World ? Asia ? India

Ganga Mahotsava

The lights of Varanasi, reflected on the Ganges at dawn. Photo by Serena Davies
photo Serena Davies
29 Oct - 2 Nov 2009 (annual)
Hours: Daily all day
Cost: Free
The banks of the River Ganges at Varanasi transform during the Ganga Mahotsava as thousands of Hindu pilgrims dip themselves and their oil lamps into the sacred waters.
The festival is one of the most spectacular that take place along the ghats (steps down to the river) during the year. It celebrates (among other things) the timeless glory of the River Ganges, which provides a living for millions who grow rice on its neighbouring plains. Several thousand Hindu pilgrims come to the water's edge during the day - each one carrying an oil lamp which they float on the surface.

The city is also a centre for Indian classical music, with the chance to both listen and learn. Legend has it that if you die here, then you escape the Hindu cycle of death and rebirth - so you may find many ageing Indians there with this ambition.
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