Everyone to do their bit..

The Ganga aarti at Parmarth Niketan, is a wonderful experience! It is not just the aarti offered to the Ganga maiya, but also the efforts towards the conservation of nature captured my attention.

Parmarth ashram ghat at night..
Parmarth ashram ghat at night..

Just as people overwhelmed with devotion, listening to and singing the bhajans, they are reminded about their responsibilities to mother Ganga (and all other water sources) as well as to mother nature. People are encouraged to plant trees and/or spread awareness regarding the importance of keeping the waterbodies clean. It is sure that this message takes root in at least a few of the people who have attended the aarti.

The whole day after that, I wondered if the visitors in the ashram as well as the people around have taken heed of this advice. I observed the people visiting this holy place, and believe me, even during the off-season time, Rishikesh is a crowded place!

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Triveni ghat..

I was surprised! The roads (already narrow, more with shop keepers displaying their wares occupying half the road and cows walking around freely) were so dirty with polythene, paper, fruit peels, cow dung etc that it was a seemingly impossible maze.

But the ghats are exactly opposite…Most of the ghats I visited were clean, and the few unclean ones (unclean may be only to me) were so because there were some cows which were not toilet-trained! No plastics or trash thrown here or there, especially not in the Ganga! Hundreds of people moving around, taking bath, paying their respects to the Ganga maiya, tourists enjoying and some getting a shut-eye in the midst of all the hustle-bustle, but not one threw not even a small candy wrapper here or there! Every face had the same expression: respect and reverence!

Gita Bhawan ghat..
Gita Bhawan ghat..

Full of reverence and more determined to do my bit in protecting mother nature, I started back. On the way was a sight which angered me to the core! We were stuck in traffic for five hours on the way because of processions for ‘Ganesh visarjan’ in ‘chota haridwar’, a canal of the Ganga.  I was angry because of the traffic snarl and the blasting music from the trucks carrying the idols, but much more than being angry, I was disappointed as we passed the Ganga canal! Immersions were under way and the sides of the canal were choked with adornments from the idols, plastic etc. The wide canal had narrowed to a thin stream.

Rivers after immersion (courtesy: www.avenuemail.in)
Rivers after immersion
(courtesy: http://www.avenuemail.in)

How can people be so irresponsible? Do the citizens have no responsibility towards nature? Does someone else (the government) need to clean the mess? Do all the efforts towards ‘no pollution’ of no effect during festivals?

Is it necessary to choke the rivers for us to show our devotion to the Gods? Do we not adore the rivers too (most importantly the Ganga) as a mother?

Questions, questions!

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Musings at the bank of the Ganga…

We just returned from a trip to Rishikesh, the land by the Ganga, the land of rishis, yoga and rafting…

Our mornings were quiet. We spent one day sitting on the rocks at the bank of the Ganga, just musing. On another day we leisurely visited the Shivananda ashram and on yet another day we had the darshan of Neelkanth Mahadev. A holiday which is spiritually enjoyed!

One of the main events of our days was the Ganga aarti at the Parmarth Niketan Ganga ghat every evening and it is truly a wonderful experience! As the ashramites sing bhajans and the sun go down, everyone is engulfed with reverence for the Ganga and during the aarti, one would be able to see her as a mother and not just any river. In addition to this, we are reminded of our duties to mother nature and the Ganga (and all other water sources) by a senior monk at the ashram. People are encouraged to take a vow of either spreading awareness about keeping all the water bodies (not just Ganga maiya) clean or planting some trees whenever and wherever they can. An initiative well thought of!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogOGplZLfKo

It was even more meditative sitting at the quiet bank of Ganga, listening to the sound of the river. I looked around the ghats and saw various thought provoking sights.

There were people taking a dip in the icy cold water, and wondered if they are really seeking atonement for their sins by taking a dip in the holy river! There were several people especially in the mornings, offering their prayers at the Ganga and again wondered if it is merely a ritual. I wondered if it was just a thrill of taking a dip in the cold water as it was for my kids, as compared to a spiritual sanctification as it was for me!

There were vacationers enjoying their share of adventure, on board the rafts or drifting in the water holding on to the side of the rafts. There were people from different lands with a wish to learn ‘yoga’ all around, all of them holding a yoga mat dear. After all, Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the world! I could see many of them practicing early in the dawn at many of the ghats. Got me musing (again!) how casual I am with my life, unconscious, unbothered of the countless blessings I am constantly showered with!

One day I saw a person playing a flute at the Ganga ghat. He played well, music soothing to the ears.( I am no judge of right or wrong but I liked it!) but much more thought-provoking was his attitude. Playing the flute was his sadhana, standing in the Ganga and offering music to her. Not bothered about the people around, with closed eyes he went on for quite a while before we made his acquaintance (well, that’s another story…)

Overall, an educative trip I would say!

