O Kashi, City of God, Ancient-Wonder, Place of Light...
I see Lord Siva and Mother Parvati standing over the city
with hands held in abaya mudra (gesture of blessing)
and from their hands emanates a soft golden light that fills the city.
This light settles like dust
on the consciousness of all those who enter the city,
imparting grace that will germinate in the appropriate time.
Those who have done serious sadhana (spiritual practices)
in this or other lives receive the light
in the deeper regions of their consciousness
and it causes an intense yearning for liberation.
Souls who drop the body in Kashi are liberated
because when the soul is exposed to the golden light,
without the sheath of the temporal body,
it immediately realises its true nature and returns to Siva-bliss.
I see this Golden Light dancing all over the city as the Aarti (the waving of lamps) is offered every evening.
Ganga reflecting the colours of night shows us the nature of Maya (the illusory perception of existence).
I see Ganga Mata carrying away sins and cleansing the soul to receive the Light more deeply.
She flows from the head of Siva-Peruman, thus carrying Divine consciousness to all.
Gentle Mother, water of Life, Holy Spirit, wash me I pray.
I see Lord Rudra - Siva in his form as the fierce dissolver of all things –
dancing wildly in Manikarnika Ghat (the main cremation place).
He rejoices in the liberation of the soul from the temporal body.
All to dust will return, except aatma (the spirit).
This is truly a Holy Place!
Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world also known as Banares or Kashi. Stepping into this city is like being transported to an age in the distant past when human history was still very young.
An important temple of Lord Shiva is here, where he is worshipped as Lord Vishwanath which means "Ruler of the Universe". It is believed that Lord Siva and Mother Parvathi reside here in Kashi in a unique way to liberated souls from the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, it is the desire of many religious Hindus to take their last breath in Kashi. Hindus firmly believe that if you are given the grace to die at this sacred point of the Ganges River you will attain salvation.
As I stood at the Ganga the other day I was deeply moved as I remembered our ancestors and their undying devotion to Mother Gangai. Something about this river caused our ancestors to carry this devotion over the seas to South Africa. Even today we call on this great river in many of our rituals. I felt as if I was returning to something that has been deeply engrained in the memory of my ancestry and that I was not standing here alone but in the name of all my ancestors through whose veins flowed the memory of this river.
I met a young civil-engineer here who said to me "I come all the way to Varanasi to worship mother Ganga because I know she takes care of everything". The absolute faith with which he said it filled me with immense wonder. Some may see just a river but others see the Divine Mother who flows from Shiva himself coming to wash her children of their sins and carry us to the Ocean of Infinite Love.
Likewise, some may see life as something just happening now with no deeper meaning. But others may see the hand of God in every moment. So, holy places like Varanasi remind us that there is more to life than meets the eye. Underneath it all is flowing the power of the Divine Mother, the Holy Spirit, drawing all her children back to the Ocean of Divine Bliss.
Everything happens on the banks of Ganga - people are celebrating life, dead bodies are being cremated, some are playing while others are praying, some are just bathing in the river and others are performing puja... but no matter what, Mother Ganga continues to smile on all her children as she flows from the Himalayas into the Ocean. See, no matter what we do and no matter what happens, the Divine Mother, in love, is gently calling us to surrender to the flow of grace as she seeks to carry us Home.
devi sureśvari bhagavati gańge
tribhuvana-tāriṇi tarala tarańge
mama matir āstāṁ tava pada-kamale
You are the divine river from heaven,
You are the saviour of all three worlds,
You are pure and restless,
You adorn Lord Shiva’s head.
O Mother! may my mind always rest at your lotus feet
Om Kashi Vishwanath Shivaya Namah
Blessings of Light and Peace from Mother and Father's holy abode at Varanasi.