Dip in the sacred river.
Haridwar: Along the Ganges
Going back to the north after about 10 years was indeed very nostalgic as I walked out of Delhi airport to take a car to Haridwar. I had heard a lot about this place and it seemed to be my year for cleansing! If Rameshwaram was not enough, I found myself looking forward to a dip in the Ganges as well.
Ah! The Ganges, I had read so much about it in the books, the great River Goddess, the Goddess who washes off our sins, the river that takes a millions souls to heaven. The river that is now polluted, the river that purifies the soul, the Ganges. I wondered about the Ganges as I sat in the car and headed towards Haridwar. The land of the Kumbh Mela, the land where a thousand Rishis have come to sing countless praises of this mighty river. It felt strange as I thought of Shiva Gangadhara, as Ganges stayed locked into his knotted hair till she was finally set free to flow down to Bhuloka and wash away the sins of Bhagiratha's ancestors by flowing over their ashes and releasing them to heaven.
It was clearly the reason why we continue to burn bodies along its ghats... A hope we reach heaven and not come back in rebirth to suffer another life. Thoughts went by furiously about how mythology has shaped our lives, about how Rishis left stories behind for us to follow a way of life and about how we try so hard now to recollect all this and give up saying we dont need it in this age anymore. I looked out of the window to see the car zipping through greenery, with mad highway traffic almost killing people on the road.
And then the excitement mounted, I was reaching Haridwar, a land I had once visited, of which I knew nothing now but looked out expectantly from the car hoping to catch a glimpse of the Ganges. My heart started to pound, the excitement rising ever so high to see one of the most celebrated rivers in the Indian mind. Ganges appears every where. In ritual Ganges is worshipped first while bathing with the words "Aham Gangai Namaskaromi". Ganga devi is worshipped during ritual with certain hymns attributed to her. Ganges appears as a Goddess on the carved brackets of pillars at temple entrances as well as on cave temples across the country. Ganges stays locked in Shiva's Jatamukuta in ancient sculptures of Shiva Gangadhara and Ganges water is the purest in temple ritual.
The power of Ganges was just fictitious till now until I entered Haridwar to take a dip in this Great river. The first sight of Ganges sent goose pimples through my skin. She spoke pure volume and power. The ghats at Haridwar seemed to be built to just direct her carefully but not enough to try stopping her.
As I descended into the river down the Ghat steps, the chilling waters of the Ganges just ate into my marrow. Oh God this was not simple and I was there for a "Darpanam" in the Ganges and it suddenly appeared tougher than I thought. The steps are steep, and the iron rods are too far away to reach. My knees and feet had to brave it, the current was a little too strong.
Six steps down and shivering in the water with the temples of Haridwar towering above at the other end of this vast river was an experience in itself. I felt small, weak and shivered as I held onto my dear self and prayed to the Goddess to not get any stronger on my knees.
While I said my prayers I admired her. Ganges has character, she is wild and furious and reveals the same power that Bhagiratha had prayed to Lord shiva to help control. They say she would have destroyed Bhuloka and washed away this world... I would believe that. She had the power to do anything as I watched her flow by so fast. She was not going to stop.
She is mind blowing and daring at the same time, challenging anyone to enter her waters. She is beautiful and defines the power of a Goddess in a single force. She is well respected and speaks a world so different from what we live in. A world so pure, so full of faith, so close to my heart and yet so far away. I am speechless when it comes to describing the Ganges. She is an experience, blessed are those who step into her waters for her waters just cleansed the mind and soul.
Ganges is truly a Goddess well worth worshipping. Simply Divine.
"Aham Gangai Matha Namaskaromi"