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Kashi Yatra

KASI YATRA
Undertaken by: K. Natarajan and Hema Natrarajan
During June 6 - 10, 2009
Report by K.Natarajan, Chennai Ph.: 22200440

Overview
Some data are available about Kasi Yatra in the literature; mainly the internet: but, I could not
get a detailed information on the subject. The available data are inadequate, because, several
questions remain unanswered. A number of readers have given brief info on some aspects of the
Yatra; while others have given on some other aspects. But, comprehensive information covering
all essential aspects of the Yatra is not available in the literature: mainly, the net. This is perhaps
because, one has to spend considerable amount of time for a detailed write-up. I have spent about
ten days in collating the information based on my own travel and experience. Before emabarking
on Kasi Yatra, one must be familiar with terms like: Triveni Sangam, Manikarnika Ghats, Veni
Daan, Akshaya Vada, Vishnu Paad, Gaya Shrardham, Ganga Aarti, Kasi Vishwanath,
Annapoorna, etc. I hope this write-up would be useful to the pilgrims who contemplate Kasi
Yatra in the near future.
Why Kasi Yatra?
Several Hindus talk of embarking on Kasi Yatra when they get old. The Hindus believe that Kasi
Yatra constitutes the final journey of life. As one becomes aware that he is getting old, he comes
to terms with the process of life and death. One seeks salvation despite the sins he has
committed knowingly or unknowingly all through his life. Kasi may provide a path to Moksha
notwithstanding the present and past Karmas: notwithstanding the present and past sins. Kasi
provides one last hope for salvation. This is the Hindu belief. Also Kasi Yatra includes trip to
Gaya and Prayaag (Allahabad). You feed the hungry ancestors waiting anxiously at Gaya: for
you to offer food to them in the form of pindams. The satisfied ancestors bless you with good
health, wealth and happiness. They will bless you with all best things on Earth that you have
desired. Kasi is the place for liberation as well, apart from salvation. Liberation from what?:
Liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. Having experienced misery several times in life,
no sane person wants to be born again and again in this world? During the ancient days, old
people used to embark on Kasi Yatra, walking all the way to Kasi from deep down South, just to
die in Kasi. They used to walk through forests and mountainous terrains. Many died on the way.
Nevertheless Moksha is assured. Those days, if one goes on Kasi Yatra, he or she will never be
seen any time in future. Because, we never had high-speed transportation system or
infrastructure to support such travel. The Yatra was invariably by walk.
These days, many people dont have a good idea regarding what exactly constitutes Kasi Yatra.
Some people think that a Kasi Yatra simply means a trip to Kasi and a dip in the River Ganga.

This is not true. Some others, who have heard of the trips to places such as Kasi, Gaya, Prayaag,
etc. in connection with Kasi Yatra, are aware of the rites or Samskaras, But, they think that it
may be a very expensive process. This is also not true. Kasi Yatra with your partner (wife or
husband) need not be very expensive: it can actually be quite affordable. Note that, in order to
carry out ceremonies like Shrardham, one must be accompanied by his wife: since, both husband
and wife are involved in most of the ceremonies. It is better not to take children with us.
The main purpose of our trip has been to carry out the rituals related to Kasi Yatra: not siteseeing. These include prayers at Temples like Viswanath, Visalakshi, etc. Someone told me that
there are at least a thousand temples at Kasi: so, it is called the City of Temples. There are a
hundred major Temples. The Kasi Yatra also includes trips to Gaya and Prayag (Allahabad). A
dip in Ganges and Triveni Sangam and prayers at Viswanath and Visalakshi Temples will help
cleanse our sins and facilitate Moksha. Performing Shrardham at Gaya will give us the best
opportunity to receive the blessings of our ancestors, who will be too pleased to bless us after we
offer the pindams. At Kasi, we may also perform Ganga Pooja and Dampati Pooja.
The best age for embarking on Kasi Yatra is between 55 to 65 years. Because, by that age
people normally finish all their responsibilities / commitments to the family. Further, after 65
years, one may not be physically fit to withstand the rigors of the trips to various places; not to
mention the highly-involved ceremonies. Further, one needs some mental make-up in terms of
renunciation, maturity, spiritual outlook, etc. which are not possible when you are too young. As
one grows old, he gets mellowed down in matters relating to materialism. This kind of mind-set
is appropriate for Kasi Yatra. Like I have mentioned before, please do not take your children
during Kasi Yatra. It is inauspicious to witness things like Akshaya Vata and Vishnu Paada when
the parents are alive. Besides, Kasi Yatra is not precisely a pleasure trip for fun.
In this write-up, I have given a brief description of the three places involved: Kasi, Prayaag and
Gaya. In summer, it is very hot in all these places: temperature goes up to 45 deg. C. So, please
avoid peak of summer. Also, winter will be very cold. So, bathing in the rivers will be difficult.
Hence, it is a good idea to choose a proper time for Kasi Yatra.
About Benaras
Since Kasi Yatra mainly refers to Kasi, I consider it necessary to tell you all something about
Kasi or Benaras, which is referred to as Varanasi in the Railway Guides, Air Maps, and for all
official purposes. Clearly, there are three names pertaining to the same place: Kasi, Benaras and
Varanasi: So, I am a bit confused regarding the name by which I am supposed to talk about this
place. This confusion comes because: the pilgrimage to this city is Kasi Yatra; the major
University here is Benaras Hindu University; the official name is Varanasi. Anyway, I will use
all these three names in this write-up, depending on the situation and purpose. For instance, no
one says it is Varanasi Yatra; but it is always Varanasi Airport; and Benaras Hindu University.
Varanasi is derived from Varuna plus Assi, the two rivers. Varanasi is situated between the
confluence of the rivers, Varuna and Assi with the Ganges. There is mention of Kasi in Rig
Veda, Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. So, the city is certainly very old: perhaps, older than 3,000
years. Clearly, Benaras is one of the oldest civilizations of the world. No wonder, Mark Twain
had described Benaras as older than history and older than tradition. More than 30 lakh people

live here; a very populated and crowded place indeed. I have heard of this city in connection
with: pilgrimage (Kasi Yatra), silk sarees (Benares silk), Kasi Vishwanath Temple, etc. I also
know that Kasi has been a major Center of Learning for Vedic studies for three thousand years.
Some important Universities have been established here during ancient times: one being Taxila.
Well known poets or scholars like Kabir, Tulsi Das, Pundit Ravi Shankar, Bismilla Khan, etc.
have lived here. Adi Shankara wrote his commentaries on Hinduism here, leading to the great
Hindu revival. Vaishnavism, Shaivism as well as Shakta Sect have coexisted in Kasi
harmoniously for hundreds of years.
Nearly 20 years back, my sister who has been working in the Benaras Hindu University (BHU),
has said that Benaras is not very clean; and that Ganges is actually very dirty. Even now, Ganges
is far from clean; despite the crores of Rupees spent under Clean Ganga Project of the Govt. of
India. The boatman told me that the money allocated for the Project has not been effectively
spent; and that some people may have actually swindled considerable part of the budget.
Benaras is a highly crowded city. It is full of lanes. Lanes and lanes, everywhere. As if these are
not enough, there are also sub-lanes along the lanes. You will see cows and cattle blocking the
lanes. These cows generally allow no more than one-foot-space for us to get through them. No,
they will never hurt you. Still, one is always skeptical while walking through them. Also, you
will have to be careful while crossing the gallis (lanes); lest you skid as you walk on the cowdung. Regarding neatness, cleanliness etc., less said, the better. Note that, in order to get to the
Ganges and various Ghats, you should necessarily walk through these gallis; or galli-gallis: I
mean sublanes. Most of the Mutts or Halls where religious ceremonies are held are along these
gallis; so no escape from these. I had already read about them in one of the issues of Mangaiyar
Malar, the Tamil Magazine; so, I was mentally prepared for this kind of experience. Therefore,
what I saw was something very similar to what I had visualised in my mind about Benaras;
except that I did not bargain for gallis within the gallis; this is something too much for me.
Within these lanes, you have various shops; selling nice things: lassis, cool drinks, sweets, etc.
There are some shops next to the public toilets. Yet, people eat happily as if they live in a very
different world notwithstanding the stink from the toilets. Apparently, the fine smell of the hothot delicacies has overpowered the stink from the toilets which are just a few feet apart. The old
city is highly congested and polluted; so, the affluent section of the present population has
moved to the suburbs with better facilities. However, all the ancient Temples are situated in the
old city: generally, along the Ganga River.
In this connection, I want to caution the readers about one thing. When you want to visit Kasi for
pilgrimage, just dont bother about things like cleanliness. Be a part of the crowd. Be a team
player. You will actually feel nice that way. Even if you live in a star hotel, you still have to
come to one of these ancient houses or Mutts for ceremonies. That is why, we actually decided to
stay in one an a/c hotels just opposite one of those religious joints in a lane. This is not the
ultimate-quality hotel; but would serve our purpose. Indeed, several VIPs have carried out the
religious ceremonies from this house owned by Shri Krishnamoorthy Ganapadigal. Nadigar
Thilagam Shivaji Ganesan and his family, for instance; Shri Radha Ravi being another visitor. I
was gaping at the huge photo of Shivaji in his house for several minutes. I was told that Radha
Ravi was also constantly looking at this very photo for a long time. The way Shivaji was
standing with folded hands in front of the Ganapadigal with absolute humility and piety is

