Ganga Aarti

Culturalmente Imparando

India represents a unique element within the giant Asian context. It has one of the strongest and most characteristic cultural identities of all, so much so that it can really stand out as a world apart. Millennia-old traditions, a rich and opulent past, countless wars and many colours have made the former British colony something indescribable from the outside. A huge country (with over a billion inhabitants) with a geopolitical weight that in recent years has gone far beyond the regional sphere. In Indian modernity, the desire for greater technological innovation and a culture whose roots are lost in the mists of time coexist.

Indian religious festivals are particularly well known abroad, attracting millions of tourists every year from all over the world. Certainly the most famous is the Holi festival, a frenetic blaze of colour and a paradise for photographers and influencers. In India, however, similar events abound and today Mondo Internazionale will tell you about Ganga Aarti, an ancient ritual in honor of the goddess Ganga (goddess of the sacred river Ganges and natural representation of the god Vishnu). The Hindu religion for epicity, depth and complexity has nothing to envy to the old Egyptian, Greek or Latin splendours. Even the Hindu gods are distinguished by fascinating stories, such as those between the lovers Krishna and Rādhā or between the combative goddess Kālī and her consort Siva (Shiva in the West). The latter's firstborn, the famous elephant-headed god Ganesha, in one of several versions that explain why he has only one tusk is described as a careful and quick scribe of a "divine" human, the poet Vyāsa, author of Mahābhārata (a very important Indian epic poem).

The faithful honor the meek goddess Ganga with a ritual that takes place either in temples or on the steps (ghat) that allow from the road to dive directly into the river Ganga (often seen in films or documentaries about India). The ceremony (pūjā, i.e. an act of worship towards a certain form of a deity) is performed by paṇḍit, a term referring to Hindu priests, but also to scholars, philosophers or those who have a particular knowledge in Hinduism, such as a wise man or a teacher. Priests use lit oil lamps for the rite, creating splendid visual effects with precise gestures, moving the sacred object towards both the goddess and the faithful. The entire ceremony is accompanied by music and ritual dances, while bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) are recited. The lantern is finally passed through the crowd as they approach the fireworks to purify themselves, ending with a bath in the sacred river. Baskets full of flowers are also left in the river in honour of the goddess Ganga, often represented as a fair-skinned, good-looking woman with a prosperous body (with four arms), accompanied by a sacred crocodile.

Ganga Aarti takes place twice a day
, at sunrise and sunset. For Hindus, diving into the Ganges means purifying oneself from sins and freeing oneself from the cycle of death and rebirth (Moksha). The spectacular sacred lamps are placed on metal trays by priests who place them seven times towards the goddess and seven times towards the faithful, then back to the goddess and finally four more turns at her feet, two at her navel and three at her face, then seven more turns to the whole figure. All this despite the complexity lasts about half an hour, but between preparations and crowd gathering it is necessary (especially for tourists) to take into account a large advance to find good places to attend. The most famous places for the spectacularity of their Ganga Aarti are Rishikesh, Haridwar, Maheshwar, Ujjain, Patna, Allahabad and Varanasi (considered the most attractive among them).

Sources consulted:

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  • L'Autore

    Mario Rafaniello

    Mario Rafaniello Vice Responsabile della rubrica “Culturalmente Imparando”. Partecipa anche all’entusiasmante progetto “Japan 2020” e si interessa di arte, cultura e letteratura.

    Laureato in Giurisprudenza e laureando in Relazioni Internazionali. Attualmente collabora con diversi portali online.



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