Pride of Varanasi 'Dev Deepawali' on Nov 13

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Varanasi, Nov 8 (UNI) Dev Deepawali, a tourist attraction with earthen lamps lighting up the steps of the ghats, will be celebrated on November 13.

About five lakh people, including foreigners, are expected to congregate on the ghats. Hundreds of boats would also be bobbing on the river on this day, the ''kartika poornima,'' to witness the annual festival of lights, which has now become an international event.

According to a legend, the first ruler of Kashi (varanasi) Debodasa, being annoyed with the Gods and Goddesses, banned their entry into the city. They, however, entered the city in disguise for a holy dip at Panchganga ghat, where four rivers meet with the Ganga.

After some persuasion, Debodasa allowed the Gods and Goddesses to come to Banaras to celebrate with lights on Kartika Poornima. Since then, Dev Deepawali is celebrated every year.

According to another interpretation, the Gods observe victory day on Kartika Poornima to celebrate the killing of demon Tripurasura by Lord Shiva. A legend says, Dev Deepawali is celebrated in the memory of the martyrs of the Mahabharat war.

The lamps were lit to brighten their path to heaven.

A long queue of lamps on the stairs of 84 ghats--from Rajghat to Assi--and floating lamps on river Ganga make a pretty picture.

In the last five years, this festival has gained popularity.

The event is beamed live on cable channels. A large number of foreign tourists make special visit to the city to witness this festival of lights on full moon light.

The entire town descends on the ghats, picknicking and singing on the boats. On this day, a boat ride along the river, guided aarti and deep daan comes for Rs 3,000 per head. The boat rides, which normally cost about Rs 350, now go for as much as Rs 4,500, most booked well in advance.

Dev Deepawali, a wonderful blend of spiritualism and nationalism is observed by Ganga Sewa Nidhi as Martyr's Commemoration day to remember the gallant soldiers, who attained martyrdom while safeguarding the motherland. Defence forces with the active support of the Nidhi, present the last post to the martyrs by sounding bugles. Helicopters of headquarters, Central Air Command Allahabad, drop flower petals on the replica of India gate at famous Dashswamedh ghat. The Nidhi also honours the brave martyrs with ''Bhagirath Shourya Samman.'' Personnel from head quarters Central Air Command, Allahabad, headquarters Central Command, Lucknow 39 Gorakh training centre, Varanasi, and four air force selection board, Varanasi and NCC, CRPF and units of police force participate in the event.

This is followed by Ganga maha aarti and a festival of music.

Last year, this festival was marred following bomb blasts in the Courts' compound, in which nine people were killed and several others injured.

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