Think, think & think more…

Sometime back I had the pleasure of reading the ebook ‘The thinking Indian: Essays on Indian Sociocultural Matters in the light of Sri Aurobindo’ by Beloo Mehra.

Beloo has been my mentor during my studies with SACAR and is a dear friend. This is the review I wrote for her book.

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I present here some of my views regarding Dr. Beloo Mehra’s e-book ‘The Thinking Indian’, a collection of essays on several Indian Socio-cultural matters, as seen in the light of Sri Aurobindo.

Recently, during a casual conversation with a friend, our topic turned to the method of education being provided in the schools these days. We were talking about how today’s children are not interested in reading and how their thoughts are limited. ‘Thinking out of the box’ is out of question, we opined, but let them at least think! As I was reading through the e-book ‘The Thinking Indian.’ I remembered this conversation and about the ‘thought phobia’ (as Beloo quotes Sri Aurobindo) which has become fairly common now.

In the prelude, Beloo mentions that it is heartening to see people are becoming more open-minded and curious learners. This e-book is an excellent aid for such people, especially the young generation to contemplate about the current events and widen their spectrum of thought. The topics and instances provided in these essays may act as a spark to the light the fire within. All the essays are written in an ‘easy to read’ manner which will definitely appeal to every reader and not only those with an academic frame of mind. There is definitely at least one topic to which every individual can connect.

This e-book consists of nine essays related to Indian socio-cultural matters. Beloo presents a myriad of topics ranging from Spirituality, Hinduism to commercialism and movies! And all topics are contemporary, making them interesting to even the ‘not concerned about what is happening in the world’ younger generation. There is one essay inspired by the movie ‘The Monuments Men’ and there are two essays based on the TV serials ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata.’ There is one essay about spirituality being the master-key of Indian mind and another one about Indian culture.

For the one who is more materialistically oriented there are essays on commercialism and the study of Indo-American people where she talks about the evolution of the group soul. I am sure all these essays give a different point of view regarding the matter and would definitely encourage the reader to explore more regarding the same. For example, in her essay ‘Don’t Blame the Culture’ she talks about two sides of a behaviour may be seen simultaneously. One may see some people jumping the queue in a public place and at the same time there may be some people who will let a more deserving person move ahead of them! Presenting such examples, she forces us to think about the individual behaviour rather than the common trend of blaming the culture.

In most of her essays, Beloo gives us some questions to ponder on. In her first essay, ‘Spirituality, the Master-key of the Indian Mind’ she asks, “What does it mean to grapple with the infinite and how is it native to Indian mind?” Another interesting question is given to us in the second essay ‘Don’t Blame the Culture’ when she asks, “Shouldn’t we be concerned about learning what a culture really is before we start finding faults with it?” Or when she asks, “Can a piece of art be more worth than a human life?” in the essay ‘On Movies, Art and Culture.’ I am sure each of the readers would really stop for a while to think about these questions.

Many of her essays are lined with her personal experiences or observations as well, which are again some things that the reader will be able to connect with. One example where I did sit up and thought “This happened to me too…” was the picture of the sunset on page 22. Just as Beloo did, I too said, “Wow, what a beauty!” And as I continued to read her explanation of ‘The God’s Labour,’ I was mesmerized! I would not be doing justice if I talk about it here, it would be better if one reads the author herself! This is just one example. There are several such instances in this e-book which I am sure the readers will be able to identify with. In many of these instances, the reader may see that Beloo has given words to bring out his/ her own sentiment.

There is one essay about the Hindi novel ‘Abhyuday’ titled ‘Re-telling Classical Literature, Awakening a Generation: Case of Ramayana.’ In this essay, she talks about how the author presents Ramayana in the modern setting and the relevance of Ram in the present intellectual society. Here also she provides certain instances to explain this point. How Ram faces the dilemma of war, how he learns about the cruelty and oppression faced by the people and even the story of Ahalya is told in a new perspective. Beloo has to be given credit that I, one who is not very fond of Hindi literature, is tempted to read the novel after reading what she has written about it!

As Beloo says in the title of the e-book, her essays are in the light of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo’s words are significant even now and inspire everyone who turns to Him. To quote her, “It will be well worth reminding ourselves of these words of Sri Aurobindo that are meant to guide us through these wrong steps and detours, an inspire us to search for the soul of India that is leading her to her unique mission in the world.”

I could go on about how this little e-book ‘The thinking Indian’ is a motivation for every individual, but it would definitely be better for each to read on his/her own and be invigorated.

To conclude, I wish that the vibration of positive and open thinking which Beloo inspires is well received and more and more people are motivated by her.