After about a week of traveling in the Himalayas we reached Rishikesh. We had missed the Ganga Aarti in Haridwar on our way up and we wanted to witness the Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh. In Rishikesh it is conducted in 2 places ;
- Triveni Ghat which is closer to the market @ 7.30pm in Summer. The timings change during winter so enquire with the hotel before visiting.
- Parmarth Niketan Ashram that is in the Swargashram area near RamJhula @ 6.30pm in Summer. he timings change during winter so enquire with the hotel before visiting.
It is not possible to attend both on the same day since they are performed for 45 mins including hymns and it will take 20-30mins to commute from one place to another
Significance of Ganga Aarti
If you delve deep into the rituals performed by Hindus, you will discover that most of them were originally defined in praise and gratitude for nature but transformed into blind faith over time. Any form of Arati is the process of invoking the 5 elements of nature; seeking their blessings and expressing gratitude for this life. The river Ganga is treated as a mother for it sustains life along its course from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The Ganga Aarti performed daily at dawn and dusk with ghee soaked wicks lit up as lamps accompanied by melodious bhajans is an experience to remember.
5 Elements of Nature converge during Ganga Aarti
The 5 elements of nature are invoked during any Aarti and during Ganga Aarti it is a little special
- Water ~ Jal represented by River Ganga
- Earth ~ Bhumi represented by the soil on which we stand; the Flowers that are offered
- Fire ~ Agni represented by the flames of the lamp
- Air ~ Vayu represented by the air around us
- Space ~ Aakash – The Sky above; the ambiance created
Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat
We reached Triveni Ghat at around 7pm and all the seats along the steps were taken. However, we were lucky to find comfortable standing positions. The lamps were prepared with wicks laden with ghee (clarified butter) waiting to be lit during the ceremony.
Men in maroon kurtas and crisp white dhotis were slowly taking their position behind the stools to perform the arati. They looked pleased and honored to do this task but spoke in humble tones. Some devotees were floating lamps in the river and the small girl did it with excitement assuring her mother that she was old enough to do it independently.
The river was invoked with a prayer followed by offering the lamp in all directions accompanied by soulful renditions in praise of the River Ganga and the divine. It was a magical moment to stand by the eternally flowing river and lend my voice to the hymns in gratitude for nature.
At the end of the Aarti; the burning ember is passed around for everyone to take in the warmth. Some devotees sway to the bhajans and swinging in ecstasy and devotion is common in Bhakti Yoga.
Keeping Ganga Clean ; A small suggestion:
If we refer to Ganga as our mother then we definitely want her to be in good health and not choke with all the offerings, plastics and other items. At the end of the Aarti; to calls of Pushpam Samarpayami; everyone lined up to offer flowers to the flowing river. I could not; something held me back; I did not want to play my part to pollute and choke Ganga. I saw scores of people floating lamps, flowers and incense sticks just before and after the Ganga Aarti. There is a thriving economy around these flowers and lamps near the ghat; it is a mode of income for several people who eke out a living selling these. I have a few simple suggestions that would keep faith, devotion and the livelihood of the people intact as well as keep Ganga clean.
- At the end of every worship offering of flowers to the divine as per the Sanskrit Mantra as extolled in Yajur Veda is common practice. However at the end of the aarti; it can be collected in baskets and offered symbolically instead of individuals putting it in the river
- The lamps can be lit and left at a designated place in the ghats after a symbolic offering to the River. The Ghats can look pretty with all the lamps.
- Have a OM designed on the ghats which can be filled with flowers and lamps every evening with all the flowers and lamps from devotees and tourists. This will make the job of the cleaning team easy.
- The flowers can then be handed over for processing into oils and incense; the metal, terracotta and wood of the incense sticks and lamps disposed appropriately
Let us keep the Ganga; our rivers and the areas around clean and do our bit towards preserving nature and Swachh Bharat !!
There are places of every budget in Rishikesh starting from Dharamshala, Ashrams to Hotels and Homestays that suit different budget
If you are looking for a secluded and comfortable place to stay then Ganga Kinare ~ Boutique Resort is recommended. It is about 20 mins walk along the Ganga Ashtapath to Triveni Ghat