Well, where did Ganga Aarti begin?
Now, it can be a no brainer question if seen in isolation. Ganga, the lifeline of Indian civilization and its spiritual and social heritage, is said to be sent to earth ages ago by Lord Shiva to save the humanity from the imminent annihilation.
It’s mythological. It’s spiritual. It’s religious. Its faith, pure faith, believing in the story! God is nothing but faith.
Anyway, the context here is different. Ganga is being worshipped in India since her descent to earth.
So, asking, where did Ganga Aarti begin is a no brainer.
But, when it is asked in context of the elaborate ritual that is performed every evening around 6:45 PM on some Varanasi ghats including the Dashashwamedh Ghat and the Assi Ghat, the question gets is validity instantly.
Here, the question was asked by a colleague in context of the Maha Aarti to be performed today on Sabarmati river bank in Ahmedabad. Beginning this evening, the Maha Aarti will be held once a month and will be similar to Ganga Aarti, the source of inspiration behind this initiative.
And it is natural. Ganga, the lifeline of the population inhabiting the Gangetic plain, has a significant place in the governance initiatives of Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister. Narendra Modi comes from Gujarat. He was Gujarat’s chief minister before winning a landslide majority this May to clear his way to the India’s prime minister’s office.
And he represents Varanasi (from Uttar Pradesh) in the Indian Parliament, a city that is synonymous with Lord Shiva and Ganga.
Ganga is in bad shape in Varanasi and in many big cities along its flow and Narendra Modi has promised to change it. He has promised a vision around Ganga.
And this Varanasi connection of Narendra Modi will certainly have its presence in Gujarat because rivers have a holy place in Indian culture and Ganga is central to it.
Politically and economically, it is certainly debatable. So, the best way is to begin it culturally.
This Maha Aarti beginning today should be an aesthetic experience, enlightening and absorbing as its source of inspiration in Varanasi is, and should be a more repetitive experience in the days ahead.
‘When’ of Ganga Aarti in Indian culture is beyond history but its initiation as an elaborate organized ritual on the ghat of a major city along its flow has its origin in Varanasi where it began in 1992 at the Dashshwamedh Ghat.
And now after over two decades, it has evolved as a major cultural event of Varanasi, performed on some other Varanasi ghats as well, with a similar intensity of the devotion to the Mother River, a must for every Varanasi bound tourist and pilgrim.
Find it on this video link: http://varanasi.nic.in/ganga_arti/ganga_arti.MPG
(Aarti: Chants and songs sung offering worship to the deities – performed with lamps lit with camphor or wicks soaked in pure Ghee/purified butter – depending on the occasion and place – it can be as simple an offering as a daily Puja/worship at home or as elaborate and method-driven as Ganga Aarti.)
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/