Chanting drumming sacred fire and water
Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
71Trip End Apr 14, 2011
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I had seen the aarti before at the Mela in the riverbed of the Ganga by Allahabad. But this was less popular and more ceremonialized. Both because it was taking place at a large ashram, and because there were a lot of tourists.
So from 5-6:45 p.m. every night, people would check their shoes and then descend the "ghats" (steps leading down from the top of the riverbank to the water's edge) and sit there for the ceremony, facing out toward a huge statue of Shiva. (Shiva is that aspect of the divine in the Hindu view that corresponds to the Holy Spirit in the Christian view. Except that somehow they incorporate not just a life force, but a destructive force
The first night I was there, I was impressed with all the chanting and the tapas (little drums played by tapping the steel centre and the leather edges) which kept a constant rhythm for the entire time. Of course both times, the saffron colours of the young boys who were studying there dominated the scene, as did the camphor-fired lamps when they were lit from the central ceremonial fire pit. Everyone seemed to want to hold one and in time to the music make large circles in the air.
As a ritual, it was impressive and engaging, although I don't think I could do it every night.
However, the 2nd night, a monkey stole the show. (In fact, two did.) S/he balanced on the railing that let to the space where the huge statue was framed by the rushing Ganga and then with ease climbed to the very top and perched on his head for a full 3 minutes. All cameras turned from the people and riot of music and colour on the "ghats" to the monkey on the head. S/he just wanted to be noticed and included, I guess.