One of the most spectacular sites is the evening Ganga Arti at the Ghats in Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar. This is a daily ritual that is watched by thousands as they gather around the banks of the Ganges. They witness the arti or a ritualistic prayer offered to mother Ganga by the head priests of the temples. Here, fire and Vedic chants are offered to the Ganga. Fire represents the symbol of purity as it burns all evil and purifies the soul.
The Vedic chants with the ringing of the temple bells form the forefront of the arti. The chants vibrate in the air along with the sounds of bells resulting in the air becoming intoxicated with spiritual fervour. The sounds of the chanting hums in the air as pilgrims sit on the banks to witness the high priest offer fire to the river in copper urns. Many passersby stop to stare at the spectacle as some lit diyas and drop them in the river with flowers as if to offer a special gift to mother Ganga.
The whole ritual lasts for around 20 minutes while the pilgrims offer prayers and ask for blessings. Essence sticks burn and spread their perfumes in the air. I enjoyed the sight and captured it through my lens as I strolled amongst the crowd to get a real feel of the arti and savour the intoxicating air of our ancient Vedic religion.
Ganga symbolises the mother, the provider, the nourisher, the one whose bosom is so large enough that it can engulf all the sins.
Surrounded by food stalls and sadhus, the place felt vibrant and electric. I stepped out for a meal of aloo puri from my favourite joint, Mohan Puriwala, and then flushed it down with a cold glass of lassi. Now my taste buds were really giggling as I savoured Suji Ka Halwa, a famous Indian sweetmeat.
Strolling past the bank on the several bridges that litter Har Ki Pauri, I saw some magnificent gulls hovering in the sky. I took some good shots of these babies flying with a care-free abandon.
Haridwar is a pilgrim’s delight with a beacon for our ancient Hindu religion. You can see a sea of sadhus here and everyone seems to be a yogi. Ancient coins and plastic cans litter the place in which holy water is carried. The whole place is bustling with a crowd as if there was a weekly carnival going on. I am lucky to be a part of this magnificent arti at the start of the new year. Indeed, I have washed away all my sins by just being here.