ganga Ghats, vegetarian and vegan food tour etc.
Evening ride on a boat as well as unique chats of Banaras and other mouth-watering street foods. You can very easily experience the evening tour of Kashi on your own as well. Varanasi is an easy destination! Most points of interest are located at close distance with each other.
The Evening Aarti Experience
Brace yourself for the grandest show in Kashi or maybe all of India! Everyone, be it the Hindu pilgrims or luxury travelers or budget backpackers, they throng the steps of the ghats for a mere glimpse of the aarti.
Both the Aarti ritual and the ghats of Varanasi serve as a big leveler. Every day, the stairs and viewing platforms are jampacked with Hindu pilgrims, devotees, local people, luxury travelers, backpackers, holy men aka sadhus, tourists, local media channels, photographers, film makers and what nots! The egalitarian ritual has a similar impact on all, irrespective of the depth of your pockets and level of belief in your head!
I spotted people from as diverse backgrounds as South India, Bengalis, Americans, Europeans, people from Africa. It is a lovely mélange of cultures. The melting pot of Kashi is a celebration of various faiths and traditions as it welcomes people from all walks of life. There is no one who is not allowed at the evening and morning Aarti.
Not only is the evening Ganga Aarti one of the most visually stunning ceremony I have ever seen, it is also the most spiritual one I have ever seen. The only other Ganga Aarti I can compare was the surreal Aarti I attended in Rishikesh and Haridwar, both in Uttarakhand. This is the place where the Ganga River arrives at a plain from the Himalayas.
The daily ritual of Ganga Aarti takes place every day on the Dashaswamedh Ghat, one of the holiest and popular ghats of Varanasi.
I was on a solo budget trip to Varanasi and arrived. I used the spare time to observe. On wooden tables on the platforms, I noticed ritual paraphernalia such as conch shells, massive brass fire lamps, fresh flowers, prayer bells, incense sticks, copper lotas or water pots, match boxes, the works! These are all the elements of Ganga Aarti Varanasi which are used one after the other while the aarti is on! I also observe a wet cloth which is used by the young pujaris to hold the hot fire lamps.
The jostling of the crowds stopped when the priests started the evening aarti and picked up the conch shell. As they began blowing the conch shell, the air reverberates with divine sounds.
I could not help but admire the young male priests who performed the aarti in a visually stunning and synchronized manner. They stood on a raised platforms built from wooden tables. Of the 7 wooden platforms, the central platform is reserved for the anthropomorphic idol of Maa Ganga who is adorned with garlands.
Next, the priests started to worship Ganga Maa, with prayer bells in one hand and incense sticks in another.
Now comes the most dramatic and visually appealing part that everyone in the audience had been waiting for! In Clockwise direction, the priests start moving the massive multilayered brass fire lamps. The priests also move in all 8 directions so that everyone has a good view of the Aarti.
They also lift up another fire lamp which is shaped like a Sheshnag or multi headed serpent. It reminded me of the beautiful Shehsnag sculpture I saw in Lepakshi. Do read my travel blog on Lepakshi temple in Andhra Pradesh in South India.
Next, the priests raise and wave fans made with peacock feathers which I do not approve of because it might raise the demand for unethically sourced peacock feathers. The white colored fan that followed next seemed more animal friendly!
As the unselfconscious pujaris conjure up a magical moment, the crowds watch them hypnotized. The young priests are dressed identically in an ethnic white dhoti with saffron kurta and a shining golden drape or stole. In winters they wear identical maroon sweaters. Their dress is color co ordinated and are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.
Isn’t it incredible that every evening, without fail, the young priests perform aarti in a flawless and well-choreographed performance, with the same passion, devotion and dedication which they displayed just few hours ago!
As I stood there mesmerized, the Aarti ended with a final offering of fresh flowers to the Holy Ganga Maiyya. The closing ceremony is no less interesting! The denouement is marked with priest walking up to the riverbank and pouring the holy water in the river while chanting ancient hymns. It is an extraordinary experience!
The crowds which include Sadhus and locals folded their hands and chanted in unison, ‘Jai Maa Ganga’ or ‘Jai Ganga Maiyya’ which means Hail Mother Ganga. You can also see many people singing Aarti as the rituals go on!
