Friday, September 21, 2018

Chardham Yatra 2: Experiencing Ganga Arathi at Five holy abodes!

Chardham Yatra 2: Experiencing Ganga Arathi at Five holy abodes!

During the Chardham Yatra, we were fortunate to take part in the Ganga Arathi at five great locations where the river Ganga is indeed the life blood of the region. Ganga is not just a river for most of the people in India as the river is holy and wholesome for so many reasons. At some locations, the river is as wide as two or three kilometers; at some locations, it’s flow is uncontrollably fast; and at other locations it emanates an incessant base tone (adhra-sruthi), fit for a meditative mood.

Ganga Arathi at Varanasi (Kashi): This is probably the most theatrical among all the Ganga Arathi’s I have attended. Ganga was full and the government was not allowing any boats to run at or near the Dashashwamedha Ghat. The water level of Ganga at this ghat can go up and down several meters within a few hours. But that didn’t stop the crowd from gathering in the thousands to witness and part take in the Ganga Arathi. The stage was atop an ashram building at the ghat. The ghat was pretty clean – a sign of Swacch Bharath-Clean Ganga- initiatives starting to take effect. A group of a dozen or so young men got on to the stage ready in their finest dhothi outfits holding brass lamp stands that were beaming with golden hue as the sun was about to set. The Arathi was preceded by the chanting of Hanuman Chalisa, Ganga Stothram and other hymns. The young priests gave oblations and did Arathi to mother Ganga in a dance like motion raising and lowering the lamp lit with multiple wicks.

Last time when I attended the Arathi there, I was sitting on a boat at the same ghat, facing the Arathi lamps and when the Arathi was over, the boat took us back to Assi ghat passing the Manikarnika ghat and Harishchandra ghat where funeral pyres were still burning actively, performing their respective ultimate Arathis to mother Ganga. A serene, surreal, out of the world experience. 

Ganga Arathi at Haridwar – At Haridwar the daily Ganga Arathi occurs at Hari Ki Pouri – A centre created a long time back to conduct Ganga Arathi at the Brahma Kund. This is also the location for Kumbhamela that occurs once every twelve years. We can see a number of bridges across the Ganga here constructed to manage the Kumbhamela crowd. Daily crowd attending the Arathi would run into a few thousands whereas during the Kumbhamela, it would be in the millions. Brahma Kund here is revered as the place visited by both Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva).  According to scriptures, a drop of the divine nectar fell at Brahma Kund as the nectar pot was being carried by Garuda over the sky. Mother Ganga enters the plains, leaving the mountain region at Hari Ki Pauri. The flow of water is fierce and on the neatly laid out stone paved ghats, there are steel chains attached the concrete base for people to hold on as they take a holy dip in the Ganga. Daily Arathi at Haridwar is a spectacle of events that include chanting of bhajans, scriptures, mantras and finally singing the Arathi song as the sun sets. All the nearby temples on the banks of Ganga are open for visitors.  An atmosphere is filled with spiritual energy. So much to take in!

Ganga Arathi at Uttar Kashi – Uttar Kashi is supposed to be a Soumya Kashi –a milder Ganga in comparison with her flow in Haridwar. After the Yamunotri darshan, on the way to Gangotri, we stayed at Uttarkashi for a day. Kashi Vishwanatha Temple of Uttarkashi is situated near Ganga and the city is full of Ashrams and temples. Kailasa Ashram, Tapovan Kutir (Chinmaya Mission), Hanuman temple etc. are all very quiet to give seekers a contemplative mood. It is said that Kashi is for Sravanam (listening to scriptures) and Rishikesh is for Mananam (analytical exploration of the scriptures) and Uttar Kashi is for Nidhidhyasanam (contemplation and meditation). Ganga Arathi here was a low key celebration with a group of young men from a nearby Sanskrit Institute under the guidance of their masters performing bhajans and Arathi on a daily basis. They were gracious enough to allow the visitors to use the arathi lamp and take part in the Arathi. As the sun set in, the only sound we could hear was the base tone – adharasruthi- of mother Ganga and we chanted Hara Hara Gange as we submitted our oblations to her. A meditative and serene twilight. All talks end. Silence is powerful. 

Ganga Arathi at Rudraprayaga – As we travelled from Joshi Math to Rishikesh, we came across Rudraprayag and Devaprayag. Rudraprayag is the confluence of Alakananda and Mandakini Rivers and Devaprayaga is the confluence of Bhageerathy and Alakananda, forming the river Ganga after the confluence. At Rudraprayaga, we missed the daily evening Ganga Arathi, but we were even more fortunate to part take in the Ganga Arathi conducted by a lonely Sadhvi – Sanyasini. She was not in a hurry, but she ensured that each of her step is careful and well considered. This Amma did a special Pooja for Siva and Hanuman at their respective altars. She showed us the place where Sage Narada obtained his famous lute Mahati. Then she proceeded to do the Ganga Arathi. This Amma’s lonely mid morning Arathi to mother Ganga at the Rudraprayaga confluence was the highlight of all the Arathis we attended. A mother paying tribute to the mother of all life forms. Soulful, contemplative, yet a powerful celebration of life. 

Ganga Arathi at Rishikesh: Rishikesh is a famous centre for all spiritual seekers. It is the head office location for the Divine Life Society, Sivananda Ashram, Paramarth Nikethan Ashram, etc. There was this girl doing a bit of business and service to visitors by selling Diyas and flower plates to be submitted to mother ganga as part of the individual arathi.

After crossing the Ganga through the Ram Jhula bridge, we reached the river bank where the evening activities were in full swing. 

The celebrations culminating in the Ganga arathi at Paramartha Nikethan in front of the huge statue of Lord Siva is something to be experienced. The river ghat is well decorated and lit with special seats for the visitors and dignitaries. Bhajans and chanting starts early in the evening and at the twilight, Swami Chidananda Saraswathi and his disciples raised the multi wicked Arathi lamps to respect and revere mother Ganga. The Arathi was vibrant and full of energy. Witnessing all these festivities was Lord Siva in a pure contemplative mood.

The swami has a number of Brahmachari students and disciples from all over the world attending the daily Arathi and they run a monastic school near by. After the Arathi we attended a great satsang led by Sadhvi Bhagavathi Saraswathi, a westerner lady monk who has made Rishikesh her home. She came there two decades ago after getting her Ph. D in psychology from Stanford. 

After taking part in the Ganga Arathi at Kashi, Haridwar, Uttar Kashi, Rudraprayag, and Rishikesh, I am convinced that showing respect to this holy river, addressing it as mother Ganga, is apt and indeed very powerful. No one needs to teach people how to treat these life giving streams and nature in general. Even while using the river for their day to day use, I could see that people are very respectful to their Ganga ma. The fire that burns inside each and every seeker as their life force, enlivened in their daily activities itself is an arathi to mother Ganga. Ganga is an emotion, mother, a deity and a living goddess.


  1. Njanum chardham sandarshichttndu and several hrs of vedios are wth me Thank you very much for the good narretion Ravichettan