impressive. Anyone will get that feeling. The Ganapadigal said that Benaras is bursting at the
seams; because, a city basically designed for just 5,000 people several hundred years back, is
now catering to a crowd of 50 lakhs. (I checked up the population data later; it appears that the
actual population is around 31 lakhs as on 2001). What else can you expect from such a
situation? Nevertheless, thousands and thousands of people keep pushing each other as they walk
to the Ganges or as they have a dip in the Holy River. The thought of attaining Moksha is too
overpowering and tempting in relation to the cleanliness of the river or inconvenience due to
excessive crowd. If you expect clean, crystal - clear water in the Ganges, you are asking for the
Moon. The water is muddy; dead bodies are dipped into the Ganges just very close to your
bathing spot; I have seen, even sewage water flowing into the Ganges. Yet, the water is fairly
acceptable for a bath. Indeed, we enjoyed bathing in the Ganges; we refused to come out of
water; but for the need to do ceremonies. The Priest told me that Maha Shivratri is the most
famous festival in Kasi, when the devotees take bath in the Ganges and pray Lord Vishwanath.
Very large number of people visit Kasi at that time.
About Prayaag (Allahabad)
Though Prayag has been in existence for ages, the name Allahabad was given by the Mughal
emperor, Akbar. Allahabad or Prayag is also called the "Tirth Raj", the king of all pilgrimage
centers. There are many references to Prayag in the Epics, Vedas and Puranas. Allahabad is
situated at the confluence of the three rivers: Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati (a mythical river
which is not visible). The place where Ganga and Yamuna meet is called Sangam (union): the
venue of many sacred fairs and rituals: the place that attracts thousands of pilgrims throughout
the year. The most important event at Prayag is the Kumbha Mela. Millions of people from all
over India gather at Prayag to take a holy dip at Sangam. People also go to Prayaag for the
annual Magha Mela, which is also holy. We took a car to Allahabad, which is about 2 1/2 hours
drive from Kasi. After completing all the rituals at Prayaag, we got back to Benaras the same
day. Indeed, we had enough time in the evening to visit a few places, as well as to witness Ganga
Aarti.
About Gaya
Gaya is situated on the banks of Phalgu (or Phalguni) river in the State of Bihar. Gaya was a part
of the ancient Province of Magadha, and is a sacred city not only for the Hindus, but also for the
Budhists. Gaya derives its name from the demon, Gayasur (Gaya plus Asur, the demon). Lord
Vishnu killed the demon by placing his foot on him. The foot-print of Vishnu was left in Gaya.
The demon got transformed to a series of rocks and hills around Gaya. The whole city has
become holy and blessed by Mahavishnu. That is why lakhs of people visit Gaya to perform
Shraddha to absolve the sins of the ancestors. The pleased and satisfied ancestors bless us with
good health and wealth: not only for us; but also for the entire family. Gods and Goddesses have
promised to live on Gayasurs body, which is present everywhere in Gaya. There are various
Ghats and Temples along the Falgu (Phalgu) River. There are also a few Temples on hill-tops:
such as: Rama Shila, Mangla Gauri, Shringa Sthan and Brahmayoni. These Temples are
generally part of the pilgrimage circuit. Elaborate staircases have been built in most of them,
when there is an ascent. I did not have time to visit most of them, though. In this region, trees
such as Pipal and Akshaya Vat (the banyan tree that does not die) are popular and considered
holy. The Mangla Gauri shrine has two round stones representing Goddess Sati, the consort of
Lord Shiva. The most important Temple however, is Vishnu Paad Temple along the Phalgu

River. Vishnu Paad or Foot is very holy, because the Holy Foot has annihilated the demon. You
should place the pindas; wash them; and then place your head on the Holy Foot to attain Moksha.
We went to Gaya by car and returned to Benaras by the same car, which was arranged by our
Pundit Ganapaadigal. There is no need to book a hotel at Gaya. We started from Benaras at 2
AM and reached Gaya at 7 AM. After completing the rituals at Gaya, we started from Gaya at 1
PM and reached Benaras by 6 PM. We had enough time in the evening to visit some temples in
Kasi.
Tour Schemes and Options
There are various schemes available from the Tour Operators suiting your budget. There are a
number of methods of embarking on Kasi Yatra. My wife and self have chosen a somewhat
costly method in view of my time limitations (I still continue to work; I am 62 plus): I have the
need to complete the whole Yatra and important rituals in 5 days. I have problem of leave. So, I
have decided to fly wherever possible along with my wife. Chennai-Benaras Chennai; via
Delhi, where there is a stop-over for one to four hours depending on the flight. But, even this is
not too expensive. It is a good idea to carry with you some bread and snacks to eat in places like
airport during the waiting periods; or even inside the plane. The present day flights may or may
not provide food onboard. Besides, after performing Shrardham, one is not supposed to eat all
kinds of food offered in the airlines during the return trip.
There are a number of Tour Operators all over India. There are a few at Chennai too; for
instance, there is one at T.Nagar who regularly advertises in the local magazines giving details of
the programmes as well as amount involved. The budget varies between Rs. 6,000 to 10,000
depending on the services provided. We went through a Service Provider, Mr. Vaideeswaran,
who has an office at Spencer Plaza, Chennai. For myself and my wife, he has designed a specific
programme by arranging appropriate flights, so that we could complete the whole programme in
4 days; that too within the budget that we had in mind. For us, time was at premium. I find Mr.
Vaideeswaran a very cordial, friendly and reasonable person. He has provided us quality service
and has been in touch with us even while we were at Kasi, Gaya or Allahabad. Wherever we
went, someone was there to receive us. The coordination was near-perfect. Whenever we had
some problems: minor, though: he sorted them out through his representatives at various places. I
will be happy to give his address on request.
There are various tour programmess, generally, extending to a period of 10 to 15 days,
organized by tour operators using modes such as trains, vans or cars. Such programmes may cost
less. Some service providers offer very cost-effective programs when you go in groups; they may
provide group accommodation in modest places.
There is a difference of opinion regarding the sequence of visits to varied places. Some say, you
should visit Triveni first; others say, Benaras. I went through the literature on the subject; there is
no conclusive advice in such matters. Also, the problem of flight availability, landing spot,
connecting flight etc. will impose further restraints on your programs. So, we decided to have our
programs as follows: Chennai Benaras Prayag (Allahabad) Benaras Gaya Bodh Gaya
Benaras Chennai. For people residing at Chennai, this is the best bet; in case you want to fly.

