The New Kasi Circuit


It can’t be done in a fixed time period in a one-size-fits-all manner. Kasi can’t be seen completely, ever. It can only be experienced, according to one’s power, preparedness and willingness. A book, whether it’s good or bad, is made of words. Meaning comes from a neurochemical reaction of ideas that words represent with what is already stored in mind. A city like Kasi is just like a text (for a kasilogist, like a hyper-palimpsest, and for a kasiphile, his favourite childhood comic book). Cities are very much alike in many ways. The difference originates in interaction of the text with a person’s past experiences and his orientation towards future, along with his expectation  from the present time.

Beyond the stereotypes (that have a modicum of truth in them anyway) lies the personal truth. To each his own Kasi then: Kasi that’s produced in their minds. Many people can’t tolerate the city, as it’s filthy and ugly to them. They hate this city of exploitation and superstitions. For them Kasi is concentrated negative energy. On the other extreme stand those for whom the city is the physical manifestation of the divine: the city of the greatest god Mahadev. The lens through which they see the city makes its charms irresistible. Beyond the filth and crowd they look, and find truth, peace and beauty. What others call superstition is faith for these few.


I do not commit myself openly to any extreme. Neither do I claim direct access to the ultimate reality of Kasi. What I offer tentatively is the way I had taken to imbibing the set of myriad experiences, together called Kasi (my Kasi) in the hindsight. I propose a kind of circuit, internal and external, of Kasi. The circuit has to be completed (or may be left incomplete indeterminately) in a pre-decided time span. It has nothing to do with the ancient Panchkroshi yatra, although the germ of the idea came thereof. It’s oriented towards the experience called Kasi.

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The circuit begins at Assi Ghat, at around sunrise. One must reach the ghat at that time and watch the magnificent sun rise from behind the sands on the farther bank of Gangaji and its reflection on the ghatscape. As the material/physical must not be sacrificed for mere spiritual, at least, of all places, in Kasi, so sit on the steps of the ghat and take tea and toast/biscuit. No, the epiphany will not happen instantly. In fact, it may never happen. It happens unexpectedly, to any one, and at any time randomly. What one has in hands is drifting, sans any set purpose. The moment one fixes mind on an objective, his surface becomes impermeable for other stimuli. Any such method would be a definite insult to the treasure of sensations Kasi has to offer. It may sound like a water downed version of the famous karmanye wadhikarste thing, but there’s no intentional plagiarism here. Any resemblance is unintentional and I solemnly assure you that the idea originated in my experience of the city.

Assi Ghat is where we begin and this visit is the first of the series of visits to this very important ghat. The objective of the first journey to the ghats is reconnaissance: to know the terrain. We need to reach Varuna’s confluence with Gangaji within 3 hours walking time, i.e. around half past seven in the morning, as the heat of the sun becomes unbearable after that for a leisurely stroll. From Assi Ghat, we walk towards Rewa and Tulsi Ghats. Evening is the best time to be there. Rewa Ghat has the hostel of BHU Music College. Therefore, mellifluous strains can be heard there, wafting early in the morning and in the evening.


The next pause is be at Chet Singh Ghat. There are pigeons and parrots everywhere: on hanging wires, overhangs, parapet, stairs and in the sky. From there we walk towards Hanuman and Harishchandra Ghats. Finally we reach Kedar Ghat. Our second short pause is either the ghat before or exactly after this ghat, i.e. the broad steps of Vijay Nagram Ghat or the railing of Chowki Ghat:

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