Monday, April 21, 2014


                (Ganga Aarti at Varanasi)                                                                 

                          (  Tented Accommodation on Sandy Banks of River Ganga Near Rishikesh.)




River Ganga covers a distance of more than 2500 kms in India . Not just another river that carries water down from the Gangotri Glacier in Upper Himalayas, the Ganga ( also Known as Bhagirathi up above Devprayag) is a symbol of India’s civilization and Culture . Many small streams or large rivers join the  great GANGA in its downward journey . Some major tributaries joining the Ganga  directly or indirectly could be named as Yamuna , Chambal , Ghagra , Gandhak , Kosi , Mahananda and Son .

  River Ganga is India’s ecological, economic, cultural and spiritual life line. For thousands of years, it has brought fertility to our land  and continuously sustained life  by creating innumerable human settlements all along its banks .  Man is humbled by its magnificence . He expresses his gratitude by  worshipping  it as life giver and  divine mother . And  it is a pleasure to see the expression of this gratitude visible everyday at the evening Ganga Aarti  ceremony held at  Varanasi  ,Haridwar  or  Rishikesh .  In Varanasi, the  Ganga Aarti ceremony is  held every evening at the Dasashwamedh Ghat .It is  the most spectacular  ceremony   performed  close to  Kashi Vishwanath Temple.This Aarti is a grand prayer for universal peace and  human prosperity held  by recitation of Vedic Mantras and lighting  lamps to dispel darkness.

River Ganga is loved by people across the religious divide.  Kabir and  river Ganga are inseparable . I know how much Shehnai player , Ustaad Bismillah Khan loved the   Ganga. He would always say ‘Ganga Maiya ‘ or ‘Mother Ganga’ .  My list of  the Ganga lovers is too long. Let me name some prominent  people in this category ; I mean people like like Conard Rooks ( Film Maker )  , Annie Besant , poet Sahir Ludhianavi , poet Suryakant Tripathi Nirala,  poet  Gopal Das Neeraj ,  Bangla poet Kazi Nazrul Islam , poet Raghupati Sahai Firaq Gorakhpuri ,  poet Ali Sardar Jafri ,  Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza ,  Gurudev Tagore, Mother Teresa , Pandit Ravi Shanker ,  Girija Devi (  classical singer ), Channu Lal Mishra ( classical singer ) ,Siddeshwari Devi ( classical singer ) , Jaishanker Prasad ( Hindi writer ), Munshi Prem Chand ( writer ). Mohammad Shahid ( Hockey player ) , poet  Harivansh Rai Bachan  , poet  Mahadevi  Verma , Ram Kumar ( artist ). Samta Prasad ( Tabla player ) , Birju Maharaj ( Kathak maestro ) , Mark Twain ( American author ), Prince Charles ,George Harrison ( Beatles ), His Holiness Dalai Lama , Actor Amitabh Bachan  and many more . Right from Jawahar Lal Nehru to NarInder Modi, every prime minister of India has been or is a lover of the  Ganga  .  I know for certain that the list could be endless.  Let me   add  one more name to this list.  Some of us may not be knowing the name of Sheikh Muhammad Hazin .

Sheikh  Muhammad  Ali Hazin ( 1692-1766 ) was an Iranian poet and scholar during Safavid  rule.  When Afghans invaded  and  ransacked   Isfahan , many Sufis and scholars from Iran  migrated to India .  Sheikh Ali Hazin  also decided to leave his country and settle in India . He came to Delhi. He must have stayed in Delhi for about three  or four years when , in 1739, Nadir Shah   ransacked  the city  and  brought untold misery and suffering upon its residents . Sheikh Ali Hazin  moved to Benaras and settled permanently in this  city . He was fascinated by river  Ganga and the  culture of this holy city .He wrote poems in praise of river  Ganga , Benaras and  its residents .  I quote a Persian couplet  of Sheikh Ali Hazin:

"Az Banaras na rawam maabad e aam ast een ja
Har brahman pesray Lakshman o Ram ast een ja"

 To me , An elderly Kashmiri Pandit clarified the meaning of this Persian couplet as under :

“ I shall not leave Bernaras  because this whole city is a place of worship. And why it shouldn’t be so  when every Brahmin boy  is either  Sri  Rama or Lakshmana .”

Poet Mirza Assadullah Khan Ghalib has  been a lover of the  Ganga and Kashi. Chiraag e Dair (The Temple's lamp) is a Persian Mathanavi   written by him   in praise of  the city of Benaras   and the Ganga  . Ghalib believes  the river  at Benaras as the place for man's  ultimate salvation and freedom . The Mathanavi has 108  couplets .   Number 108  finds mention in various ancient religious texts  of the Hindus .The Ganga river too  has  108 names duly   mentioned  in various ancient texts .  Ghalib appears to be conscious of the sacredness  and  importance of  this number  .
  According to Ghalib 

“  Ganga is  like a mother to Hindus. She nurtures, gives life, dispenses grace, must be worshipped and ultimately takes you back in the form of your ashes. ”

 Let me end this brief post with lines from a song that poet   Sahir Ludhinavi wrote  in praise of the Ganga:

“Kitaney suraj ubharey-duubey ganga tere dwaare ,
 Yugon-yugon ki katha sunaayein tere behtay dhaare 
 Tujh-ko chhod ke Bhaarat ka itihaas likha na jaaye..

Ganga Tera Paani Amrit ……”

 In March 2017, the Uttarakhand High Court declared the Ganga to be a living entity, conferring on it the  legal rights of a  human being.

Next time more on river Ganga...., 

( Avtar Mota )

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