The Indian Railways operate a popular ten-day Tour Programme from Chennai by means of
Ganga-Kavery Express. Most of the pilgrims may find this method convenient and suitable.
Even for such programmes, I feel, it is better to engage a professional coordinator or tour
advisor. It will make immense sense; and is also cost effective. Mr. Vaideeswaran, our Service
Provider, also coordinates with the Railways and others to facilitate such tours. Please note that
irrespective of the type of the tour programme, mode of travel, number of days, and itinerary, the
charges may not include the expenses required for performing religious rites or rituals; which
may be around Rs. 10000 to 20000 depending on what you intend to do. The amount required
for daan depends entirely on your generosity. If you are aware of this, you wont have any
problem with your Tour Operators.
A typical itinerary for the Indian Railways Kasi Yatra is as follows: (Tariff: Economy: Rs. 6650
per person (twin sharing); Standard: Rs. 9200 (twin sharing)):

Day 1: Monday: Dep from Chennai Central by 2669, Ganga Kaveri Express at 17:30 hrs
Day 2: Tuesday: Train journey
Day 3: Wednesday: Arrival Allahabad at 03:50 hrs. Check-in for Wash and fresh up in
Dharamshala. Visit to Triveni Sangamam for bathing. Darshan of Anjaneya. After lunch,
visit Anand Bhavanand and reach Ayodhya at 20.00 hrs. Overnight stay in Ayodhya
Day 4: Thursday: Bath in river Sarayu and visit Valmiki Bhavan, Ram Janam Bhoomi,
Kanak Bhavan and Hanuman Temple. After lunch check out from hotel at Ayodhya and
Proceed to Varanasi (220 kms). On arrival, get to your hotel and stay overnight at
Varanasi.
Day 5: Friday: Bathe in river Ganga. Perform rituals to ancestors. Visit Kasi Viswanath
Temple, Visalakshi Temple and Annapoorani Temple. After lunch and rest, visit Ganga
Aarathi in the evening. Stay overnight at Varanasi
Day 6: Friday: After breakfast, check-out hotel from Varanasi, proceed to Gaya. Visit Kal
Bairav Temple enroute and arrive at Gaya. Proceed to Buddha Gaya and visit Main
Temple and Monasteries of various countries. Check into hotel at Gaya and stay
overnight.
Day 7: Sunday: Perform rituals for ancestors and visit Vishnu Pad Temple. After lunch,
check-out from hotel at Gaya and proceed to Varanasi. Check into hotel at Varanasi and
stay overnight.
Day 8: Monday: Enjoy Boat ride in river Ganga in the morning. After lunch, check out
from Hotel and visit Banaras Hindu Uiversity, Birla Temple, Sankat Mochan Mandir,
Thulasi Manas Mandir, Gaudi Bai Mandir and Saranath temple. Proceed to Varanasi
Railway station to board Train no. 2670, Ganga Kaveri Express: Dep. at 20:25 hrs.
Day 9: Tuesday: Train journey
Day 10: Wednesday: Arrive Chennai Central Railway station at 09:50 hrs.

Like I have pointed out before, my own programme has been short and sweet, but hectic. The
Chennai-Varanasi-Chennai travel has been by air via Delhi (stopover). The whole programme
was over in four days; but this will kept us very busy every moment from take-off to landing.
There have been a series of programmes; never a dull moment. In such high-density
programmes, one should have the capacity to withstand the rigorous time schedule as well as the
rigors of the rituals and successive visits to the temples. However, most of the important

activities (rituals, ghats, and temples) have been covered albeit in an intensive way. I
recommend that the readers take 6 sets of inner garments. You wont have time to wash them,
anywhere. Take four sets of dhotis as well as angavastarams. The ladies should take four sets of
9 yards sarees. Also take a few towels and hand-kerchiefs. It is a good idea to take elementary
medicines like antacids, paracetamol, multivitamin tablets, etc. Also, learn to wear the
Panchkatchan Dhoti or Madissar Pudavai (for ladies): you may not get help in such matters at
Kasi, Prayaag, Gaya etc. My itinerary is as follows: (Total fare: Rs. 18,496 per head):

Day 1:
Dep. Chennai: June , 09: IC 440: 0640 Hrs
Arrive Delhi: June , 09: 0910 Hrs.
Dep. Delhi: June , 09: IC 406: 1005 hrs.
Arrive Varanasi: June 6, 09: 1120 Hrs.
Lunch at the residence of Sh. Krishnamurthy: 1200Hrs; Tea at the same place: 1600 Hrs.
Visit Temples: Kal Bairav, Birla Mandir, etc.
Day 2:
Travel to Allahabad by car (about 2 hours). Bathing in Triveni Sangam. Take water from
Sangam in a can. Buy small copper containers from a shop. You may buy some 10 containers.
Also buy one big container to take Ganga water for Abhishek at Rameshwaram. Give Ganga
water for pouring in these containers and sealing.
Return to Kasi by 3 PM
Boating in Ganga. Visit the Ghats of Ganga
Ganga Aarti (about 2 hours): Float a lamp on the Ganges.
Visit Temples: Viswanath, Annapoorni
Go to sleep early: say by 8 to 9 PM.
Day 3:
Wake up at 1 AM. Take bath. Get ready by 2 AM. Take clothes for bathing and Shrardh.
Travel to Gaya. Dep. 2 AM. Reach Gaya by 7 AM.
Perform Gaya Shrardh
Visit Vishnu Pada Temple. Perform rituals at this Temple.
Visit Bodh Gaya enroute to Benaras.
Reach Kasi by 5-30 PM.
Visit Visalakshi Temple.
Day 4:
Rituals and Poojas at the Mutt of Shri Krishnamurthy Ganapadigal
Perform Shrardh in the Ghats: 5 times.
Concluding Pooja: Namaskarams (Pranaams): Daans
Offering of Shrardh Lunch for the Brahmins at the residence of Ganapadigal

We may eat Shrardh Lunch thereafter.


Leave for Varanasi Airport by 1230 Hrs.
Dep.: Varanasi: June 9, 09: IC 405: 1540 Hrs.
Arrive: Delhi: 1700 Hrs.
Dep. Delhi: June 9, 09: IC 540: 2000 Hrs.
Arrive: Chennai: June 9, 09: 2235 Hrs.
Note: By the time you reach your residence at Chennai it will be past midnight. Most of the
times, the airlines dont maintain the scheduled time; invariably there are delays; you must allow
for them. We almost missed the connecting flight to Varanasi from Delhi. However, we managed
to get the flight because, the connecting flight to Varanasi was also late! So, one mistake
corrected the other!
The best method of visiting various ancient Temples at Kasi is by means of an auto rickshaw; not
car. A bigger vehicle like car cannot swiftly move through the huge crowd along the lanes. The
cycle rickshaws are also used. It is a painful sight to see the cycle rickshaw pullers pedaling their
ways through the lanes: a practice no more prevalent in most of the areas of Chennai. Just
imaging an old man moving the rickshaw on which, three fat ladies have been happily sitting. It
is painful to see such a sight.
For visiting places like Gaya, Prayag (Allahabad) etc. from Benaras, I suggest that you go by a
car. You need not book a hotel at Gaya. You need to book only one hotel for all these visits; say,
at Benaras. You can move back and forth from Benaras. For a pilgrimage consisting of three
nights and four days, I booked an a/c hotel at Benaras through Shri Krishnamoorthy
Ganapaadigal, who was recommended by Mr. Vaideeswaran. I found this arrangement very
convenient. It will take about six hours to reach Gaya from Benaras. After doing the ceremonies
at Gaya, you can be back to Benaras by 6 PM. And take rest for some time in your hotel. Triveni
at Allahabad is about 2 hours drive from Benaras. There is a minor problem in such an
arrangement, though. You need to get up at 1 AM for your trip to Gaya; and take bath in the
hotel; and get into the car by 2 AM; you will reach Gaya early in the morning (by 7 AM); just in
time for conducting the ceremonies. Our Ganapadigal had already arranged for someone to
receive us at the site at Gaya. Everything went off with clock-work- precision vis--vis timeschedule. That is why I say, it is better to go through a reliable travel coordinator or advisor.
There are a number of star hotels in Benaras: most of which are away from the major Temples,
Thirthas or Ghats. These hotels will provide you all luxury and comfort to be expected in such
hotels. However, for rituals, you still have to travel some 15 km and come to the Ghats via the
lanes. So, it becomes pointless to stay in such high class hotels. The idea of coming to Kasi is for
pilgrimage; not for fun. The accent is on rites, rituals and Vedic procedures; not comfort and
pleasure. However, please note that the power (current) fails too often. In this sense, a decent
hotel has an advantage. Because, the hotel may have a generator. Otherwise, you may get burnt
in the heat of summer. The generator allows you to switch on at least a fan, if not the a/c.
Considering these points, we stayed in a modest a/c hotel just opposite the house of the
Ganapaadigal, albeit in a lane! When the power failed, a fan came to our rescue. I suggest that
you choose an accommodation in one of the lanes at Hanuman Ghat. I feel, it is a good idea to be
with the public rather than seeking exclusive treatment in a stylish hotel. In my opinion, a good,

