Gangaji is the lifeline of Kasi. The ghatscape by the river figures prominently in the lives of people who live by ghats. The ghatscape is an extension of house for many. It’s definitely an extension of the bed room for the person in the centre of the image above. It’s not a substitute because I was there at the end of night, when he came from somewhere, probably to bathe in the river, but decided to take a nap before his dip.
These people in the image to the left above are assembled near a tea stall on the ghat. They will sit and sip the hot tea with a biscuit/toast here, while reading newspapers of discussing current affairs etc. It’s their extended drawing room, then. It’s the same case with the people around the tea stall in the image to the right. They have the stone steps of the ghats as their seat. Although not as comfortable as the sofa in the drawing-room, the 180 degree view definitely makes for whatever is missing.
For these gentlemen in the river, like thousands of others at other ghats, the ghat is definitely an extension of their bath room. They reach here at a time of the day that fits into their daily schedule. If they are carrying some clothes to wash, that will be done first,and the clothes will be spread to dry. They take their time to warm up before entering the water. They may even do some light calisthenics in their warm up. They apply mustard oil on their body and skin and then enter the river. They apply soap, sometimes the same soap with which they wash their clothes. The potted plant in the foreground is holy ocimum.
Bathing experience on a ghat that is generally more crowded than other ghats is different than the experience on one that’s generally empty at any given part of the day. The image above was captured at one of the busiest ghat times at one of the busiest ghats on the riverfront. People can be seen at various stages of entering into and coming from the river mother.
After the ritual and actual physical cleansing, people walk either towards their secular life or towards their habitual place of worship.