Some say that there are times and places that create more possibilities for one’s turning poetic than the daily mundane experience of life. And then, there are those who counter it with their assertion that it is the genius that creates poetry that’s central, and not the place or time. Metaphors originate when a person’s mind works on the data stored in it in a state of receptivity and openness. The past experiences of the mind generating the metaphor becomes as important as the place and time. Remove any factor from the reaction and the end product will not be the same any more.
Kasi, they say, is literally out of the world, as it rests on Mahadev’s trident and even in times of the cyclic pralay, Kasi is never inundated. Thus, Brahma does not write Kasi’s fate. Neither does Kasi, the beloved of Shivji, needs Vishnu in his Matsya avatar to come as a saviour. Kasi is special in many ways. The reverse flow of Gangaji is one of them. The identity of the city is one with the identity of the river. Kasi sans Ganga is as unimaginable as is Kasi sans Mahadev. The river has a calm and steady current as it flows gently by the city. The surface of the river acts as one gigantic mirror, reflecting the sky and the crescent ghatscape.
(Photo Dr. A. P. Singh)
The colour of the mirror is the colour of the sky: grey, vermillion, blue and so on. At nights, when it’s dark or bluish black, the mirror also takes the colour of the lamps lit or switched on at around a hundred ghats of Kasi. The continuous crescent where the river meets the stone steps is where the mirror ends (or begins) and the lights of the ghats float on the river.
It is the lights on the ghats, on the special night of Dev Deepawali, that make Panchganga Ghat special. The stone lamp stand with space for oil makes the ghat special. At night, the hundreds (reported as thousands, a touch of the literary to the every day life, as it is called hazara) of little lamps come to their scintillating life. The image above was taken in the morning. The metaphor it then evoked was of the cycus cone then.
Kartik month of the Hindu calender falls in winter season. In its pitri paksha, people light lamps at night to show their path to the earth at night. These lamps are called akash deep, if I remember it correctly. They are raised to the height of the bamboo pole that supports them with a rope tied to the handle of the basket. The view, in the morning, strongly resembled that of the nests of the baya.
Ants? (says Dr. Nipun Chaudhary)
I was thinking about something that I simply could not name while looking at the two images above, that were taken around Dashashwamedh Ghat. It was just by chance that my colleague Professor Chaudhary was around. I showed him the images and his immediate response was : ants. So, I put it in the caption. While putting it there, I knew that I was not looking for this word. I rationalized it by saying that the word does sound a little bit insulting. Yet, the truth is that I am lost for metaphors here. As Blake very rightly said, and I so wrongly paraphrase, if you don’t create your own, you have to make do with what the others have decided to give.
There are very few metaphors that come instantly and can be explained equally easily. The two huge buildings of stone in the images above are landmarks, of Kasi ghatscape and of that of Shivala area respectively. They are huge, both of them. The one to the left is the fort at Chet singh Ghat and the one to the right is Aurangzeb’s Mosque at Pnachganga Ghat. The morning mist acts like a thin veil that the sun lifts from the face of these massive beauties before making them more beautiful (or less?) in its light.
No, I did not invent this metaphor. I remember having seen the use of the same in many books on Kasi. The aptness of the metaphor made it impossible to be left out. The first word these images evoke is chhatri, that means an umbrella in Hindi. The same word may also denote the mushroom.