15 Photos That Capture The Aartis, Ghats And ‘No Bikini Signboards’ Of Rishikesh

Posted on July 21, 2015 in Culture-Vulture, Staff Picks

By Chintan Malhotra

It was a peaceful evening in Rishikesh, people had started gathering for the daily evening Ganga Aarti. While the Sun could be seen gradually turning away, temporarily taking its golden charm, Ganga could be still seen embracing its traces. I sat there quietly in a corner trying to absorb as much I could from the surroundings, because it’s not everyday that the winds around you have so much to receive from. I somehow wanted to take this particular state of mind and sensation back home. May be like in a bottle of perfume and spray it around whenever I wanted. For quite a long time all I was looking at was the flowing water, my mind was in a total contrast to it, like I had never seen the water before. Gradually, people started to gather around. The ambient noise had a very smooth transition in it. The noise of footsteps, the crowd, setting up of microphones, a variety of languages and accents quickly brushing off my ears, a few horns etc. Which started to settle down very smoothly to reach the moment of silence, complete silence. Just like it would happen before the first take of a silent movie scene.

I too then stood up to join the crowd slowly assembling near the Ghaat. The young boys from the Gurukul walked in together into the centre of the open arena like space. All beautifully dressed up in yellow Dhoti-Kurtas, entering the area in a queue and spreading to take their seats in a very smooth and organized manner. As if, after the Sun had set, they came in like a ray of that golden light and enchanted the whole space around them. The Havan-Kund in the centre of the crowd was also lit up, which was quite close to where I was sitting. The warmth of the pure flame and the organic smell was adding to the essence of the whole place. The young boys there, recited the chants and shlokas from the ancient Vedic texts in chorus. Their discipline and dedication represented how well they were being educated in the Gurukul. Many of them were orphans and now were affectionately addressed as ‘Rishikumar’.

The crowd had people from many different places and a pleasing big number from outside India. Even the ones not from India were actively present in the whole process and some even recited along the shlokas and chants. The peace on their faces was so contagious, some just sat still with eyes closed and some were seen swinging in a rhythm and had a faint smile. Everybody stood up for the Aarti, the zeal and devotion the people showed was very enticing. Regardless of one’s religion or ability to understand Hindi or Sanskrit, the power of the Aarti was somewhat universal.

The spiritual chief of Parmarth Niketan (H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji) then stood up to address the gathering, He recently came back from Nepal after serving there with the rescue team. As he started speaking he introduced a very prestigious guest they had there, the Air Chief Marshal with his family. Swami Ji after acknowledging them, lovingly presented them with a token of honor, a plant sapling.

Two very prominent personalities stood right in front of a huge gathering. A soldier and a saint, and both held a very strong presence and role there, for everyone. I believe both are very alike in real life too! They both put on stake a lot of things, go through a lot of detachment in their lives, they give up so much to give in for the nation and for the people. It really inspired me to see the two of them standing there holding the little plant carefully together. It was the perfect moment describing the need, for the two very different but very alike, to join hands for a better planet ahead! In fact we all should take inspiration from the two, and constantly make some small or big efforts to make this planet a better place to live in. We could all just start by planting a tree. And if there’s not much that you can do personally, there are many great organizations who are working for the same, at least we can lend them some support!

I have been visiting this city since childhood, and it always has been my favourite. There is a true essence of rich Indian culture in surroundings, the people and the places. This is one of the many reasons that you will always find people from all over the world visiting it often.

Many of them even stay back for months and even years, learning Yoga and the ancient Vedic Science. The local markets are very colorful and vibrant. The narrow streets have many different kinds of people, some who beg, some who sing or play instruments, some sell handicrafts and some just sit and chant/meditate for hours. The banks of the river Ganga are also very peaceful and calm. Many saints have their permanent abodes there. You can sit for hours alongside the river Ganga watching people do different things which are a part of their religious beliefs.

Some foreigners can also be seen sunbathing on the banks, which is known as the beach by the local guides. The local people have put up some sign boards on the walls near Ghaats, that read things like ‘no bikini’, ‘respect local culture’ etc. It is a beautiful place altogether and I get to learn or experience something new each time!

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