Evening in Rishikesh are for sitting by the Ganges and while away your time. I had a good coffee at Madras Cafe and walked along the quite ghats to spend the time till sunset. Later in the evening, I headed towards Parmarth Niketan Ashram to witness the daily evening ritual of Ganga Aarti.
The place where the aarti is held
The aarti is a pleasant ritual of worshipping the Ganga. Around 50-100 people visit the aarti on any day. I have witnessed Ganga Aarati in other places like Haridwar and Varanasi too, but they are a crowded noisy ritual with loud screaming speakers, people troubling you to make donations or hawkers trying to sell something highly overpriced. The Aarathi at Rishikesh is a contrast to it, held in a small place with a few people and is a relatively quite affair. You can sit quietly in a corner and witness the ritual or join the crowds singing Bhajans with them.
People assembled for the Aarati
The aarati happens at a very picturesque place on the banks of Ganga, in front of a Shiva statue built on the river. You see some activity beginning at the riverbank around 5pm. People start cleaning up the area, lay carpets in preparation for the aarati. A few people are seen selling deep or diya – a flower bowl with a wick lamp to be floated down the river during the Aarti after prayers. It starts at 5.30pm, with children studying Veda, the Bhajan singers and the performers walking into the ghat in front of Parmarth Niketan. It begins with Bhajans and prayers for ‘Gangaji’ and Shiva.
Diya being sold for the aarti
It is interesting to watch the children as the ritual progresses. They look bright and alive in their saffron robes. Some of them appear oblivious of the whole thing and drift into their own world. A few start a conversation within themselves. Some continue singing the Bhajans with an uninterested face and a few are motionless, just sitting there or staring blankly. There are some who are completely immersed in the Bhajans and join everyone with full enthusiasm, singing and clapping loudly with the rhythm.
Children Praying at the Aarti
As the sun sets and it gets slightly darker, the Shiva statue is lighted up and it looks beautiful. The aarti continues with lamps in various shapes and sizes lighted up, and passed on from people to people.
Shiva statue lit after sunset
Performing the Aarti
The whole place lights up to a spirited mood with lamps swinging in the hands of people. It lasts for an hour and winds up around 6.30 in the evening with the notes of “jai jai radharamana hari bol…”
More on Rishikesh at paintedstork.com
* Rishikesh photo gallery
* Arriving at Rishikesh.
* Walking around Laxman Jhula
* Ganga Aarthi at Rishikesh
* Photo Essay: Babas of Rishikesh
* Rishikesh to Kaudiyala
* About Rishikesh