Ganga Aarti – my experience with divinity

A spiritual experience in a materialistic world. Image by Manish Sharma from Pixabay 

One of the popular saying in Hindi is “Jab tak Bhagwan ka bulawa nahi aata, aap kitni bhi koshish karle darshan nahi hota.(No matter how much we try, we can only get a glimpse of the supreme being only if He/ She wishes to) and being a religious person, I firmly believe in it.

Whenever I would tell anyone that in spite of living barely 1.5 hours’ drive away from the holy city of Varanasi and visiting it almost twice a month, until now, I have not been able to personally witness the world famous Ganga Aarti. On hearing this, people often react by thinking it is insane and how is it possible not to attend the iconic Ganga Aarti, to which I would humbly reply that I have not yet been called by Ganga Ma and that I am still waiting for my turn.

A chance trip to Ganga Aarti. Photo credit: Sonal Srivastava

A chance trip to Ganga Aarti

29th January 2021 was that one day, even in my wildest dream I did not imagine that I will be witnessing the blissful Ganga Aarti. The day started like any other regular day of my life. Since my younger sister and brother-in-law where in town, we planned the trip to Varanasi for lunch followed by shopping.

Since we got delayed leaving from home, not everything went as planned. Hum kitni bhi planning karle, uparwale ki planning ke age sab bekaar hai (While we may make plans, but nothing can go without the will of the supreme power). Since we reached Varanasi a little late and by the time, we finished our lunch and shopping it was 5:00pm. Suddenly, my brother announced, “Why don’t we all go for the Ganga Aarti? After a long-time the entire family is together and, in an hour, it will be time for the Arti. Overall, it is the perfect time if we leave now for the Assi Ghat and we can attend the aarti!”

As I said earlier, “Jab tak bhagwan ka bulawa nahi aata, aap kitni bhi koshish karle darshan nahi hota.” And here am standing on the Ghat all excited and ready to witness the world-famous Ganga Arti, and at the same time quietly thanking God in my mind for remembering me and calling me.

The moment I stepped out of the car from the parking area and started to walking through the narrow lane towards Assi Ghat, the whole area was hustling and bustling with energy. Both sides of lane, vendors were selling flowers and other puja samagri (Items required for worship) to offer Ganga Ma. Many roadside stalls were selling different sizes containers for filling holy Ganga Jal.

Live sketching by art students at Assi Ghat. Photo credit: Sonal Srivastava

Soaking in the divine experience

After reaching the Ghat and securing the spot from where all of us will be witnessing the holy ritual of Ganga Aarti, I turned around and tried as I much I could to absorb the mesmerising surrounding, the blissful scent of flowers and incense sticks, the rhythmic voices of the vendors selling assorted items, the happy and cheerful voices of other devotees and children.

One special vendor who was selling tea, got my attention as he claimed his tea was a special Ghat wali chai. We all thought to try this special kali chai (black tea) or commonly known as nimbu wali chai (lemon tea). True to his claim, it indeed turned out to be an incredibly special chai which I have never tasted before anywhere else.

It really awakes the senses, and you feel good and happy. I couldn’t help but ask the vendor the ingredients they prepare it this chai with. It turned out to be simple ingredients easily found in any household kitchen. After coming home, I did try to make this tea, but frankly speaking, it did not taste like the one I had on the Ghat.

The grandeur of the Ganga Aarti. Photo credit: Sonal Srivastava

A rare blend of energy and calm

While I was trying to absorb the entire setting of the Ganga Aarti, I spotted a few arts students who were there to do live sketching of the aarti and the people as an assignment for their course. I also, spotted devotees like me on the boats and Alaknanda Cruise waiting for Arti to begin.

Finally, the moment arrived; the lights on the decorated deck where the pujaris (priests) will perform the puja came to life and after few moments, the pujaris who are well versed in Vedas and Upanishads appeared on the stage.

The pujaris wearing a simple kurta and dhoti with gamcha on their shoulders, started to prepare the set-up for the aarti. On the deck there was a layered brass lamp, flowers, incense sticks, conch shell and an idol of Ganga Devi.

With the start of the aarti I could feel the sudden change in the atmosphere. It was a rare blend of energy and calm. Those forty-five minutes of the aarti was the most calming experience of my life. The rhythmic aarti by the pujaris took me to another world of peace and solitude. It was quite an unforgettable and an overwhelming experience. It had the power to heal our soul.

At that very moment it felt like Ganga Devi along with all the gods and goddess are visiting the heavenly abode of Lord Shiva (in Kashi). The whole atmosphere is magnificent and cheerful. As the rituals continued, I bathed in the divine lights and purifying smokes coming from the layered brass lamps as it felt it was cleansing our souls from all kinds of impurities. It was such a powerful manifestation that we felt energised and free from all the stress and contamination of the mind, body and soul. It felt as though Lord Shiva and Ganga Devi blessed us with their divinity.

As happiest as I can be! Photo credit: Sonal Srivastava

Owing to the current ongoing pandemic, I prayed and hoped that with the help of guidance and blessings from God, that the world heals, and the pandemic ends soon. As I prepared to leave from the aarti, I took with me lot more faith and believe. From here on, my belief in my God has become stronger and my faith in Him/ Her increased as He/ She always listen to His/ Her children. He/ She might be late, but never forgets to bless His/ Her children. With this faith and hope I took my leave only to come back soon.

Sonal Srivastava

Contributor: Sonal Srivastava

About our Writing Program Student
A simple yet strong and emotional girl, Sonal a fitness enthusiast firmly believes in healthy living. She loves travelling and exploring new places and being a foodie, loves to cook! For her, spending time and energy reading, listening to music, watching movies with friends and family is a an investment of a lifetime.

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