Monday, April 21, 2014


                (Ganga Aarti at Varanasi)                                                                 

      (  Tented accommodation on sandy banks of River Ganga near Rishikesh.)


“Bhagavadgitaa kinchidadhitaa gangaa jalalavakanikaa pitaa, 
sakrdapi yena muraarisamarcaa kriyate tasya yamena na carco.” – 

(One who has studied the Bhagavad Gita just a little, drunk even a drop of Ganga water, has worshipped Murari ( Sri Krishna) just once, does not meet with Yama (the lord of death).----Bhaja Govindam, Verse 20, Adi Sankra

River Ganga covers a distance of more than 2500 km 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 known by several names, including Jahnavi, Gange, Shubhra, Sapteshwari, Nikita, Bhagirathi, Alaknanda, and Vishnupadi. Some of the earliest mentions of Ganga are found in the Rigveda, where it  is mentioned as the holiest of the rivers. The Ganga  stories mainly appear in post-Vedic texts such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas.
The Hindus believe River  Ganga to be  the daughter of Brahma, born from his Kamandala (a spout shaped vessel), when he was washing the feet of Vamana (the dwarf  incarnation of Lord Vishnu). In Valmiki Ramayana, River Ganga is depicted as the daughter of King Himavat and Queen Menaka. She is the sister of Parvati..According to the Vishnu Purana, River Ganga was created from the sweat of Lord Vishnu’s feet. Among the various interesting stories of River Ganga, the most popular story is from Bramha Rishi Vishwamitra’s Ramayana Bal Kand, where he narrates about Bhagirath and the descent of River Ganga to Earth.Many painters in India have put this descent story on canvas in luding the most popular  done by Raja Ravi Verma.

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 . Hindus expresses this 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 and  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 River  Ganga. He would always say ‘Ganga Maiya ‘ or ‘Mother Ganga’ . My list of  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 l NarInder Modi, every prime minister of India has been or is a lover of River 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"

( 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 River 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 River  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 .River Ganga  too has 108 names duly mentioned in various ancient texts . Ghalib appears to be conscious of the sacredness and importance of this number. Ghalib writes :-

“ Ganga is like a mother to  the 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-doobe 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 ……”

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

( Avtar Mota )

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.