We felt honored to be part of the Ganga Aarti Ceremony. It took place on the river bank of the Ganges in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. The song, prayers, dancing, beating drums, lights and aromas were truly a magical experience. We immediately embraced the spirituality and energies felt from the locals surrounding us.
Ganga is believed to not only be a river, but a Divine Mother. The river water rushes forth from the Himalayas as the giver of life, carrying purity, bliss and liberation in the water.
Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja. Its purpose is to show humility and gratitude to God’s divine form – in this case the Ganges River.
Ganga Aarti is a devotional offering to the River Goddess.
The ceremony started around 6:30 pm (depending on the season), I recommend getting there 30 min early to get a good spot. It is the most perfect time of the day for the ceremony as the sun sets during the ceremony. When you arrive, it can seem chaotic, but there is a sense of order to the chaos! You will be approached by several adorable girls and women trying to sell offerings. These are used at the end of the ceremony to light a candle down the river. I recommend getting one right away, so you are not approached later (when they see you bought one they will leave you alone) There is no set price so just give them what you want to. You can then make your way down to find a seat on the red carpeted area, make sure you take your shoes off! I didn’t realize at first and somebody called me out – oops.
The ceremony then begins. Involving prayers, songs, dances and lights. In particular, the priests use a brass lamp circling it clockwise around the devotees as a blessing. Most attendees are locals and only the devotees will get the blessing, so do not try to get a blessing (unless you are practicing their religion). It was one of the most beautiful religious ceremonies I have attended, with the most stunning backdrop!
As the sun sets and it becomes dark, the ceremony comes to an end. It was at this time we all lit up our Diya’s (oil lamps) that are in the offerings and place them into the Ganges River. This shows ‘Thanks’ to the Ganga Aarti as they peacefully float down the river into the night.
I loved how everyone was so open and accepting of all different types of people and religions into their ceremonies. Never questioning or judging. We not once felt unwelcomed or intimidated. We are so thankful to be part of this experience as it will be one we never forget.
“Ganga Aarti is a time in which we break free from the normal stresses and strains of everyday life and gather together in joy, reverence and peace.” — Mother Divine
It is held on the banks for the river at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, so if you are staying in Rishikesh depending on which side you are on, you can either walk or take a tuk tuk there. We walked there as we wanted to explore the area and then took a tuk tuk back to our hotel. Make sure they do not overcharge you, for a 10-15 min tuk tuk ride it shouldn’t be more than 200 rupees (approx. $3.50 CDN)
Thanks for reading! Until next time,
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