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Dev Deepawali: A Peek Into Varanasi’s Resplendent Glory

Immerse yourself in the holy city of Varanasi as she readies herself for Dev Deepawali, the divine spectacle visited and revered by lakhs of people.

Shweta Dravid

My trip to Varanasi, the city of lights, was nothing short of divine intervention! Yearning to go to Varanasi for more than two years, I finally got the opportunity to visit the holy abode of Shiva at its glorious best during Dev Deepawali. This being my first solo trip, I was both anxious and excited as I had not visited this part of our vast country earlier.

The moment I set foot on the sacred land of Varanasi, all my fears and inhibitions vanished, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude engulfed me. As it is believed Lord Shiva beckons not everyone to this holy abode, I was indeed blessed to be one of the chosen ones. Also, the timing of my arrival was perfect, as it was during the celebration of the most revered festival in Varanasi, Dev Deepawali. The city was dressed like a bride, resplendent in its magnificence and divinity.

Journey with me as I take you through this invigorating festival of lights, devotion, and spiritual awakening.

The historical significance of Dev Deepawali

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Varanasi in all its glory for Dev Deepawali celebrations.

Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world. Many believe it is older than history and tradition itself. Life and death are entwined here, with devotees coming to the holy waters of River Ganga to wash away their sins seeking ‘moksha’ or salvation during the last days of their life.

Of the many rituals that are seeped into the veins of Varanasi is the festival of Dev Deepawali. Celebrated two weeks after Diwali on Kaartik Poornima, the full moon day, this festival is popular with Indians and foreigners alike. It is the Deepawali of the Gods.

Mythologically, it is the celebration of Lord Shiva’s victory over three ‘asuras’ (Tripurasura) or demons. It is believed that Tripurasura performed a rigorous penance, after which they were given a blessing by Lord Brahma that they would remain alive until they were shot by a single arrow. They misused this boon and started destroying the Earth. Lord Shiva took the form of Tripurari, or the destroyer of three cities, and shot Tripurasura down with an arrow. Thereafter, prosperity and harmony were restored in the city.

The day of Kaartik Poornima is also observed as the birth anniversary of Lord Karthik, the son of  Lord Shiva and the God of War. It is also believed that Lord Vishnu took his first incarnation on this day. Besides the religious significance, Dev Deepawali is also celebrated as a mark of respect and remembrance for the martyrs of the Indian Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives for the nation.

Rituals surrounding Dev Deepawali

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Dev Deepawali fervour.

Dev Deepawali is a grand celebration of good over evil and life over death which manifests through the magnificent rituals planned around it. I was privileged to be a part of it. I reached the much revered Dashwashmedh Ghat at the crack of dawn to witness the fervour and beauty of the festivities. Preparations were on, and the stage was being set for the grand event of the evening, the Ganga Aarti.

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Devotion towards River Ganga.

The ghats were teeming with people from all over the world. Some were engrossed in prayers, chanting fervently. Others were lighting small earthen diyas and floating them in the sacred waters of the Ganga. Many were taking a dip in the river to wash away their sins. I decided to soak in the magical vibe of the festival, the emotions of the people, and the grandeur of the ghats and took a dip in the pious waters of the Ganga. Believe me; it was a heavenly experience!

Meandering through the ghats, I saw people prepping the stage for the evening. Thousands of young children were placing earthen diyas on the steps of the ghats, men and women were decorating the ghats with beautiful and elaborate rangolis, and old sadhus were chanting and praying.

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Intricate flower rangolis to dress up the ghats for Dev Deepawali.

As the evening approached and the sun began its final descent, all the ghats came alive with the sparkling earthen diyas, the fragrance of fresh flowers, and the beauty of colourful rangolis. This year, more than a million earthen lights and over eighty lakh flowers were used to decorate the ghats. I watched the young and old alike making intricate rangolis with flowers and colour - all in preparation for the main evening aarti. I also lit a few diyas to feel a part of the festivities.

Ganga Aarti is a sight to behold!

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The giant lamp for the Ganga Aarti.

The Ganga aarti is performed every day at the ghats. It is a festival in itself, with brahmins performing the rituals and praying to the river for long life and prosperity. The Ganga aarti on Dev Deepawali is a grand affair with lights, music, flowers, and a sea of people chanting together.

The ceremony started after sunset with the Brahmins blowing the conch invoking the Ganga, and seeking her permission to begin the rituals. What followed took my breath away! As night fell, the facades of the ghats suddenly glittered in a golden hue, adorning a veil of shimmering yellow lights. The entire stretch along the Ganga comprising 84 ghats twinkled in yellow and orange - a sight to behold!

Sitting in a boat at Dashashwamedh Ghat, I witnessed the beautiful aarti with at least 30,000 people all huddled together to be a part of this glorious experience. Like everyone else, I was enthralled by the music, the beats of the drums, and the bells ringing. The rituals continued for an hour, and I was completely transfixed. As the music slowed down and the beats of the drums waned, the air was filled with the echoes of “Har Har Mahadev,” sending vibrations through every cell of my body.

Laser Show, a modern twist to the traditional festival

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Laser show narrating the story of River Ganga.

Adding a modern twist to the Dev Deepawali festival was the laser show with twenty laser projectors showcasing the journey of ‘Maa Ganga’ on the walls of Chet Singh Ghat. Music, fireworks, and narration added to the grandeur of the event. I watched this spellbinding spectacle as I cruised on a boat along with other devotees and tourists, experiencing this larger-than-life depiction of the Gods and their descent to the Earth. It was a spectacular way to end this magical evening.

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A spectacular display of fireworks at Dev Deepawali.

As this unforgettable day drew to a close, I was filled with admiration, awe, and absolute reverence for the holy city of Varanasi and the Dev Deepawali celebration. It exuded a tantalizing and everlasting impact on me, the memories of which will be etched in my heart forever.

Photo: Shweta Dravid/Ronak Punjabi
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