"Devi Sureswari Bhagawati Gange, Tribhuvanatarini Taralatarange |
Sankarmaulinibasini Bimale, mama matirastam tava Padakamale ||
Vande Devim Jananim,
Vande Mataram Suradhunim,
Vande Gange Patitapavanim ||"
With my reverence for the Mother Ganges, the holy river of our motherland, I wish to share my experiences of a visit to the Himalayan foothill. Throughout the ages, the Divine Compassion for human being has been overflowing over our country in the form of Mother Ganges in spite of a thousand sins committed by us. River Bhagirathi originates from Gangotri glacier at an altitude of 7,010 m and traverses about 200 km to its confluence with Bhilganga, near Tehri. After Tehri, the Bhagirathi traverses 30 km through Koteshwar to its confluence with the Alakananda at Devprayag. Henceforth, the river is named 'Ganga' and flows through Hrishikesh and Haridwar, the noted pilgrimages for Hindus, to descent to the plains. Recently I could hold of a golden opportunity to visit Devprayag in the month of December, 2011. Owing to some urgent work I had to go to New Delhi along with my parents. The work was over so early that we just could not miss the chance to visit Haridwar, a holy town in Uttarakhand, just 220 Km away from Delhi. Haridwar, situated on the bank of Ganges is famous as a place where Amrita (Elixir) was thought to be dropped from heaven. The main place to visit in Haridwar is Har-ki-Pauri, a famous ghat where Salutation of Mother Ganga is observed in every evening round the year. Haridwar is the place where the river is worshiped as Goddess instead of Deity. It is for this reason the place attracts me a lot. I had been to Haridwar several times in my boyhood; I had also visited several Holy places of Uttarakhand at that time. I was really fascinated by the natural beauty of Himalaya at that age. But in those days it appealed only to my sensory pleasures. However, after passing of almost a decade, when I ventured again I could feel the magnificent presence of Devatatma Himalaya while approaching near Haridwar as recently I am trying to look at things from an inner perspective. Here, I must mention that I did not long to visit Haridwar to collect some asset for my journey to heaven. I think most of us are free from this superstitious belief that a visit to a holy place can shower some religious merits on a person. But having been there, I found the same religious aspiration among the most of the visitors. The visitors are the main source of the lively hood of the plebian people. From mythological perspective the sages with God gifted Wisdom regarded these places holy and wished here to get emancipation from their mortal self. I do believe in those words of Wisdom and try to tune with their thought that comes from Divine Realization from which we are a million births away. We arrived at Haridwar in the afternoon.
Before we reached, the town had a spell of shower and the sun was peeping over the cloud. The hills nearby were gradually being prominent from the veil of haze. The river came dancing from the background of that hilly relief, like an expert of dancer who made her first appearance on stage with beautiful gestures of art behind the wings. The surrounding was so tranquil that it set my consciousness on of flight of the imagination. The weather was quite pleasant. We really enjoyed the sudden gush of chilled air from the river that kissed our faces with a tender love and comfort that only a mother can give to her child. The location of our guest house was about a kilometer away from Har-ki-Pauri. A place on the bank of Ganga, a place away from the howling of the pilgrims where one can contemplate, can unite with Mother Nature and communicate with Ineffable. I drank the beauty of Himalayan foothill drop by drop throughout that afternoon as that was like Divine nectar to my soul. As the dusk approached gradually, we moved to watch the spectacular sight of Ganga-Arati, a salutation to mother Ganga near Har-ki-Pauri. It is truly a splendid sight when thousands of lamps are offered to the mother and the reflections of the same make the water glittering. A devotional song with praise of the mother adds an extra dimension to the sight. This is a regular activity of the priests that is performed every day throughout the year down the ages. Almost all the persons who gather to view the holy sight float a lamp with rose petals over the river like a tradition. The evening becomes decked with brilliant shines. That night was really cold but still refreshing. We had already planned to visit Devprayag next morning. So we had our dinner a bit early and returned to guest house. The Night was too cold but still refreshing.
We got up early before dawn. It was very misty and cold outside. Gradually the eastern corner was appearing in front of us like a blushing face of a bride. The rising sun was appearing like a vermillion stain on the forehead of eastern sky. The mountain peaks were appearing like the image of Great Lord Shiva, companionless, free from ignorance and illusion, engrossed in deep meditation, settled in Yoga. That morn I had felt that the manifestation of the inherent Divinity of Himalaya can be perceived only in the silence and at the deepest corner of heart. Physical eye may be an aid to us but the real splendor of nature, the Luminous Presence of the Divine can be discovered only by the eye of our inner being. After the sunrise, we left Haridwar by car to reach Devprayag, 95 km upstream of Ganga. As we crossed Hrishikesh, marvelous sights were revealing themselves in each turn of the highway. I requested to stop the car and took quite a few snaps which were remarkable ones. As I am writing, a bird's eye view of Hrishikesh focused by sunbeams is flashing in front of my eye which is literally a 'Bliss of Solitude'.