decent, clean hotel near one of the Ghats would do. We stayed at the Hotel Arti in Hanuman
Ghat (a/c hotel). It is not very expensive by the standards of Chennai or Mumbai. It is also just
opposite the House where the Vaadhyar or Pundit performed ceremonies like Sankalpam; so
very convenient. We were also provided with South Indian food in the same House (Mutt),
which has a decent Mess. The food is prepared by a group of Brahmins. Even if you stay in star
hotels several kms apart, it is inconvenient to travel by the car in the narrow lanes where the
Ghats are situated. So, staying in such hotels dont make much sense in whatever way you look
at it.
Ganga Snaan
Ganga Snaan means, bathing in the Ganges or Triveni Sangam. Ganga Snaan ensures Moksham.
You can get rid of all your sins and avoid rebirth. The Ganges is highly polluted and unclean. I
am generally very finicky about cleanliness; but in Kasi, I just went with the general public; and
I actually felt quite comfortable; and was generally, at ease. When you see dead bodies being
cremated along the Ghats, what cleanliness are we talking about? However, we realize that, after
all, human body is basically a filthy unclean system; this is how one feels in Kasi. Besides, the
Holy Ganges cleanses the whole body; and also our sins. I would like to mention that in spite of
repeated baths in the various Ghats as well as Triveni Sangam, we never had any problem with
our body or skin when we returned to Chennai. No itching! The Priest told me that the Ganges
water is known to last a hundred years without getting spoiled. The water in Triveni appears to
be cleaner. It is a pleasure to take bath at the Triveni Sangam. There is considerable force exerted
on you by the rivers. So, you should hold on to one of the poles erected at the Sangam. There is
also a rope at which you can place your feet for security. The platform, the pole and the rope
provides enough security for a safe bath. The platform is placed in a region where the depth of
water is not too much: say, 3 to 4 feet. During the days of flood, I am told, people dont take bath
at the interior region; but on the steps near the banks. You should dip into the Ganges or Sangam
nine times, with your head fully immersed in water as you chant: Om Namakshivaya. At
Sangam, dont forget to immerse the Holy Sand brought from Agni Theerth, Rameshwaram.
Also, you should immerse a few strands of your wifes hair at Sangam, constituting Veni
Daanam. I have discussed about this separately in another Section.
The Ghats of the Ganges
I am told that there are around 100 Ghats along the Ganga River; but from the point of
pilgrimage and / or bathing, five Ghats are very popular: Dasaswamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat,
Harischandra Ghat, Panch Ganga and Assi Ghat. In a few Ghats like Harishchandra and
Manikarnika, we noticed that a large number of dead bodies are cremated after dipping them in
the Ganges; yes, the dead bodies are dipped on one side, as people take bath nearby unmindful of
this. This is Varanasi. The Ghats of Ganga constitute the holiest spots along the Ganges. Several
kings of the past have built palaces near the Ghats. I was also told by our Vaadhiyar (Priest) that
the ladies of King Ranjit Singh used to take bath in a Ghat regularly in the residence which exists
even now along the Ganga. There are a large number of Temples along the Ganga; esp. near the
Ghats. People pray in these Temples after a bath in the Ghats. We had a dip in three of the Ghats
and prayed in one of the Temples on the shore. Not all the Ghats have Temples; they are simply
for taking bath. The Tulsi Ghat is named after the famous poet, Tulsi Das, who actually lived

here for several years and composed Ram Charit Manas. It is like our Kamba Ramayanam.
Aurangazeb has built a big mosque near the Panch Ganga Ghat; five rivers are supposed to meet
in this Ghat. It is compulsory to take bath in the Assi Ghat, one of the first Ghats, and offer
prayers to the Lingam under the Peepal Tree. At the Dasawamedha Ghat, Lord Brahma has
sacrificed ten horses; and is an important spot. When you take bath here, you get the benefits of
doing Aswamedha Yagam. The Chakra Thirth is actually a well; we poured one sombu (about a
litre) of water drawn from the well constituting Chakra Thirtha. We bought some lamps from the
vendors and floated them on the Ganges.
Cremation Ghats
At Manikarnika Ghat, you can see several dead bodies burning at once at several heights. The
ashes will be dumped in the Ganges. The souls will be liberated. For several minutes, I was
watching the dead bodies burning constantly. It becomes very clear to one and all that no one is
going to live permanently on Earth; death is assured for all. None can take even one Rupee when
he dies; indicating the futility of materialistic objects. Such thoughts make one calm and quiet.
Some equanimity is transmitted to your person instantly as you watch the cremation of
innumerable bodies. Several bodies are placed in the Que awaiting cremation. Anyone who visits
Benaras must witness such cremation in these Ghats. According to the legend, Vishnu dug a pit
with his chakra, and the sweat created during his meditation filled the pit. Shiva shook his head
and his jeweled earring fell into the pit, hence the name Manikarnika. Tradition has it that those
who die at Benaras and get cremated at the Manikarnika Ghat, get liberated from the cycle of life
and death.
When I saw cremation in the Harishchandra Ghats, my mind naturally recollected the story of
this ancient King who followed the path of truth; I recalled the way his wife Chandramati had
undergone suffering as a sequel to this. A bath in these Ghats will ensure that your sins are
dissolved and you attain Moksha after your death. This is the main reason why the Hindus want
to have a bath in the Ganges; esp., in these Ghats. I am told that the Manikarnika Ghat is THE
most important one for cremation; and hence for doing Shrardham. We offered pindams to the
ancestors here. Nowhere in India, you will see cremation right at the center of the city; except
Varanasi, which is considered as Mahashmashan; the Great Cremation Ground. In the olden
days, thousands of Hindus used to do Kasi Yatra just to die at Kasi and attain Moksha. So, Kasi
became the Great Cremation Ground for the whole of Hindustan. The Cremation Ghats convey a
clear message to all: Nothing is permanent. Death is certain. Death is assured for all those who
are born. It is only a matter of time. Kasi Yatra and a trip to Gaya signify these facts. So, one has
to behave himself while alive. This is the message of the cremation Ghats during Kasi Yatra. So,
when you embark on Kasi Yatra, make it a point to get close to the Cremation Ghats. Please
dont avoid them.
Ganga Aarti
All the pilgrims visiting Kasi should not fail to participate in the Ganga Aarti event. It is simply
spectacular. Ganga Aarti is held in a few places along the Ghats; but the one at Dasaawameth
Ghat is the most scintillating show. There are a number of priests clad in identical saffron
uniform, performing a series of Poojas: say, 16 types: like doopam, deepams, karpooraadanai,

etc., constituting the Shodasobachara Pooja. Before starting the Aarti, some experts give
discourses on some Vedic topics. The deepaaradanai done by nearly ten priests, each holding a
tall lamp with several steps of lighted lamps at different levels constitutes a magnificent sight.
You may see a good portrayal of the Ganga Aarti at Youtube. Several high quality photos are
also displayed in the Wikipaedia. The Ganga Aarti is held each day at 5 PM, and takes nearly an
hour. Hundreds of people witness the same from innumerable boats in the nearby Ghats. One
problem is Ganga Aarti is held simultaneously from two nearby areas and the loud-speakers from
both create disturbing conditions creating interference on both. I think, there is no need of loud
speakers in the first place. Besides, one does not need two Ganga Aartis at such close locations.
However, despite these aberrations, it is a marvelous spectacle to watch.

