Ganga Aarti Ceremony at Varanasi | Varanasi, India | India always has that way to challenge, move and shock you with its harsh reality and traditions. During my visit to Varanasi, almost a month ago, I was lucky enough to experience a true Aarti ceremony, a Hindu religious ritual of worship, which took place over the stream of the holly river Ganges thus Ganga Aarti. One of the most interesting things I have seen and experienced during 2011. Varanasi is a very special, spiritual destination. I have never felt so much peace, mysticism in one place, but at the same time I connected with a very dark and evil side of the Hinduism believes which far from scaring me, created a very particular bond with their believes.
I will not write much about it, since I think that images and videos will speak for themselves. Just want to give you a whole intro and explanation to the meaning of Aarti, and the special meaning of seeing it in Varanasi right at the shores of the mother river Ganges. Video above is our boat approaching the ceremony epicenter. Hundred of boats sail from all areas of the Ganges to have their place at this traditional ceremony. It is amazing to see how this happened.
Ganges is the mother river and consider to be holly by Indians. The story tells that the waters of the Ganges came to the earth to create life. But since the torrent of water coming from the skies to the earth would have destroyed all life form on the planet, Shiva major Hindu deity, used the locks of hair in his head to let the waters runs smoothly and form the Ganges. You can see on the video above, how boats keep approaching and gathering around the circle were Aarti takes place.
And the Ganga Aarti begins. Aarti is said to have descended from the Vedic – religion previous and more ancient than Hinduism – concept of fire rituals. In the traditional aarti ceremony, the flower represents the earth (solidity), the water and accompanying handkerchief correspond with the water element (liquidity), the lamp or candle represents the fire component (heat), the peacock fan conveys the precious quality of air (movement), and the yak-tail fan represents the subtle form of ether (space). The incense represents a purified state of mind, and one’s “intelligence” is offered through the adherence to rules of timing and order of offerings. Thus, one’s entire existence and all facets of material creation are symbolically offered to the Lord via the aarti ceremony. (source: Wikipedia)
It involves the circulating of an ‘Aarti plate’ or ‘Aarti lamp’ around a person or deity and is generally accompanied by the singing of songs in praise of that deva or person (many versions exist). In doing so, the plate or lamp is supposed to acquire the power of the deity. The priest circulates the plate or lamp to all those present. They cup their down-turned hands over the flame and then raise their palms to their forehead – the purificatory blessing, passed from the deva’s image to the flame, has now been passed to the devotee. (source: Wikipedia)
In the meantime, the local boys move in between the boats, jumping with great skills among them and offering the most precious drink, the Masala Tea. Of course I had to try it.
Hope you enjoy the full Photo Gallery on Flickr above. Such an amazing experience that I recommend to anyone visiting the area of Varanasi, or any other location on the streams of the river Ganges. Aarti is generally performed one to five times daily, and usually at the end of a bhajan session, which is any type of Indian devotional song. CM