Around half past five, people walk to the sandy bends of the Ganga, India’s sacred river, to pray, and to offer a blessing to the water. I have watched Aarti a few times, but this time I participated and bought my own 10 rupee leaf-woven basket of flowers from a young girl. She lit the small candle for me and I stepped into the cool water and silently said a prayer and expressed my gratitude for recent experiences. The young girl stood with me, protecting the flame from the wind till it was out of reach, part of the river. Another experience to be grateful for.
Another Sunday, I went to the very public weekly Aarti at an Ashram in Ram Jhula, with ghats to the Ganges. There were speakers from Organic India talking about the new laws protecting the riverside from development and the plans to plant organic fruit trees and other sustainable plants that will help prevent erosion and provide sustenance for those living nearby. A group of young boys, were enthusiastically chanting mantras and Hindi songs as the candles were lit and passed around the glowing crowd. After the speeches and songs people knelt and said their pujas at the waters edge, splashing themselves with the holly water and offering flowers and candles to carry their prayers downstream. An older woman showed me how to swing the candle properly and dripped the cool water on my forehead. It was an engaging ritual, very heartfelt.