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.
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!
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!
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.
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?