The divine sound of conch shells adds to the aarti experience. The fragrant incense sticks enhanced the intensity of the event even as rhythmic chant of mantras evoked a lost past! Camphor or Kapur, is used for lighting mini fires in Hindu rituals for pooja ceremonies.
The camphor used in Ganga Aarti produce tall flames, adding a certain je nai se qua grandeur to the Aarti. Not to forget, the constant background music was adding to the aura of the holy ghat, as audience observed in complete silence. It sure was an evening to remember in Banaras! Varanasi is one of the most ancient spiritual cities in India. Now you know why?
Soul Window Thoughts
Aren’t the evenings of Kashi so special, I asked myself as I watched the Aarti mesmerized! This is how it must have been thousands of years ago as well. Who knows? Although the evening aarti is a very recent phenomenon, but it represents an authentic glimpse of the ancient Hindu traditions.
No wonder Aarti is a common female Hindu name for Indian girl child. Since much before the Aarti at Kashi was a thing!
Evening Aarti tours in a nutshell
- Stand witness to the world-famous evening Ganga Aarti at Dashaswamedh Ghat
- Immerse yourself in the local Banarasi culture and lifestyle.
- Let the surreal boat ride on Ganga Maa nourish your soul.
- Queue up at the chat stalls for the appetizing food of Varanasi.
- Hire a local Hindi / English speaking guide who is an expert on all things Varanasi.
Evening Aarti from the boat
If you are looking for a unique experience and a different vantage point, try observing the Evening Aarti from a boat anchored in the middle of the Ganga River. Scores of boats huddle up, often competing to get the most coveted spot for the best views of evening aarti.
This boat service was invented when the ghats started becoming too crowded. Watching Aarti from the boat is not required for Subah-E-Benaras as there are relatively lesser number of attendees. Life jackets are provided in each boat.
After the evening aarti gets over, our boat man rode towards the Manikarnika Ghat. It was a poignant moment. Manikarnika Ghat is where Hindus are cremated in full public view.
Manikarnika Ghat is one of the holiest among the sacred riverfronts, alongside the Ganga river. In Hinduism, it is believed that dying in Banaras helps one attain moksha.
It is not every day after that a place displays the myriad colors of life and death up, close and personal!
On a boat ride from Dashaswamedh Ghat to Manikarnika Ghat and back, you will witness the
Vegetarian Food Trail
After boat ride was over, we were ushered to a walk through the Ghats and the winding streets, all of which look the same. I reconnected with my distant past I have no memory of!
Next, we headed for a vegetarian and vegan food trail. There can be no mention of Varanasi without the mention of its delectable food. I devoured umpteen local drinks thandais, thick lassis along with local assorted chaats and the famous Banarasi paans, often begging for ‘just one more please!’
Much of these shops are located in the streets and main market situated close to the Ghats. There are no second thoughts that the food in Varanasi is some of the best in the world. And it costs almost nothing. Phew!
Do remember that the during the rainy season, boating in Ganga River is restricted and subject to weather conditions.
Soul Window Thoughts
It is easy to get lost in the labyrinthine Banaras streets. But worry not, someone will always find you and align you with your path whether immediate or distant! Kashi is that kind of a place!
Best Vantage Point to see evening Aarti
On most days during the Varanasi Ganga Aarti at evening, the crowds swell. India is not deserted like Unites States of America or Australia! Crores of people live in India.
Despite such huge influx of people, there has hardly been any news of a mishap. The jostling for space is there. But no one gets violent in order to occupy the best vantage point.
Much like how the Mahaprasad at Jagannath temple of Puri in Odisha never sees a shortage, you will also never see a shortage of space to watch the evening Aarti in Banaras. Isn’t there something special about spiritual places of India!
You can choose to sit at the viewing platforms. That however restricts your movement. I prefer watching the evening Ganga Aarti at Varanasi from the stairs. It helped me get better flexibility with respect to movement for better views and pictures. If you move back and forth a bit, of course without being a nuisance to others, you will get good vantage point to take pictures and videos of the evening Ganga Aarti of Varanasi.
Watching Aarti from the boats is another option. However, do bear in mind that it restricts movement too. So, if you are a photographer or a filmmaker like me, avoid watching aarti from the boats.
Some people also climb up on the roof-top of the Ganga Sewa Nidhi office, who also organizes the Aarti ceremonies.