Pic.: Ganga Aarti: (Thanks: Wikipaedia)

Pic.: Ganga Aarti (Thanks: Fiveprime.org)

Shrardham
There are two types of Shrardhams: Anna Shrardham and Hiranya Shrardham. In Anna
Shrardham, a few Brahmins: 3 to 4: are fed after the ceremonies. These Brahmins represent our
ancestors. In Hiranya Shrardham, no such elaborate feeding takes place: instead, plantains and
rice are offered; however, certain rituals are still carried out. Anna Shrardham is more involved
and expensive in relation to the latter. It also takes more time. While regular, full-fledged Anna
Shrardham is mandatory at Gaya, you may opt for Hiranya Shrardham at Kasi, which is
repeatedly done five times in the various Ghats of Kasi. The most important Shrardhams at Kasi
are the ones performed at Manikarnika and Pancha Thirtha. Nandi is meant for the appeasement
of the ancestors; while Vaishnava Shrardham is for pleasing or satisfying the Gods. Pinda
Pradaanam is the ritual of offering food to three or more generations of our ancestors. Balls of
cooked rice to which a small quantity of ellu (sesame seeds) is added constitute Pindams. The
offering of the same is Pinda Pradaanam.
Dhaanam: (or Daan)
You should also do an important thing during Kasi Yatra, particularly at Kasi: dhaanam (or
daan) or charity. You may do this to anyone; Brahmins in particular. Anything can be given as
daanam: vessels, money, clothes, mats, cow (go-daan), gold, etc., depending on your capacity
and generosity. The Poorvanga Daan refers to the one at the beginning of the rituals; while the
Uttaranga Daan refers to the one at the end of the rituals. The Dasa Daan refers to the ten
traditional daans recommended in the Scriptures. Nowadays, the daans are given based on ones
generosity and economic conditions; no prescribed rules are followed. The daans are mainly for
the Brahmins who conduct the rituals; but you can give daan to anyone and everyone; the poor
and needy; irrespective of the caste. Anna Daan is the most important daan. I may mention that
after completing the Kasi Yatra, we are expected to feed 10 couples and offer daans.

If you do dhaanam properly, the Brahmins will say: tripti. But, it is difficult to get a tripti
from the Brahmins at Gaya. You really have to be a bit liberal; and also kind. The readers
should not imagine that it will cost them the Earth to get tripti from the Brahmins. Liberal
charity with love and affection would do. Dhaanam or charity or donation constitutes one of the
most important aspects of Kasi Yatra. We are aware that several people have offered dhaanam of
cow (go-dhaanam) or even gold from time to time. If we cant do that, the least we can do is to
give liberal amount of money to the poor and needy; Brahmins in particular. Why Brahmins?
Because, they are the ones who perform the rituals. They have no other income. During our
Kasai Yatra, my wife and self could manage to get tripti from the Pundits and Priests in most of
the places; and the expenses were still manageable. Sometimes, I have noted that even some well
to do people offer meager amounts. This is improper in these days of inflation. Please note that
the Brahmins doing religious service are not beggars; they are learned people; well-versed in
Vedic rites; and also do enormous work during the rituals; and deserve a better deal. Besides,
they too have children studying in colleges. There are innumerable poor people and even beggars
who will seek charity from you. It will be impossible to please or satisfy all these. They also
prove to be a big nuisance; since they wont let you do your ceremonies peacefully. In Kasi, I
noticed that one beggar lady was trying to get daan from us repeatedly, even after receiving
liberal amount from us. Needless to say, one would get disgusted with such cheats.
Notwithstanding these, we have tried to give some money to the poor wherever possible. The
Pandas in temples, Ghats, etc. will try to exploit you. So, avoid them to the extent possible. Like
I have said before, it is better to go through a Service Provider or Coordinator, who will
generally take care of such matters; so that you wont be harassed by the unwanted elements.
Gaya Shrarddha
The most important ritual to be performed at Gaya is Shraddha: that too at the bank of the
Phalguni River. The Phalgu River is dry most of the time; so a bath here is out of question. We
were astonished by the length and breadth of the river; yet, devoid of water: it is all sand
everywhere along the river. The Priest narrated the legend about Phalguni River. Rama and Sita,
came to Gaya to perform the sacred rites for Ramas father, Dasaratha. Sita was playing on the
sand when Rama went for bathing. At that time, Dasaratha suddenly appeared in front of Sita and
asked for pindam (food), which Sita offered after converting sand to pindams. When Rama came
after a bath, he could not believe this. Sita said, she has five witnesses: the Akshaya Vatam
(banyan tree), the Falguni River, a Cow, a Tulsi Plant and a Brahmin. Of these, only the Akshaya
Vatam supported her stand; all the others kept quiet. Sita became very angry and cursed the four
as follows: there would be no water in Phalguni most of the times; the Cow would always be
worshipped from the back side (never from the front side, as is the normal practice); there would
be no Tulsi Plant at Gaya; the Brahmins would never be satisfied at Gaya (that is why, they
rarely say tripti at Gaya). On the contrary, Sita blessed that the Banyan Tree would remain
immortal. That is why this tree is known as Akshaya Vat: Aakshaya means one that never
decays; Vat means a banyan tree). We are also told that while all the banyan trees generally shed
their leaves sometime during a year, the Akshayavat remains ever green: even in draught. The
readers may note that even though, the Phalguni River is bone-dry, we would see water even if
we dig the sand by one foot. There is sub-soil water everywhere along the river. Other important
temples in the vicinity are the Sakshi Gopal temple and the Mangala Gauri Temple (this is a part
of the Shakti Peetam).

Gaya is significant to all the Hindus from the point of view of salvation of the souls of their
ancestors. People perform Gaya Shraddha; esp. a ritual called pinda daan. These pindas would
constitute food for the hungry ancestors, who have been keenly awaiting our presence at Gaya to
offer the pindas after proper Shraddha. The satisfied ancestors will bless us offering us anything
and everything that we need for ourselves as well as our entire family. If all the members of a big
family cant perform Gaya Shraddha due to some inconvenience, it would not matter. Even if
one member performs the same accompanied by his wife, the ancestors will be pleased and bless
all. This is the advantage. I am happy that I could perform Gaya Shraddha along with my wife
for the benefit of the entire family; the other members of my family have not had a chance to
perform the same. I am happy that I could fill the void. The Vedic Rites are performed not just
for three generations; but for all the ancestors connected with the families of bot the husband and
wife participating in the Gaya Shraddha. The Bhumihar Brahmins have been the traditional
priests at Vishnupad Mandir. We were told by the Pandas that the present day temple was rebuilt
by Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar, the Maharani of Indore in the 18th century.
I will now narrate the way the Gaya Shraddha is performed. This is very important for the
readers. We should note that, when Gayasur died he had requested Vishnu one boon: that people
should be perform the Shraddha and the sacred rites including Pinda Pradaanam: not only for
their ancestors, but for anyone and everyone: ancestors of the immediate family, distant relatives,
friends and foes, non-Hindus, pets, unclaimed bodies, etc: in short, for any person or animal that
has died naturally or through some mishap. This is an exceptional act of kindness on the part of
Gayasur as well as Maha Vishnu who granted the boon. The pindams are offered even for the
realatives who were not well-disposed to our family. Because, even those realtives, who had
been generally adverse to our interests, have done some good things some time in their life: say,
by attending or gracing our functions. The pindams are also offered to people who have died
during accidents, natural disasters, mishaps, etc. as well as people who have committed suicide.
Similarly, pindams are offered for friends, birds, animals, etc; indeed, anything and everything
associated with our life directly or indirectly. We chant mantras and offer pindams sequentially
one by one to all ancestors, friends, enemies, animals and birds. This is the beauty of Gaya
Sraddha. Gaya is the only place where Pinda Pradaanam is carried out in this manner for anyone
and everyone. The Akshaya Vata and the Vishnu Pada are the only two places where one can
perform the Vedic rites not only for our forefathers, but for anyone: family, friends,
acquaintances, people of whatever caste or religion, animals, pets, abandoned bodies, etc.
In a conventional Shrardham performed at home, 3 pindams are made: for three generations. In
a Tirtha Shrardham, a la at Kasi, Prayaag, Rameswaram, etc., 16 pindams are offered for all
ancestors of father as well as mother. In the Gaya Sraddham, as many as 32 to 64 pindams are
offered. If 64 pindas are offered, 32 are for the mother alone; 16 for the ancestors; and 16 for all
the others. If 32 pindas are offered, 16 are for the mother; and the other 16 are for the ancestors
and others. At Gaya, we offered only 32 pindas. At Kasi, we offered a total of 16 pindas at each
of the five Ghats. The rituals for the mother are the most important and very touching too.
Generally, 16 pindams are offered as we tell the mantras one by one in some sequence, meaning:
(I have given only those that I remember. As I chanted the mantras and offered the pindams, I
nearly got choked due to emotions; my eyes got moist; the priest also noted this):
Mother, you have carried me for 10 months continuously; for that, I offer a pindam.
Mother, I have kicked you several times while in your uterus; you have tolerated that with a
smile; for that, I offer you a pindam.

