Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Indian Journal 2006 #35-Aarti Puja Rishikesh Ghat

This afternoon Ilse and I decided to go for a walk, as it is now only really possible to be out after 4. But after 4 it is quite lovely, with warm weather but beautiful breezes. We spent hours walking and basically were on our way to the Shiva Puja in Swargashram (across Ram Jula). This puja, like the one in Hardiwar, takes place everyday of the year. But that is the only thing they have in common. I will do my best to describe this puja, using photographs as well, but the real "seeing" of this puja involves "hearing" as well, and so I've taken several short videos with sound, but will only be able to post them when I get home.

As I said, the only thing in common the two pujas have are that they are performed each day at 6 PM.

But beginning with the statue of Shiva,

which you remember in Hardiwar was over 30 meters high and surrounded by a fence...untouchable and hardly inviting to the average person...very pretentious. As was everything else about the puja...commercial, crowded, and not something I would ever want to go see again. Nothing really sacred or holy about the entire affair in general.

And then, beginning with the Shiva statue at the Rishikesh ghat, to the entire ceremony, the first word which came to mind was unpretentious. And honest, and "everyman's". You can see how lovely and peaceful the shiva statue is here, and more "human" size, and certainly touchable. People were sitting ON the statue.

Instead of thousands upon thousands of people, there were a few hundred. All dressed in new clean clothing and truly there for the ceremony (which is what puja means). The gathering was quiet and frolicking in the Ganga, picnicking etc.
The closest thing I can compare it to, in its sincerity and sheer jubilence of worshipping spirit, would be a Black American Church with everyone singing Gospel along with the Church choir. And if you have that picture in mind, you will understanding how moving and lovely this puja truly was.

The Church choir was a group of young boys, all studying to be Hindu priets someone told me, but I am not sure, dressed in lovely yellow remnants with the white signs of Shiva worship painted on their forheads.
They lead the chanting and everyone present joined in with handclapping, swaying, raising of arms as if to say "Halleluja", smiles of joy on most faces, and spiritual concentration on the others.
The ceremony ended when little plates which had wicks to light on them from the central fire were passed around from hand to hand so that each person present could get a blessing directly from Shiva.
And each person took it in hand, made circular motions with the plate and gently passed it on to another person so that everyone present eventually got a plate of fire (including us!). I really wish the videos were available to you now.

I would gladly come back here again just to enjoy the moving music and chanting as well as the glowing faces of those who are truly "with" their god in the moment of prayer and worship.

And just as quietly as everyone converged for the puja, once it was over they dispersed just as quietly back home....quite lovely and inspiring. I hope the pictures do some justice to the experience.

And just to end a perfect evening, we had a lovely view of Rishikesh at night while having a snack of Naan for dinner before heading back to our rooms, inspired, happy and at peace.