Soul Window Travel Tip
My personal tip is that you should arrive at Dashaswamedh Ghat very early if you are on a solo budget trip like my first trip to Varanasi was. Drink less water before you arrive so that you do not need to go to washroom often, especially in winter.
This will help you stick to your spot. Be as close to the platforms built specially for the Varanasi Ganga Aarti. And of course, keep your camera batteries charged and SD cards empty.
Also take very good care of your belongings. Pickpocketing here is easy. Since I was on a solo budget trip to Varanasi, I collected all the belongings like phone, wallet, lenses etc and kept them in my bag. I wore the bag he other way so that the main zip rests on my stomach and not back.
Evening Aarti Itinerary
- In case you have joined a private tour, you will be picked up from your place of stay. Once you arrive at the Dashaswamedh Ghat approximately at 5 p.m. you will be directed for the Evening Ganga Aarti. In case you are traveling solo and are on a low budget, I suggest to camp as early as 4 a.m. and ensure your spot.
- It is a good idea to drink less water so you do not have to go for loo breaks and lose your spot in the crowd or miss out on Aarti.
- You can also choose to see Ganga Aarti from boat at Dashaswamedh Ghat. I do not prefer it because of lack of movement and distance.
- Once Ganga Aarti is over, take a lyrical boat ride all the way from Dashaswamedh Ghat to Mankarnika Ghat and back.
- Now you are free to walk on the Ghats and streets of Varanasi.
- Hog on the delicious evening snacks such as various chaat, lassi, thandai in famous places, most of which are located close to the popular Dashaswamedh Ghat in the main market. Some of my personal recommendation for traditional Banarasi evening snacks include Choora Matar, Banarasi Chaat, Alu Tikki, Palak Chat and Tamatar Chaat at Kashi Chat Bhandar. Best drinks are Lassi, Thandai and popular sweets of Banaras are Malaiyyo (in winter), Laung Latta & Rasmalai. Also binge on the Chena Dahi Vada, Dahi Chutney Wale, Gol Gappa etc.
- The tour agents drop you back to hotel by 9 p.m. However, I recommend that you let them go and spend more time on the ghats if you have energy. I remember staying till as late as 12 a.m. on the Assi Ghat.
Evening Ganga Aarti Timings
Summer Timings: The Varanasi Ganga Aarti starts sharp at 6:45 p.m. after sun set.
Winter Timings: In winter the Aarti starts at 7 p.m.
Duration of Evening Aarti is 45 minutes.
If you are on a packaged trip, then most of the Evening Aarti tours at Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi begins at 05:00 p.m. and ends at 09:00 p.m. You can extend more if you are on a private trip in Kashi. There is significant amount of walking involved when you are in Banaras.
In fact, since I was on a flexible solo trip, I had walked all day around the ghats, taking stops in between of course. The vibrant evenings of Banaras are a memorable experience in itself!
Even though the Ganga Aarti Varanasi lasted for 45 minutes, it was so engaging that it felt like few minutes!
After the evening aarti culminates poetically, you can buy earthen lamps in a leafy dona, both of which are biodegradable and are not really polluting the vast river in any way! It is sometimes accompanied with flowers. It is a beautiful scene to see hundreds of these floating diyas or mud lamps in the river. I saw similar surreal scenes in Ayodhya during Deepawali and Haridwar on any day!
Soul Window Observations
I noticed that the Aarti at both Haridwar in Uttarakhand and Varanasi begin during or just after sun down, perhaps to accentuate the beauty of the ritual. Even the morning arti Subah E Banaras is performed in dark, just before sunrise.
Varanasi Ganga Aarti on Festivals
I jostled with massive crowds while attempting to watch Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat on the occasion of Dev Diwali which was also my birthday that year. Since it was also the auspicious Kartik Purnima, the ghats of Varanasi had more footfall as Hindu pilgrims head to Kashi to take a holy dip in the Ganga River.
Expect huge crowds during other festivals such as Ganga Mahotsav.
Where else can I see Ganga Aarti in Varanasi?
Dashashwamedh Ghat, Assi Ghat and Rajendra Prasad Ghat are not the only ghat where you can see the Varanasi Ganga aarti, whether in evening or morning. While morning aarti known as the Subah-E-Banaras happens mostly on Assi Ghat, the evening aarti happens at many big and small ghats of Varanasi.
