The Ganga Aarti is one of the most sacred rituals performed in India. It is a symbol of devotion and divinity. Whether you’re religious, or into spirituality, an atheist or just a traveler, the Ganga Aarti is something you need to experience at least once in your lifetime. Read on to know why.
Let’s talk about the Ganga Aarti
The Ganga Aarti is a sensory feast. You can hear the priests chant the mantras in perfect harmony, the resonant bells and the conch shells which will surely give you goosebumps.
The priests dress traditionally in dhotis and kurtas along with a gamcha.
For the Aarti, they light up multi-tiered brass lamps and wave them in synchronization in front of the idol of ‘Ganga Devi,’ who is adorned with flowers. The air is filled with the scent of the incense sticks, flowers, and lamps burning.
The aarti is done only by extremely knowledgeable and respected pandits (priests) who have studied the Vedas and the Upanishads. All of these priests are lead by the High Priest of the ‘Gangotri Seva Samiti.’
Thousands of people attend the Aarti every day. Many of them sit on the Dashashwamedh Ghat, while others sit on a boat and park it on the banks of the ghats.
The priests end the ceremony by pouring a bowl of water into the river, after which people light up small lamps adorned with flowers and float them on the river as an offering to Ganga Devi. The river looks like a sky with thousands of twinkling stars. The entire experience is bound to stir one’s soul with a powerful sense of spiritual fulfillment.
The ancient bond between Varanasi and the Ganges
The Ganga Aarti is not only performed in Varanasi but Haridwar and Rishikesh as well. The ceremonies differ in all three places, but the most spectacular experience is bound to be from the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi.
The Ghat holds its significance to two Hindu Legends. In the first legend, Lord Brahma created the Ghat to welcome Lord Shiva. According to another legend, Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses during Dasa-Ashwamedha yajna performed here, which is how the ghat got its name. Hence, the priests perform the Ganga Aarti on this Ghat.
The Ganga river has always been Varanasi’s cultural and spiritual epicenter, owing to the rich legends and history that has taken place here. The city is named after the two Ganga tributaries — Varuna and Assi that form the city’s borders.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu extended his foot to the end of the universe, to measure it. He pierced a hole with his big toe, through which the Ganga river flowed into this universe, washing Lord Vishnu’s feet. The river then settles in Brahma Lok. At the request of a devotee- King Bhagirath, Brahma allowed the Ganga river to flow onto Earth, to purify and wash away people’s sins, and let the souls of the dead be freed from this plane and cross over to salvation.
Hindus believe that one can attain ‘Moksha’ (Salvation) by bathing in the Ganga. They also believe that performing funeral rites there and pouring the ashes of their loved ones into the Ganga river allows their souls to attain ‘Moksha.’
Want to attend the Ganga Aarti? Here’s how:
Ganga Aarti is hosted on all days of the year but the best time to attend the ceremony is in the months of October and November because the weather cools down and turns Varanasi into an enchanting wonderland of devotees and tourists. It is during this time that you will get to experience the maha aarti that takes place on Kartik Purnima, which falls on the 15th day of the lunar month of Kartik. It is conducted near the Kashi Vishwanath Temple at sunset, so you will have to arrive at least half an hour earlier.
The best way to become a part of this beautifully orchestrated event is by renting a boat to get an uninterrupted view of the ceremony. It will cost around INR 50 to 150 per person. You can also rent balconies of shops located nearby for a reasonable price.
How to reach Kashi Vishwanath Temple?
The roads leading to Kashi Vishwanath Temple are narrow, and only scooters or auto rickshaws can reach there. However, it gets very crowded, so it is best if you walk your way to the temple. The distance between the drop-off point and temple is 2.5 kilometers, which you will be easily able to cover within 30 minutes. Along your way, you will come across 10 to 15 smaller temples, which also perform Ganga Aarti. They are more intimate, so stop by for a few minutes to experience spirituality and good vibes.
If you won’t be able to add Varanasi to your itinerary, you can experience the same event in Rishikesh near Parmarth Niketan ashram. Reach 30 minutes early to get a seat on the steps.
Tips to remember while attending the Ganga Aarti
Here are tips that will make your experience more memorable:
1. Dress Modestly
It is very important to follow the accepted dress protocol in India, especially the religious places including Varanasi, Rishikesh, and Haridwar. If you are a woman, wear a salwar kameez with dupatta. Men should wear full pants and a half or full sleeves t-shirt or shirt.
2. It isn’t compulsory to buy flowers and candles
There will be many hawkers trying to sell you flowers and candles to offer to the Ganga river, but it isn’t mandatory. You are there to enjoy, so just take in the whole experience and go home with happy memories. No matter how beautiful it looks, the flowers and diyas cause a lot of water pollution, so avoid buying them.
3. All events are free of cost
You don’t have to pay anything to attend any of the events during the Ganga Aarti. Hawkers look at foreigners and try to charge them a fortune, so beware of fraud.
4. Leave your electronics in the room
Thousands of people attend the Maha aarti, which means it is easy to get robbed. Leave your mobile phones, debit and credit cards, and cameras in the room. Don’t carry more than INR 200 to 500 with you and enjoy the event without any worries.
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