Ganga aarti is a magnificent evening ritual in Varanasi that one must not miss. The aarti, or worshipping River Ganga, takes place every day, at dusk. The ceremony is performed by a group of priests on the ghats. Amid blowing of conch shells, the ringing of several bells, the clanging of brass cymbals and the chanting chorus of mantras, the priests venerate Ganga, the lifeline of Varanasi, with brass lamps that rise several tiers. The priests performing the arti are all draped in similar clothing-- a kurta and a dhoti. The preparations for the arti include collecting five elevated planks, an idol of Goddess Ganga, flowers and incense sticks. Rituals of the arti are performed by those learned in Vedas and the Upanishads and are lead by the head priest of the Gangotri Seva Samiti. The arti lasts about 45 minutes. Devotees float smaller diyas on leaf platters in the river as obeisance to the holy Ganga. As the sunlight recedes, the innumerable lamps flowing in the water make for an unforgettable sight. The hour-long ritual can be watched from the ghats or boats moored at the river bank.

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