However, if you have seen the aarti at the Assi ghat and Dashashwamedh Ghat, then you will not feel catching Aarti at every ghat. Not many travelers have the liberty of time and money. There is only one aarti you can attend in an evening after all. So, I would suggest you to keep the aarti of Assi ghat and Dashashwamedh Ghat at priority. It you still have time, then explore other ghats for Aarti.
Vishwanath temple evening Arti is also attended by many. The Shringar Aarti timing is 09.00 PM to 10.15 PM
You can catch evening aarti also at Rajendra Prasad Ghat, Gai Ghat and Vijaynagar Ghat etc. The aartis on these ghats do not always happen. Neither are they a grand show such as the aarti at Dashashwamedh ghat or Assi Ghat. Ask around the boatman or locals if any other Aarti is being scheduled in your day of visit? Of the above mentioned, Rajendra Prasad Ghat is a crowd magnet!
Entry Fees for Varanasi Ganga Aarti
There is no entry fee charged for either Subh E Banaras or the Ganga aarti at evening. Both the events are 100% free. This is why you can attend these events on your own easily like I did on my first trip.
In other nations it would have been a costly affair to attend such an event. For example, I paid a bomb to see Petra by Night in Jordan, which was nice but not as grand as the Ganga Aarti of Kashi. It is the beauty of India that commerce doesn’t invade every space of life. Some things remain sacrosanct here!
All said and done, I request that if you can, then you should donate a small amount of money to the pujaris or priests for their efforts and to sustain this activity for a long time. The priests roam with plates covered with marigold flowers for voluntary donations and you can donate whatever you are capable of.
Other priest move around with oil lamps, as devotees move their hand around the holy fire and touch their heads. This is seen as a blessing. I have grown up doing this at pooja ceremonies at home as well.
No amount is big or small and neither is anyone judging you! It is not mandatory but the least we can do to contribute to this holy tradition of Aarti.
Books on Ganga & Varanasi
I recommend that you should read below books to gain a better understanding on Ganga River and Varanasi. I prefer books on Varanasi by Indians and not foreigners as they have a better understanding and grip on the subject.
Books on Banaras By Indians
- Aimless in Banaras by Bishwanath Ghosh
- Varanasi by Milind Mulick
- Banaras: Walks Through India’s Sacred City by Nandini Majumdar
- Dar Dar Gange by Abhay Mishra & Pankaj Ramendu
- A Pilgrimage to Kashi by G Gol
Books on Varanasi by Westerners
- Ganga by Julian Crandall Hollick
- Banaras – the City of Lights by Diana Eck
How to reach Varanasi?
You can board an Uttar Pradesh Roadways bus to Varanasi from Lucknow like I did. The buses to Varanasi are available from places such as Kanpur, Delhi, Jaunpur, Prayagraj, Mathura etc. Varanasi Main Bus Station outside the railway junction is located 5 kms away from the place of action, which is Dashashwamedh Ghat and Assi Ghat.
You can take a shared auto to shared auto to Godaulia, from where the ghats are just an easy 800 meters walk.
Conclusion: Why attend Ganga Aarti Varanasi
Varanasi Ganga Aarti is the top thing to do in Varanasi. Whether it is the morning aarti called as Subah-E-Banaras or the evening Ganga Aarti, it is a spiritual experience like no other.
The view from my Soul Window is a sensory delight!
Pin this blog to save the blog and plan a trip later!
If you want to read detailed travel guides on related topics, do check out below-mentioned comprehensive blogs. These places of Uttar Pradesh are related to each other in some way and you can use this information to plan a memorable trip in the ancient Varanasi and vibrant Uttar Pradesh.
Blogs on Varanasi
You must not miss the following informative travel guides on Varanasi or Banaras or Kashi.
About Sarangnath Mandir Varanasi
About Sarnath Travel
About Varanasi Travel
Blogs on Uttar Pradesh
Below are the mammoth travel blogs on other places to visit in Uttar Pradesh. Most of these places to see are major pilgrimages of Hindus.
About Govardhan Parikrama
About Mathura places to see
About Prem Sarovar of Barsana
About Restaurants in Mathura
About Shri Radha Rani Mandir Barsana
About Vrindavan places to see
Top Travel Blogger from India