Mother, you have taken pains to perform various ceremonies and rituals for my general welfare
and health; for that I offer you a pindam.
Mother, when I was young, you did not consider it dirty or nasty to wash me and clean me,
whenever I urinated or defecated; for that, I offer you a pindam.
Mother, you did not sleep for several days whenever I was sick to make sure that I have a good
sleep and recover soon; for that I offer you a pindam.
Mother, you have denied yourself all the privileges, so that I have good education and life; for
that I offer you a pindam.
Sita has blessed the Akshaya Vata saying that all who came to Gaya would perform the Pinda
Pradaanam at the Akshaya Vatam too. That is why, we placed the Pinda Pradaanam at the base
of the Akshaya Vata (banyan tree) too. So, when you perform Shrarddha at Gaya, after the
ceremonies, you should place the pinda pradaanams at the Vishnu Paada as well as Akshaya
Vata. Also, a round rice ball, along with some ghee poured over that, has to be offered to the
crows inside the temple so that the hungry ancestors, who would arrive in the form of crows, can
take their food. I am told that for a fee of Rs.100/- an imprint of the Padam is taken on a muslin
cloth and given to the devotee. You may keep it in the Pooja room; it is considered very
auspicious.
Photo: Vishnu Padam
Bodh Gaya
When we were returning from Gaya, we stopped at Bodh Gaya, about 25 Km from Gaya. This is
the place where Lord Budha got enlightened under Bodh Tree. It was very hot; some 45 deg C.
To get to the Budha Statue, one has to climb a large number of steps. The steps were very hot; so
people were running up and down to beat the heat. A saving grace was that there was a simple
carpet along the steps; yet it was pretty hot. Since you have to remove your chapels if you want
to get to the Bodh Tree, we were content to have a close look at it from a distance; rather than
getting the feet burnt.
Budha attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. A lot of Budhists as well as Hindus visit this place.
I have seen several Budhist Monasteries operated by foreign agencies; for instance, the Thai
Government. Indeed, many foreign governments (Burma, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc.) have
contributed liberally for the construction and infrastructure development at Bodh Gaya. The Thai
Monastery, which I could see from the road as we drove, is very impressive. To me, it looked as
though the various Budhist governments maintain their religious embassies here.
Allahabad-Benaras-Gaya Highway
The Highway to Benaras from Gaya is actually the Delhi-Calcutta Highway; part of the Super
Highways Program of Vajpayee: perhaps, a part of the Golden Quadrilateral. It is not as crowded
as the Southern Highways; perhaps due to the absence of industrialization a la South; clearly the
entire UP-Bihar belt is relatively very poor. So, the cars move fast; this is a saving grace given
the hot temperature (around 45 deg. C). The Sun was beating down heavily on us. The airconditioned car gave some relief. Otherwise, heat stroke is a possibility. The local people use
clothes to cover their heads and bodies to beat the heat. I saw one lady pouring water from a

bottle all over her body before boarding her car. This is one way of beating the heat, I guess. If
you travel in summer, make sure that you drink plenty of water, lassi, cool drinks, etc., which are
available on the way. This will give you protection from dehydration.
Important Temples During Kasi Yatra

Viswanath Temple (Kasi)

This is the most important Temple at Kasi and is dedicated to Lord Visweswara. It is one of the
twelve Jyothir Lingas of Lord Shiva. It is believed to be the holiest place for the Hindus, due to
the permanent presence of Lord Shiva, as Kasi Viswanath. So, one would feel the waves of Lord
Shiva impinging on him at all time. The Viswanath Temple was destroyed several times by the
rulers like Mohammed Ghori, Aurangzeb, and Warren Hastngs and was rebuilt successively. The
temple in the present form was built by Rani Ahillyabai Dikar in 1776 A.D. I was told that after
destroying the Temple, Aurangzeb built a mosque over that. Maharaja Ranjit Singh constructed
the golden cover on the Temple Towers. As I was looking at the Temple Towers, I was
wondering, how a Sikh King had been so generous to donate to a Hindu Temple. The lakhs of
people visiting the Temple means that, whereas people can destroy buildings, no one can destroy
the faith of the masses. Because, such a faith is a sequel to the Sanadhana Dharma of the Hindus
practiced and followed over a period of thousands of years. The readers would note that the Shiv
Linga at this Temple is very small. Like they say in Tamil, Moorthy siruthaalum kirthy
sirukkaadhu: meaning, even if the idol is small, reputation is big.

Pic: Kasi Vishwanath (Thanks: Uma; www.shaktipeethas.org)

Vishalakshi Temple (Kasi)

This is one of the most important Temples to be visited in Kasi. Hindus regard Kasi as one of the
Shakti Peethas. Vishalakshi Temple stands on the spot where Goddess Satis earrings fell.
Hindus of the Shakti Sect (Shaktaism) make an exclusive pilgrimage to the city because they
regard river Ganga itself as Goddess Shakti. Also, Vishalakshi and Annaoorna Temples
constitute Shakti Temples.

Bindu Madhav Temple (Kasi)

After taking bath in the Pancha Ganga Ghat, we visited the Bindu Madhav Temple and prayed
there. Mr. Satyamurthy has given some details about this temple in his blog (www.shaktipeethas)
as follows:
Lord Indra killed a Brahmin named Vritrasura. Because of killing the Brahmin, Indra aquired
Brahma Hatya Dosham that will impact very seriously on him. To overcome this, he constructed
five temples for Lord Vishnu at different places as follows:

1.Bindu Madhav: Kasi


2.Veni Madhav: Prayaag (Allahabad)
3.Kunthi Madhav: Pithapuram
4.Setu Madhav: Rameswaram
5.Sundara Madhav: Anantha Padmanabham(Trivandrum)

These Temples constitute Pancha Bindu Madhavs. The original Temple at Kasi was destroyed by
the Muslim invaders. The present one is the small reconstructed version in a nearby spot.

Kal Bhairav Temple (Kasi)

It is an ancient temple of Varanasi near the Head Post Office at VishesharGanj. We are told that
Kal Bhairav is said to be the "Kotwal of Varanasi" , without his permission no one can stay in
Kasi.

Sankat Mochan Temple (Kasi)

This Temple is situated near the Assi river stream, on the way to Banaras Hindu University from
the city. This is a Temple for Lord Hanuman, who is also known as "Sankat Mochan": the God
who protects us from all anxieties, disturbances and tormentations. This temple is founded by
Goswami Tulsidas. This temple is also known as "Monkey" temple, as lot of monkeys are there
inside the premises. The security restrictions are severe.

