When Sowmya told me about her uncle’s nephew whose family had been in Varanasi for five generations, she didn’t mention that he was also a Ghanapati. ‘Ghanapati’ is the highest (and rarest) title awarded to scholars of Vedic studies. “He can tell us more about the yoginis and help us find more of their peethams in Varanasi,” was all she said. Turns out that Ramana ji is a Vedic pandit and organises specific rites and rituals for people coming from Allahabad, Gaya and the southern states.
The next day we made our way through the maze of alleyways in search of Mr. K. Venkat Raman (Ghanapathi)’s house. His house is somewhere inside the web of passageways near the ghats in Varanasi. As we entered the narrow lanes, the noise from the traffic on the main roads receded. We walked unhindered as the hour was early and the lanes were uncrowded. Here and there some cows were ambling along with a few priests and the devout – choosing the calm of the alleys to the bustle of the more well-known temples.
Ramanaji’s house was built 100 years ago by his grandfather. I noted the small door characteristic of houses built a century ago. The house is traditional, with a central courtyard surrounded by rooms. The courtyard is open to the sky, and allows for an abundance of natural light.
Ramana ji himself exudes a certain warmth. Passion for his work and service gives him happiness. “I connect to the spiritual energy of Varanasi. It’s the spiritual capital of India and India is the land of knowledge and wisdom,” he told me. It is undoubtedly this love for Varanasi and India that made the Government of UP appoint him as a Trustee of the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
Archana, Ramana ji’s gregarious wife walked in as we were having coffee. “My family is my backbone and I count on their support,” he told me. “Archana, Aishwariya and Arvind (my children) keep me grounded and my grandparents and parents have always been there for me.” Ramana ji enjoys his large family – he has 10 sisters and 4 brothers. His late father, Mr. V. Krishnamurthy Ghanapathi, was awarded the President’s Award for the work he rendered.
Ramana ji has spent his entire life in Varanasi and knows the temples intimately. I took the opportunity to ask him about the yoginis. Unsurprisingly, Ramana ji recited the names of the 64 yoginis and said he would share a few references with us.
By now the day was getting on and soon it would be too hot outside. Understanding this Ramana ji sent for his special boatman and we followed him out to the ghats where a boat awaited…
[This blog is the second part of a series of blogs about my time in Varanasi. Click here for the first one.]
[…] The question is, in a city teeming with temples, how do you find information on an elusive (and perhaps even forgotten) cult? Turns out, I didn’t have to look too far. Stay tuned for the day that unfolded…. […]