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Ganga floods Varanasi ghats

Varanasi Sept. 12. The rising waters of the Ganga has not only submerged the bathing ghats but also disrupted many of the ceremonies like ``Ganga Aarti" and even cremations at this pilgrim city.

For the past few days, the river has been swirling over the time-worn steps of the numerous ghats, forcing the ``pandas'' (priests who assist the pilgrims in various rituals) and the pilgrims, who used to spend hours at the ghats, to shift elsewhere.

The cremation spots at the various ghats have been under water for the past ten days. However, the rites were being performed on rooftops at the Manikarnika Ghat and even on the street at the Harishchandra Ghat.

The crowds of tourists, who used to enjoy the sunrise and sunset when the rays would seemingly convert the waters of the holy river to gold, are also a disappointed lot having lost the vantage point of the ghats to view the event. However, many of them have taken to watching it from top of the buildings lining the river.

Those living in the low-lying areas are having to cope with flood waters entering their houses.

``Ganga Aarti'', to be performed at dusk after sunset, when the multitudes of small clay lamps are set alight and afloat by the devotees from the ghats, has been disrupted and would not take place till the water level goes down, Mr Shiv Kumar Mishra, coordinator of the Ganga Seva Nidhi, a cultural NGO which performs various cultural and religious activities throughout the year at the famous Dashashwamedh Ghat, said.

Apart from being the venue of religious rites, the ghats of Varanasi are known for traditional, religious and cultural ceremonies organised by the government as well as the NGOs. One such venue, Dr Rajendra Prasad Ghat, has a huge dais for the programmes and the audience squats on the stone steps. However, the river has overrun both the steps and the stage here.

Silence reigns over the Ghats which used to reverberate to the sounds of Ghanta-Ghadiyal (clock chimes), and blowing of the ``Shankh'' (conch shell) from the small temples which attract huge crowds and remain aglow with lights.

The lovely scene of `Subah-e-Banaras', sunrise over Varanasi, which fascinated visitors to the holy town for centuries, has lost much of its charm in the floods without the vantage view point of the ghats.

The `Kash ke Pande' also known as Tirth Purohits are to be found sitting idle, even on the eve of the `Pitra Visarjan' fortnight, when the ghats would be crowded with people for rites to ensure eternal peace for their forefathers.

Similarly, The boatmen are unable to ply their craft as the Varanasi district administration has banned the ``Nauka Vihar'' (boat parade) due to dangerous whirlpools and currents in the flooded river.

Six drowned

Six people have drowned in separate incidents in Allahabad district during the last 24 hours with both the Ganga and Yamuna rivers flowing about a metre above danger level.

According to reports, a 13-year-old boy drowned in Ganga near Draupadi Ghat while bathing. His body was later recovered. In the second incident, the body of a 35-year-old man who drowned near Kudesar Ghat has not been recovered. Two others drowned in Tons river near Kaudhiara. While the body of one victim has been recovered, the body of another was still untraceable.

Yesterday, in another incident near Jethupur village under Karchana Tehsil, two people were drowned in an overflowing nullah.

Meanwhile, rising water levels in the Ganga and Yamuna has raised alarms here and the district administration leaning to voluntary organisations for helping out people.

District Magistrate R N Tripathi while seeking the assistance of voluntary organisations in dealing with the flood fury appealed that they come forward and extend their `full help' in providing relief.

He said 96 boats have been pressed into service in flood-affected areas and people were being rescued and taken to safer places.

According to the Central Water Commission here, both the rivers were rising at the rate of about 5 cms per hour.

Life in low-lying areas of Chandpur Salori, Govindpur, Chilla, Baghada, Chota Baghada, Rasoolabad, Shankar Ghat, Beli Gaon, Kamala Nagar, Muirabad, Rajapur, Uchawa Gari and Ganga Nagar on the banks of the two rivers has also been badly affected with people shifting to safer places. — UNI

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