Annapoorna Temple (Kasi)

Annapoorna is an important Temple to visit in Kasi. A visit to this Temple is a must. Because,
food is one of the most important requirements for all human beings as well as animals. Goddess
Annapoorna will ensure that there is never food shortage in your house, if you visit this Temple
and pray with dedication. Also, dont forget to buy an image or representation of Annapoorna
and keep it in your Pooja Room at your residence. You will have adequate food and prosperity
throughout your life. According to the legend, Lord Shiva asked Goddess Annapoorna to ensure
that no one goes hungry in Kasi when a person lives; while Shiva will ensure that he will attain
Moksha after his death. Annapoorna is Kasis Queen and is also known as Bhavani. Annapoorna
literally means, provider of Plenty of Food. The idol of Annapoorna always has a small vessel
containing Annam (food) signifying that the worshipper is assured of food throughout his life.

New Vishwanath Temple : Birla Mandir: (Kasi)

We went to this Temple by an auto; quite convenient. This Temple is situated inside the Banaras
Hindu University. This is a modern place of worship planned by Pandit Malviya and built by the
Birlas on the pattern of Vishwanath Temple. This Temple is open to all, irrespective of caste or
creed. As we were traveling inside the BHU Campus, we noted that the Campus is huge. Almost
every kind of Department is there at BHU. No wonder, it is considered as the biggest University

in India. When we saw a number of houses for the BHU faculty, I was reminded of my sister and
her husband who worked at BHU about two decades back. Pointing to the houses, I told my wife,
my sister must have been residing in one of these. BHU is somewhat far off from the city, and
takes about 40 minutes to drive to the Campus.

Tulsi Manas Temple (Kasi)

This temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. The temple is built in the place where Goswami Tulsidas
composed the epic 'Ramacharitramanas', the Ramyana of Tulsidas. Tulsi Manas Temple was
constructed by a philanthropist family in 1964.

Durga Temple (Kasi)

This is also known as Monkey Temple, because of the presence of a large number of monkeys in
the Temple. This temple is one of the most important temples in Varanasi. This temple is built in
Nagara Style. The shikhara of the temple is formed by many small spires which are built one on
top of the other. According to legend, the present statue of Goddess Durga was not made by man
but appeared on its own in the temple. Thousands of Hindu devotees visit this temple during
Navratri and other auspicious occasions. Non-Hindus can enter the courtyard of the Durga
temple but not the inner sanctum.

Vishnupaad Temple: Gaya

This is the most important Temple at Gaya. This is where we perform rituals to ancestors after
the initial ceremonies in a Mutt. This massive temple, located in the old town, is built over the
footprints of Lord Vishnu. Inside the temple, the 40 cm long footprint of Vishnu is made of solid
rock and surrounded by a silver plated basin. This Shikhara style temple was reconstructed
during the 18th century AD by Queen Ahilya Bai of Indore, on the banks of the river Falgu. The
readers would recall that Viswanath Temple at Kasi was also reconstructed by Maharani Ahilya
Bai. We are very surprised about this and appreciate the generosity of this great queen as well as
her service to Hinduism. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple.

Patalpuri Temple: Allahabad

The Patalpuri temple is located inside the Allahabad Fort. Within the Patalpuri temple, we have
the Akshaya Vat - or the immortal banyan tree. It is believed that Lord Rama has visited the
Patalpuri Temple. The famous Chinese traveler, Hiuen Tsang also visited this temple.
Akshaya Vata: Eternal Banyan Tree: Prayaag
The Akshaya Vata literally means immortal or eternal banyan tree. This tree is located within the
Patalauri temple, on the bank of Yamuna, inside the Allahabad Fort. We are familiar with this
tree because, we talk about it during the performance of the rituals for the ancestors: the
Shraddhams or dhivasams. This holy tree is also documented at length in the Scriptures. During
the cyclic of destruction, when the whole earth was enveloped by waters, Akshaya Vata

remained alive and unaffected. It is on the leaves of this tree that Lord Krishna rested as a baby
when land was no longer visible. And it is here that the immortal sage, Markandeya, had a vision
of the Lord. Legend also has it that the Bodi tree at Gaya is a manifestation of this tree. There are
hundreds of shrines near this holy tree. However, but for a few, most are inaccessible, because
the Fort is a restricted military area. The Fort was closed to the public during British rule; and
even now, we do not have access to this tree. We are told that during the Kumbha Mela, the
government gives permission for pilgrims to pay their homage to the Akshaya Vata. However,
people feel that the pilgrims never see the holy tree; instead, they are shown a branch of an
ordinary banyan tree. We dont know the truth. But, belief and faith matter more than the facts.
The readers may note that the Akshaya Vata of interest during Kasi Yatra is the one at Gaya, not
Allahabad.
Rituals at Triveni Sangam
An important ritual during Kasi Yatra is a dip or bath at Triveni Sangam: the junction of three
rivers: Ganga, Yamuna and (mythological) Sarawati. The river Saraswati is said to flow beneath
the ground, and is not visible. As we were going on the boat, the boatman showed that the brown
river on one side is the Ganges; and the blue river on the other side is Yamuna. The third
invisible river is beneath these two. The region where these three rivers meet is the Sangam or
Sangamam. This is the holiest of all the Thirthas. Every Hindu should taske bath here to attain
salvation. The boatman stopped near a platform constructed for anchoring the boats. All the
people from various boats assemble here and take bath. The husband and wife pairs take bath
together. All the people dip into the river at least nine times, chanting: Om Namakshivaya.
Sangam is around 7 km from the heart of Allahabad. From our Mutt or residence, we drove to
the river site. Each year, tens of thousands of people take dip at Sangam during the Magha
Mela. Besides, lakhs of people take bath at Sangam during Ardh Kumbh and Kumbh Mela. The
Kumbh Mela is held once in twelve years. Two important rituals are to be performed at Sangam.
The first one is Veni Daanam: the husband should comb the hair of his wife; split it in three
parts, and knit and tie the hair together After that\, a small part of the hair at the end is to be cut;
and this is to be dipped into the Sangam. The other ritual is, the sand that we brought from
Rameshwaram (from Agni Theertham or Sea) is to be dissolved at Sangam, after performing
Pooja, considering the sand as Shiv Linga. We have noted that, whereas hundreds of people
dump the hair at sangam, nowhere have we noticed hair floating on the water; the entire hair gets
immersed: it does not happen in other waters: where the hair tends to float. We collected water in
a five-litre plastic can at Sangam. Later, this was poured in a dozen brass containers of various
sizes and volumes; and then sealed. There are a number of shops at Allahabad, for just this
purpose. Generally, the shop-keepers who sell these containers dont charge separately for
sealing them. The remaining water was brought in the same plastic container to Chennai, for
distribution to friends and relatives in small containers purchased at Chennai.
Rameshwar Yatra
One must perform Rameshwar Yatra before and after the Kasi Yatra. Then only, the Kasi Yatra
will stand completed as per traditional procedures. For A south Indian, the procedure is as
follows: First, go to Rameshwaram. Take bath in the 18 Tirthas. Get soil from the Agni Thirtha
(the sand beneath the sea). The sea itself is known as Agni Thirtha. This will be packed in a
container or bag (plastic) and given to you after Pooja. Visit Rameshwaram Temple. At Triveni,

the Priest would do Pooja for the Shiv Linga made from this sand and Archana and Aarti would
be performed. After that, this would be immersed in the Triveni at Prayaag (Allahabad). We
should again visit Rameshwar after completing Kasi-Triveni-Gaya Yatra. The Ganga water taken
from Kasi and/or Triveni will be brought to Rameshwar for performing Abhishek on Rameshwar
Lingam. Then the Kasi Yatra would be complete after offering food and daan to 10 dampatis or
couples. In Rameshwaram there are 51 Theerthas; inside the Rameshwar Temple itself, there are
22 Theerthas; of which 18 are functional now. You should take bath using the 18 Theerthas
inside the Temple. The Agni Theertha is the Sea water outside the Temple; where one must take
bath and bring the sand from beneath the Sea near the shore. The Rameshwar Yatra itself is an
involved one, having several sequences and procedures. I dont intend to write a detailed
description of this for want of time; I leave it to others.
Vedic Rituals During Kasi Yatra
The Kanchi Mutt at Kasi has suggested a comprehensive list of rituals to be performed during
Kasi Yatra. I have reproduced them below:
I. At Prayaag (Allahabad): (Triveni Sangam)

