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Guide to the Ganga Aarti in India


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Overview of the Ganga Aarti

Lighting diyas as offerings to the Ganga River.

Steven Greaves/Getty Images
Every evening, as dusk descends, it's time for the Ganga Aarti to be performed at the three holy cities of Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Varanasi in India. It's a very powerful and uplifting spiritual ritual. But what's its meaning and how can you see it?

What is the Ganga Aarti?

An aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. It's usually made in the form of a lit lamp, and in the case of the Ganges River, a small diya with a candle and flowers that's floated down the river. The offering is made to the Goddess Ganga, also affectionately referred to as Maa Ganga, goddess of the most holy river in India.

How is the Ganga Aarti Performed?

The aarti takes place facing the river. The lamps are lit and circled around by the pandits (Hindu priests) in a clockwise manner, accompanied by changing or songs in praise of Mother Ganga. The idea is that the lamps acquire the power of the deity. After the ritual is complete, devotees will cup their hands over the flame and raise their palms to their forehead in order to get the Goddess's purification and blessing.

Where is the Ganga Aarti Performed?

As mentioned above, the Ganga Aarti happens every evening (rain, hail, or shine!) on the banks of the Ganges River in Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Varanasi. However, the ceremony is very different in each of these places. Read on to find out about the Ganga Aarti in each place.

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