Finding Kasi is a kind of quest, but one has to make two parallel journeys: within and without. It’s an experience in which physical and spiritual (nothing about religion, it’s about internal awakening and activeness) go hand in hand. An individual launches into the unknown when he leaves himself open to experiences that he had never had, neither does he know what they will be like. It’s a risk that he takes. A risk that may finally yield nothing in return: no guarantees at all. Human beings are not chemicals that produce the same reactants after every reaction under similar conditions, because ceteris paribus does not happen here.
Infusing the river of Shiv and Kasi into life does give some sort of insurance against the uncertainties of life. It makes finding Kasi interesting, even when not possible, and if the city can be found, the best place to begin the search is Gangaji. The ghatscape of Kasi provides ample opportunities for experiencing the city. Even in today’s post-postmodern world people still sustain the rhythm of the centuries old life. Richard Lannoy is right in mourning for the demise of the old way of life by mid-twentieth century in Kasi, but we can rejoice still in the way the collective (un)conscious has kept the life of Kasi alive in Kasi.
Beginning at the beginning of the day and reaching any nearby ghat at around sunrise makes it possible to see the spectacular sunrise and also witness the whole ghatscape coming to life. It takes around an hour from dawn to the sun’s reaching an angle of around twenty degree from the horizon (there is no guarantee of the precision of the reading as I am not good at such sort of things, concrete ). After that, it’s not very comfortable to sit on the ghats that face the sun directly. Doing nothing is the best thing to do at such times and places. There’s so much of activity around that one active person less will definitely be welcome.
Many have sit there, day after day, for years, and achieved nothing. They were happy with the surface and remained there happily, without finding it, ever. Many have found Kasi after leaving it, within themselves. It has been internalized and Kasi is always with them, within them. For them, the path to Kasi lead to self-discovery. I don’t think that by anything other than an unlikely accident can one find Kasi without first finding oneself. Knowing about the external Kasi is one thing. Knowing it enough to internalize it and them guide others in knowing it demands for far more than the knowledge of mere external and physical.
So, just by being there, calmly and without any kind of aim or plan for the next couple of hours, one starts a process that may finally give one the eyes to see (eyes of some other kind. The third eye?) that which had always been there, unseen. The river that gently flows by the city (or, should I say, the city that silently and noisily stands by the river) and the whole riverfront paved with stones (the ghatscape) combine to form something more than just any one of them.
Being able to see a place with an unbiased and undisturbed mind is not at all easy. It becomes even more difficult when the place is new to the observer. Getting acclimatized to Kasi is very important for non-Banarsis. There are different kind of problems that a seeker has to face when he belongs to the city, than when he does not. A Banarsi has the advantage of belonging to the place. He has a big disadvantage too: of belonging to the place, so that it starts losing its mystique, the aura. So, for somebody who is new to the city, it is very important to soak in the environment for some time before they start hoping to find some meaning in their experience.
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