Ganga Aarti is a daily ritual of worshiping the goddess Ganga, usually held at sunrise or sunset on the banks of the sacred river. The most “strong” Ganga Aarti are held in Rishikesh, Haridwar and Varanasi

, but also in other places. As for the Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh, a lot of aartis are held here, at almost every temple, both on the left and on the right bank, but the most popular ones are the Ganga Aarti in the Parmarth Niketan ashram and on Triveni Ghat.

How is the Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh held?

Aarti is a part of the puja and consists in offering the deities in a circular motion (clockwise) the light from a lamp with the lighted wicks soaked in ghee (a kind of melted butter). After the offer to the deity, the lamp is passed in a circle to all those present. They touch the sacred flame with their hands, and then raise their palms to their forehead – thus receiving initiation from the deity. Ganga Aarti also is usually accompanied by live music and bhajans – religious songs dedicated to Ganga. At the end of the rite, diyas are lowered into the Ganges – small boats made of banana leaves with flowers, lighted candles and fragrant incense. Often, the people also send notes to the deities in these boats asking them to fulfill various desires.

Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh
At the end of the Ganga Aarti, diyas are lowered into the river – small boats made of banana leaves

Countless floating lights adorn the rapid flow of the Ganges. The starry night sky seems to be a reflection of the river below. The great river Ganga, revered as a mother and goddess, looks dazzling, as if dressed in a sari embroidered with a flickering flame of gold. Divinity of the Ganges and Rishikesh is manifested in all its glory.

What is the significance of the Ganga Aarti?

Aarti represents our daily activities, which revolve around the god, the center of our lives. Looking at the deity during the performance of aarti, we understand that the god is at the center of all activities and strengthen the understanding that ordinary mundane actions are of secondary importance and that man is peripheral with reference to the deities or divinity. This understanding gives us the strength to confront any problems and remember the god at any moments of our lives. Thus, this allows us to calm our ego and helps us to remain humble, regardless of our social status or our situation in life.

Regardless of religion or ability to understand Hindi or Sanskrit, the power of Aarti is universal. Ganga Aarti transcends the boundaries of language and culture, penetrating directly into the heart and giving a tangible sense of the divinity. Ganga Aarti is a time when we free ourselves from the worries, stresses and tensions of everyday life and come together in joy, reverence and peace. When the crimson Himalayan sun dips into the water, and the reflection of its rays causes tears in our eyes, we are again filled with a deep sense of bliss, humility and spiritual connection.