Anugnai (Sankalpam)
Vighneshwara Puja (Prayers to Lord Ganesha)
Prayschitta Sankalpam (atonement for sins committed, knowingly or unknowingly)
Veni Daanam (Women offer a part of their hair to the river praying for the long life of
their husbands. The husband combs and plaits the wifes hair, decorates it with flowers
and cuts off the tip of the plait and offers it to the river. It is an interesting fact that while
hair normally floats on water, at the Sangam; it immediately sinks to the river bed.
Though almost all married women offer their hair here, there is not a single strand found
floating on the river.)
Triveni Sangam Snanam (husband and wife bathe together at the confluence of the 3
rivers, holding hands. One has to go to the confluence in a boat. A sort of platform has
been erected at the point for the convenience of pilgrims)
Hiranya Shrardham
Pinda Pradaanam, Kshetra Pindam, Tarpanam

II. At Kasi (Varanasi)


I have presented the Vedic Rites to be performed in three series as follows. Each series can be
performed during a day. However, we have performed selected rituals from each series in a
single day for want of time.
I. Series
Anugnai (Sankalpam)
Vighneshwara Puja (Prayers to Lord Vigneshwara)
Poorvanga Godaanam
Poorvanga Dasa Daanam
Naandhi Shrardham
Vaishnava Shrardham

Punyaa Vajanam (purification ritual)


Maha Sankalpam
Prayschitta Sankalpam: for atonement for sins committed, knowingly or unknowingly
Pala Daanam
Uttaranga Godaanam
Manikarnika Teertha Shrardham (Anna roopam / Hiranya roopam)

II. Series
Pancha Teertha Yatra (One has to go in a boat to these 5 Ghats and perform the rituals):
i) Asi Ghat (Haridwar Teertham) this is where the Asi river merges with the Ganga.
Performing the rites here is believed to give one the fruits of performing the rites at Haridwar.
ii) Dashashwamedha Ghat (Rudra Sarovara Teertham) this is the place where Brahma
performed 10 Ashwamedha Yagnas, and hence it is considered sacred to perform the rites.
iii) Trilochana Ghat ( Vishnu Paada Udaka Teertham)
iv) Pancha Ganga Ghat ( Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Kirana, Doodhapappa- Sangam); Bindu
Madhava Temple
v) Manikarnika Ghat (Manikarnika Teertham, Chakra Pushkarni Teertham)
III. Series

Ganga Puja (it is a tradition to bring back small sealed containers of water from the
Ganges and distribute it among our near and dear ones. One container is kept at home as
it is considered sacred and one is taken to Rameswaram where it is used to perform
Abhishekam to the lingam. All these containers are kept and prayed to before they are
distributed.)
Dampati Puja: Prayers offered to an elderly married couple, invoking them as
Vishwanath and Annapoorna (We did Namashkar to the Ganapaadigal and his wife;
offered a saree and dhoti to them).
Uttaranga Dasa Daanam
Kala Bhairava Samaradhana (invocation and prayers to Kala Bhairav)

III. At Gaya: Gaya Shrardham

Anna Shrardham and Preliminary Rituals: These were performed at the residence of the
Priest
Palguni (Falguni) Teertha Hiranya Shrardham: this is the traditional Shrardham
performed on the banks of any sacred river; in this case, River Falguni.
Vishnu Paada Hiranya Shrardham: We go to the Vishnu Paada Temple: the pindams are
offered at the Holy Foot of Vishnu and we place our head on the Foot and do Namashkar.
Akshaya Vata Anna/Hiranya Shrardham
Akshaya Vata Pinda Pradaanam: The pindams are placed at the base of the banyan tree,
Akshaya Vata.
Tharpanam to the ancestors
Offering food to the Gaya Brahmins

To enquire Gaya Brahmans if they are satisfied (according to legend, the Brahmins at
Gaya are not easily satisfied and it is a tradition to ask them anyway in an attempt to
satisfy them)
Acharya Sambhavana: payment of the dhakshina or fees to the Chief Priest or Pundit

Note: While the three Series at Kasi constitute a comprehensive procedure, we have carried out
the following rituals at Kasi to conserve time: Sankalpam, Vigneshwar Pooja, Maha Sankalpam,
Praychitra Sankalpam, Pala Daanam, Pancha Theertha Yatra and the five Shrardhams at the
Ghats, Ganga Pooja, Dampati Pooja, Dasa Daanam, offering food to Brahmins, etc. We have
however, performed most of the rituals recommended by the Kanchi Mutt and identified above,
at Gaya and Prayaag.

Posted by DR K at 04:20
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Labels: Kasi Yatra
9 comments:

1.
Tambrahm28 August 2011 10:51
If you are a south indian and happen to visit Kashi first you can carry the Ganges water to
Rameshwaram and this completes your journey. One need not carry back sand again to
Kashi. Since south indians are close to Rameshwaram there is a tendency to go there first
in which case the above mentioned sequence in your article applies.
Reply

2.
coolguy11 February 2012 15:39

Hi Mr Natarajan,
Very useful writeup. I need to visit to Kasi & gaya to do my ancestor rituals. I have less
number of holidays hence looking for a quick and efficient way of performing the rituals.
Can you please provide any contact details who can help us to organise and arrange all
the poojas and travel when we are there? Is Mr. Vaideeswaran still doing this work, if so
please provide the details. Any help would be appreciated.
My contact details raja_kumar@rediffmail.com
Thanks a lot
Raja
Reply

3.
neeraja12 February 2012 10:14
Hello Mr Natarajan,
Thanks for the information. Can you please provide me contact details for organizing this
trip? My email is neeraja.akilla@gmail.com.
Thanks,
Neeraja
Reply

4.
Bhuvana18 July 2012 21:04
nice blogspot.. update more post... we are brahmin caterers catering services in chennai
and caterers in velachery, mylapore chennai .
Reply

5.
Krish19 August 2012 03:06
Dear Mr Natarajan,

Thanks for providing very useful information. I am planning visit to Kasi to do my


ancestor rituals. I do not have time and budget for elaborate rituals (for five days)hence
looking for a quick and efficient way of performing the rituals. Can you please provide
any contact details who can help us to organise and arrange all the poojas and travel
arrangements in Kashi, Allahabad & Gaya . Your help in this regard would be highly
appreciated.
My contact details kmohanid@yahoo.com
Regards,
K. Mohan
Coimbatore
Reply

6.
SimplyMe20 September 2012 16:18
Dear Mr Natarajan
Very detailed write-up and very helpful. Could you pl post details about your travel
agent.
Regards
Dhakshina
Reply

7.
Natarajan8 December 2012 09:39
Thanks Mam. Travel Agent e-mail Address: easetravels@gmail.com. Name: V.
Vaitheeswaran.
Cell: + 91-9444556466. His Office is at Spencer Plaza, Main Block, above City Centre.
With best wishes. Dr.K.Natarajan.
Reply

8.

Natarajan8 December 2012 09:47


Dear Mr. Raja, Ms. Neeraja and Mr. Mohan,
I have emailed you the information you wanted. I apologise for the late reply.
Best Wishes,
Dr. K. Natarajan.
Reply

9.
Natarajan7 January 2013 00:00
Dear Readers:
After reading this blog, many readers have phoned me regarding some aspects of Kasi
Yatra. If available in Chennai, my wife or self answer over the Landline phone. Our
residence is in Chennai, but sometimes, either or both of us are away. While I have taken
pains to write this blog, I don't access the blog regularly. That's why I could not reply the
readers in time. However, I do access e-mail regularly. I thank the readers and all those
who have telephoned me for their generous encomiums and positive feedback. While I
have not been a serious blog writer so far, the main purpose of this report is to enlighten
the people regarding the nuiances of Kasi Yatra. I am glad, it is useful to the Hindu
community. Thanks once again for your feedback.
Yours sincerely,
K.Natarajan
My e-mail is: deanvcet@gmail.com