Varansi Vishwanath temple visit experience

#1 Apr 2nd, 2015, 17:35
Join Date:
May 2006
  • travel joy is offline
After coming back from a trip to Venares , I thought of sharing a situation I faced, which might help future travelers to this place. So here it is.

The Saptarshi aarti in the Viswanath temple is one of the oldest customs in India with an interesting background,so I had plans to view it. At 6 PM I entered the temple with the other members of my family, bought the separate tickets and sat down to wait till the aarti starts, i.e. at 7.15 pm. Now just buying the tickets will not ensure you will be able to view the aarti properly. The gate of the main temple being narrow, only the viewers sitting at a particular angle in the front row will have a good view. I understood that to ensure a proper seat one option is to bribe one of the maintenance guys roaming around in blue shirts. The way these guys handle people, even the elderly ladies, by shouting and forcefully dragging them, will ensure a bitter taste in one's mouth.
So if you somehow manage to get a proper sit by jostling and elbowing through the crowd , the next hurdle is to keep your seat, as devotees from all around (many without tickets) will try to squeeze and force in and bend over your head to get a view, from all possible angles. If you manage to remain rock steady in your position, you may find your view being guarded by the ample backside of a priest standing outside the door.If one is lucky enough to overcome the last hurdle, the aarti itself is a treat to watch, with each sequence performed skilfully by the seven priests. It does give rise to a different environment and thus make what happens afterwards stand in stark contrast.
The moment the aarti is over, the crowd throngs in to collect the flowers used in it as sacred relics. The priests do not waste any time and move out immediately carrying all their impressive array of equipments to extract maximum spiritual leverage from the devotees . While moving out of the temple, one has to be very alert. These priests will select their targets and put some sandalwood paste on your forehead and a garland over your head without waiting for any consent and immediately demand money.Now with their high standards, these men do not accept fifty or hundred rupee notes and openly demand five hundred and thousand ones, even at times holding on to your hand and not letting go before you pay. I was unfortunately one of the victims and had no smaller value notes in my pocket. Being in two minds about starting a fistfight (with two priests who had targeted me) and departing peacefully , I chose the later option, ultimately parting with a five hundred rupee note. One of my family members had three hundred rupee notes snatched out of her hands.

I was actually caught unaware, without expecting such unabashed display of greed from these priests, who a minute earlier were seemingly engaged wholeheartedly in the aarti. So if anyone is planning to visit the temple to watch the aarti, beware of these men. Do not let them put any flower, garland or anything else on you or any of your family members, unless you are willing to part with your money or start a quarrel.I have seen plenty of people touching the feet of these priests and pressing notes in their hands willingly . It is upto the individual to do that but using the situation to extract money in a rather forceful fashion from visitors is totally unacceptable.

Varanasi is basically brimming with frauds in every area, trying to rip off tourists and visitors at every opportune moment. So it seems that lowering one's guard, even within the so called sacred premises, is unwise.
#2 Apr 6th, 2015, 16:45
Join Date:
Apr 2012
Banaras, India
Send a message via Skype™ to sais
  • sais is offline
The term 'Banarasi Thug' has been popular for a reason.

I have been here all my life and have been in every 'gulli' probably, but never been at the Vishvanath Temple. The crowd and the priest deflect me away.

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