Sunday, 6 May 2012

Ganga Aarti - An ethereal experience

Jostling crowds come to halt, mind blowing noises change track to
rhythmic sounds, tapping feet are at halt and eyes are closed. Glaring
fire balls, euphonic bells, camphor, incense all together seize the
moment as this is time for Ganga Aarti in Hardwar.
"This sound annihilates noise within and makes you humble (Aarat means
to be humble). President Rajendra Prasad, Govind Vallabh Pant, Rajiv
Gandhi and Indira Gandhi like who's who of society came here and felt
serenity of this aarti," says Dayakrishna Tiwari who is serving
spiritual needs of people from all the walks of life for last 50 years
and his face is aired on TV and appeared in many Gulshan Kumar albums.
"I am the doer but she is whole sole for many from beggar to businessman
she is a source of reverence and faith."

During 1916 when British tried to divert water of the Ganga to build a
canal, the teerth purohit (Pilgrim guide) and local mahant (Priest) under the stewardship of
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya did satyagrah (movement). As a result governing
municipal body lifted the ban on kathas (spiritual lectures) and aartis and Malviya
established Ganga Sabha for management of rituals, place and social
work. “Had it not been British efforts there would have been no such activity taking place. A river changes its course every year because o continuous flowing sand and slit that keep bringing transience in course o its direction o flow. So they tried to do some good work from zero point of Ganga that is Mayapur and today we are continuing with their work. This canal water will quench thirst of North India” elaborates Ramakrishna SOD Water works in Hardwar “We are in process of finalizing everything that would include increasing depth and breadth o Ganga.
"Since childhood I am seeing this aarti performed everyday as the sun
sets. During peak seasons more than a 100,000 devotee’s stand by the stairs leading to river
to not only witness but also take part in this sacred tradition. And I
think Ganga is a matter of faith," adds Vishnumurti of Rammurti and
Vishnumurti shop which has been doing business here for the last 150
years. Today the aarti has become a spectacular event to feel.
”This is going on since Anadi kaal (Origin not known). We have record of 700-800 years ensuring presence of people and temples. This temple of Ganga was built by Bhishma, son of Ganga as per anecdotes and in 1118 it was rehabilitated by king. And in the same fashion Mugal king Akbar reconstructed temple of Vishnu where his feet are imprinted and Raja Man Singh’s Samadhi is also here showing his love for Ganga when he left his body.” Explain Pt. Mohan Das Sharma historical and mythological importance of place. It is said that water washes away sin when you took dip in it and when cremated it is a gateway to heaven. “People flow remains of dead body o their kith and kins’ ashes so as ensure that they reach heaven. They flow lot of things with rituals including money too. The divers who take out money keeping lives at stake are Mahabrhamins appointed for this since centuries and they today do this job for sake of continuing tradition.” Highlights Sharma quoting its importance in lives of people.
"It's because of Ganga people come to Hardwar and
whatever we earn collectively, say around a million daily during peak
seasons is because of Ganga. Ton of milk, ghee, sweets, cotton and
other commodities are consumed everyday in this area. Hindujas, Birlas,
all business tycoons, come to this holy city for pilgrimage," boasts Som
Dutt Sotri, a teerth purohit (pilgrim guide) whose family has been guiding people into
performing rituals since 18th century. His family represents people of
Punjab and Rajasthan. "In three price slots of Rs.201, Rs.301, Rs.501
you could book slots and booking should be done prior to two months of
date of arrival." Things that comprise Aarti are
  • Cotton – range from of Rs.101 to 1001 (approx ½ kg daily)
  • Curd/Milk – Approx 1.25 kg
  • Sweets – starts from 11/2 kg to no limits
  • Rice
  • Flowers/ Sandal paste
  • Towels (To hold Aarti equipment)
  • Raw Threads wrapped around
  • Seats made up of Silver

"Words, tunes, rituals, music are best form of imagination and this
takes you out of all worldly problems and stress, churns your emotion
and mind is open to feel truth," explains Bireshwar Upadhyay, an
ex-engineer and now a veteran social reformer of Gayatri Pariwar.
It's more of a sense of surrender that brings people from adjacent
cities everyday. According to anecdotes origin of this tradition has its root in Satyug
when King Bhagirath brought Ganga down from the heaven. "It is not the
water. It is matter of faith over matter of debate," affirms Joginder
Arora of Mathurawala, famous for poori-sabji for last 50 years.
Har ki Pauri attracts crowds throughout the year and aarti is performed
on all the banks of Ganga which flows through Hardwar. "The shops close
to Ganga cost higher and yield higher returns. The area is visited
throughout the day by devotees. However, the crowd peaks during the
evenings for aarti." Ganga is not considered as water in strict terms from business tycoons, shop owners, vendors, pandits, mahants, guides, photographers, service
providers, farmers, small time entrepreneurs, seekers it is a source of livelihood for millions of it. And it is true what gives food, clothes, shelter and money to thousands could not be mere flowing water.

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