Ganga Mahotsav, a five-day-long festival celebrated annually on the banks of holy river Ganga in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh is organized by Mahotsav Samithi of the UP Tourism Department. Originally known as Kashi (in Sanskrit ‘has’ meaning light), the sacred city of Varanasi derives its name from the two tributaries of Ganga namely ‘Varuna’ and ‘Assi’ which stretches necklace shaped about 7kms with 84 ghats.
The festival held at Sant Ravidas Ghat in Varanasi commences on ‘Prabodhini Ekadashi’ and ends on ‘Dev Deepawali’/’Kartik Poornima’ or the full moon day in the Hindu month of Kartik. Ganga Mahotsav or carnival provides a platform that brings together India’s finest crafts and culture at one single place. It is a festive introduction to India particularly Uttar Pradesh, where the extensive range of arts, crafts, culture, and cuisine are on display. Sports like boating, kite flying, Ganga marathon, and wrestling are also included in the carnival.
The event witnesses a huge presence of both national and international tourists. The last day of the event or ‘Dev Deepavali’ on the full moon day, i.e on the 15th day from Diwali, the banks of Ganga river are lit with thousands of earthen lamps or diyas amid chanting of Vedic hymns which give the Ganges a mystic look. The occasion is a symbolic welcome to the gods as they are believed to descend on earth on this day and bathe in the river Ganga. It serves as a celebration to realize and revive the earliest glory and sanctity of the river Ganga. Aroma of incense fill the air and it is a great occasion to witness.
Stalwarts like Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Chhanulal Misra, Girija Devi, Bala Murli Krishnan, Bhimsen Joshi, Birju Maharaj, Amjad Ali Khan, Vilayat Khan, Zila Khan, Sujat Khan and Zakir Hussein have added zest to this festival in the past in the cultural program segment. Along with the carnival, Gandhi Shilp Bazar or a 10day long National Crafts Fair is held in which craftsmen from more than 20 states of India participate to showcase their dazzling craftsmanship.