Amid voting for seventh and last phase of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, it is a routine day in Varanasi’s ghats as pandaas (priests) attend to devotees and youngsters roam around basking in the temple town.
“Devotees are coming and going after taking holy dip and offering prayers and pooja at ghats,” Rajendra Tiwari, priest Rajendra Tiwari, a resident of Dashashwamedh Ghat area, said.
Tiwari is one of the hundreds of priests who earn their livelihood sitting at their chauki (posts) performing puja, chanting mantra and applying chandan teeka on devotees. In return, the devotees offer them dakshina.
Most of the priests have exercised their franchise and are back to performing rituals.
All 84 ghats are part of Varanasi South and Varanasi Cantonment constituencies. The famous Kashi Vishwanath temple and Lord Kaal Bhairav temple are part of Varanasi South.
Long queues mark the polling booths that have been set up at schools in the lanes along the ghats amid tight security.
A few youngsters roam around the ghats after casting their votes.
“I cast my vote. I will spend a couple of hours on the ghats. I will sit somewhere around Rana Mahal Ghat which I like the most,” Sonu Mishra, a first-time voter, said.
Asserting the importance of voting, Tiwari applies teeka on the forehead of a French tourist Severine, who has found the ghats unique.
Varanasi district has eight assembly seats—Varanasi South, Varanasi North, Cantonment, Rohania, Sevapuri, Pindara Ajgara, and Shivpur. Five of these are part of the parliamentary constituency, Varanasi of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
BJP has a tough fight in Varanasi South and Cantonment, which have been considered strongholds of BJP.