Due course of our journey, We spotted many rafting boats and also several groups of people interested in rafting ventured for their camps with a boat tied over their cars. A decade ago, the rafting was not that popular but now it has become a must-do event for the visitors. As we moved on an increasing number of boats made the surrounding clumsy and clamorous and spoiled the charming surrounding. After a three hours of journey we reached Devprayag by 11o'clock. We had to descent through a flight of stair case and cross a bridge over river Bhagirathi to reach the point of confluence. Bhagirathi agitated with tremendous currents of water was coming down with thunderous boisterous water, where Alakananda submits herself silently with awe. Though, the volume of water yield by Alakananda is more than that of Bhagirathi, the current of the later made the Ganges follow its own track. Coming down a large number of steps we reached the confluence and touched the water. The water of Alakananda was ice cold than Bhagirathi. The spot was free from hustle and bustle of urban life. Only the void of silence was filled up with roaring sound of water. As if the river was chanting 'Om' in her profound meditation. The surrounding was auspicious as the site was a desolate one, where one can meet the Divine in the disguise of magnificence of nature. According to Indian mythology River Ganga is supposed to descent from the matted hair of Lord Shiva. As a result of which, it gets dispersed in several streams and finally reunite at Devprayag just before descending on the earth. We offered flowers and worshipped Mother Ganga. Some local priests were the mediator between us. In spite of their poverty, they seemed to be very pious, less demanding, very introvert, free from the stain of urban shine which makes a person self centered and mean minded to earn a livelihood. From them we came to know that the current of Bhagirathi was unusual that day because of the water released from Tehri Dam which is about 30km upstream from Devprayag. I feel regretted a lot as we had not enough time to visit Tehri which is a few kilometer ahead.
The time to bid adieu to Devprayag was approaching and we followed river Ganga to visit Hrishikesh. In course of journey we had our lunch on a road side Pahadi -Choti. In the clean and pleasant ambience surrounded by foliage we relished some simple dishes with warmth of sun on our back in that wintry afternoon. The hospitality of proprietor and his servitors really touched my mind as their behavior was spontaneous and devoid of business minded attitude. We reached Hrishikesh about 4'o clock. I did not like the place much as it was very congested and the spot resembled a market place of a suburban area. Only the view of Ganga from Lakshman Jhula and the boat ride over the river with gentle ripples were impressive. We reached Haridwar in the evening. The next day we had to leave for our homeward sojourn. My parents went for Arati as they did not want to miss the last day's event. I rather opted to stay at the guest house to enjoy the charm of the dusk by the side of roaring Ganga, relaxing on the arm chair of our balcony. Now I would like to share with the readers what my mind was wondering on that evening amongst the desolate landscape. The saints of ancient India regarded Ganges as Holy mother, Deliverer from Sin, a flow of Divine Grace. Are they only a few mere phrases? Their wisdom, insight cannot be so fake. We, the people of modern India, with minds illumined by the knowledge of Science, vision clear from superstition, hands empowered by a thousand development of technology have to tune with the insight of those grate personalities. What we implement today was once visioned by our ancestors. We had to perceive the underlying meaning of the shlokas written to praise of the Holy river, Ganga. Her mercy has been nurturing our race from dawn of civilization. But still, in this present age, people are constantly polluting water in the name of religion which can be clear if one observe the religious activities of places like Haridwar, Benares and even Kolkata. The Ganga Action Plan was a program launched by Mr. Rajiv Gandhi in April 1985. But that can hardly rouse consciousness among the plebian people with their minds instilled by religion. Even we, gifted with a fair educational background do not pay any heed to think about how we are using the great boon of heaven in a slapdash fashion. Less but not the least we can do is to reflect for the protection our life-line from these regardless exploitation of this resource of nature. That would be thousand times better offering than all the evening prayers, offering for the Salutation of Mother Ganga.
If, we, the Youth of India awake from our obscurity and untimely slumber we can discover a million of surges of Divine Compassion scattered over Mother India, nay the whole World. It can be well concluded with a great saying of Sri Aurobindo -
"If India has to rise, the Youth of India must awaken to their destiny.
How long will they continue to slumber, the "Sun-eyed children of a marvelous dawn?"