Ganga Aarti at Rishikesh

Rishikesh, nestled in the Himalayas, alongside river Ganga spells mystique.

Exploring the road from Laxman jhula to Parmarth Ashram for nothing less than four hours, I did reach Parmarth Ashram in time for Ganga Aarti in the evening.

Sunset at Rishikesh

Since ancient times, the holy Ganga has been worshipped for prosperity and peace. I sat on the steps facing the gurgling river. The sun was setting an orange-gold. Sun rays played on the rushing waters for the last time before next daybreak.

The racing water was music to the ears and heart. The sky, spangled with fluffs of white clouds, took on orange and pink hues from the sun rays that filtered through them. Birds were on their way home in the green cover uphill.

The river, reverred as mother, looked dazzling, clad in a sari embroidered in flickering flames of gold

Aarti: a gesture to honour and say thanks

As the sun sank lower, preparations for the Aarti looked complete. Shiny brass ghee-lamps, microphones and musical instruments jostled at the ghaat. People from all walks of life took their places on the steps.

Despite the swelling crowd it was pleasant and peaceful. Young, bubbly Gurukul shishyas clad in chrome yellow dhotis, kurtas and gamchas took their place in neat rows at the river bank.

The head priest held the lamp which had hundreds of ghee-dipped wicks dancing with flames on their heads.

A woman ascetic took to the mic., chanting mantras, devotional songs and finally the Aarti for the holy Ganga. Her clear melodious voice connected with something deep within me. A few guests sang along, others clapped in divine pleasure as the priest moved the lamp clockwise for Aarti.

Reverence filled the air. Immersed in the happenings, I was plain content; instant Nirvana had enveloped me. Soon the lamps were passed around to take the Aarti. For a while, there was a scramble – each person wanted a turn to reach the lamp.

Light up my life

To pay my respect to the sacred waters I bought a tiny cup made of dry leaves. In it sat a little lamp made of dough, and a cotton wool wick soaked in pure ghee. The little lamp was surrounded by marigold and rose petals.

Down the steps I went, swift lapping water splashed on my feet, and an invigorating breeze swept across my face. It was electrifying for the body and mind. After a thank-you prayer to mother Ganga, the Himalayas, the gods and divinity in all its forms, I floated my lamp downriver.

Everyone present for the aarti was engaged similarly. Therefore, innumerable floating lamps adorned the rapid current of the Ganga. The starry night sky seemed to be a reflection of the river below. The river, reverred as mother, looked dazzling, clad in a sari embroidered in flickering flames of gold. Rishikesh was heaven in divinity's lap.

Himalaya Series

Swati Sharma
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Krishna bhajan Akhiyaa Hari darsan ki pyaasi by Jagjit Singh

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