Ok, the rest of Day 3, from an edited version of RK’s journal…
“We returned by 1:30 PM and then began the regular shraddham which concluded by 3:30 PM — the quality of the priest was either good or very good and that made a huge difference — specialisation counts everywhere and these were shraddham-specialists indeed!
Though the all-day ritual and the hours of being wet, drying off, getting wet again was exhausting, there was no time to rest even for a while as the evening programme was packed. First we went to Mahakal Bhairav temple … The convention in the temple is the tying of the famous ‘Kasi kayiru’ (black thread) and the traditional ‘beating’ on the back shoulder with a broom of peacock feathers which is believed to be an essential ingredient of a Kasi Yatra – the famous ‘Kashi Dandam’. We moved on to the Dhandapani Bhairav Temple where the similar ritual of “feather beating” is done. We also visited the Maha Mrtyunjaya Temple — again a svambhu Linga similar to Kedareswara…
It was dusk and we went straight to the Vishwanatha Temple again – to for the renowned Saptarishi Puja. It is difficult to describe the grandeur, ardour and intensity in this puja which begins as a regular abhishekam (with one difference…we did see the dark green paste being applied heavily on the Lord and and were later given a miniscule bit each as prasadam…The abhishekam is beautiful, done with 7 priests sitting around Lord Viswanatha and people allowed only near the three entrances — so in all a maximum of about 50 people only can have darshan of this puja at a time which makes it all the more exclusive. The alankara is unbelievable – with mala after mala, each one clearly custom-made for the occasion, all the 7 priests in perfect synchrony adding flowers and malas. It is almost like an intricate dance being performed to perfection on stage. On top of the Linga vilwa leaves are repeatedly placed and each leaf has the mantra ‘Ram’ written on it … Then a stand with four silver nagas is placed over the already hugely decorated Linga and further alankaram goes on. Then begins the grand finale which is mind-blowing to say the least – a Maha Arati with… All the while, there is this unusual chanting (I was told that it is the Sama Veda where just the tune/intonation is voiced without the words — a carefully guarded secret they say), synchronised with huge bells that the priest’s ring themselves in rhythm with their chanting. It builds up in pace with each priest holding a lamp with five to nine flames in one hand and the giant bell in the other. Slowly it starts becoming frenzied though it is always in studied synchrony — and as the chanting increases and the bells too, the mind begins to lose hold over itself and there is just immense quietness within as things become louder and higher — and it ends in a super frenzy with the priests making the sound of the Lord’s damaru (udukkai) with their own mouths – it is an unbelievable experience and has a haunting impact on us. After that there is a near-stampede to touch the Linga and I somehow managed to do so, after which I was rescued from being trampled (no exaggeration) by two policewomen who yanked me out in time. The Chief Priest blessed all with prasadam, and Kameshwar with two Rudrakshas and me with one. Everyone was pretty stunned by the whole puja and even the immense pressure from the priests for offerings did not take away the feel of the moment. The day concluded thus with the picture of the Maha Arati repeatedly being played out in the mind….
Sometime during the course of the day, we also visited a small ghat-side temple noticed by Kameshwar where the Hanuman Deity was installed by Saint Tulsidasji Himself. The sublime feelings that such places invoke have to be experienced by each one for himself.
Next… To Gaya!
*** To be continued***